Blog tour: 17 to 25 June 2021
‘What happens to those girls who go missing? What happens to the Zoe Nolans of the world?’
In the early hours of Saturday 17 December 2011, Zoe Nolan, a 19-year-old Manchester University student, walked out of a party taking place in the shared accommodation where she had been living for three months.
She was never seen again.
Seven years after her disappearance, struggling writer Evelyn Mitchell finds herself drawn into the mystery. Through interviews with Zoe’s closest friends and family, she begins piecing together what really happened in 2011. But where some versions of events overlap, aligning perfectly with one another, others stand in stark contrast, giving rise to troubling inconsistencies.
Shaken by revelations of Zoe’s secret life, and stalked by a figure from the shadows, Evelyn turns to crime writer Joseph Knox to help make sense of a case where everyone has something to hide.
Blending fact and fiction, this is a thrilling true crime story like no other. Weaving together a collection of fictional interviews, Joseph Knox creates a compulsively readable, dark and pacey thriller with a twist. This is the first stand-alone novel from the critically acclaimed author of the Aidan Waits series.
True Crime Story is about the disappearance of Zoe Nolan, a 19-year-old Manchester University student who went missing during a party at her student accommodation block in the early hours of Saturday 17 December 2011. The book tells the account of the events leading up to her disappearance as put together by a woman called Evelyn Mitchell who spent a year interviewing Zoe’s twin sister and parents, as well as her boyfriend, friends and acquaintances from that time.
Evelyn communicated with the author of the book, Joseph Knox, after meeting with him at the book signing event for his debut novel, Sirens, and she emailed him her interview transcripts and observations, which she’d compiled into chapters of key events. Joseph was busy and didn’t always respond promptly and it was only after something tragic happened that he put the rest of the material together and produced this second edition of the book, which includes some clarifications and apologies.
Zoe was only at the university for three months but it seems that a lot happened in that time, some of it quite disturbing and concerning. She was due to go to another university but didn’t get in and so ended up in Manchester with her twin sister, Kimberly. The women had a rather strange relationship. They weren’t very close and they had a difficult childhood with their dad, Robert, focusing his attention on singer Zoe. He’s rather controlling and dominated his daughters and wife, Sally.
Zoe and Kim were put in a tower block called Owens Park and it’s there that they met their flatmate Liu Wai. Zoe’s boyfriend was called Andrew Flowers and other friends were Jai Mahmood and Fintan Murphy (Zoe’s course mate).
As the story progresses, we learn more about the characters – they all seem to have lots of secrets and they don’t really know each other very well after only three months. There are some shocking revelations, which are carefully revealed in chapter format, and some curious and surprising links between various people!
The novel is fictional but it seems real, especially with the way everything is set up initially with Evelyn discussing various elements of the case, which she assembles by piecing together the interview transcripts and pulling out common themes. The book also contains newspaper cutting and photos. And then there are emails and phone calls between Evelyn and Joseph in which they sum up and discuss specific findings and share their thoughts. Everything seems to spiral out of control and strange things start happening as Evelyn gets closer to finding out some truths.
The story was intense and gripping. It seemed true to life and I could really imagine the horrible tower block where the students live and it reminded me of one on my university campus! Most of the characters are horrible, with some awful behaviour, and they’re all rather unreliable witnesses. There are contradictory statements and everyone interprets and sees things differently, especially when trying to recount events seven years later.
It’s a fascinating and enthralling concept and reminds me a little of The Appeal by Janice Hallett, which is also set up as a series of communications between various people and you have to try and work out what on earth is going on!
I was rather rubbish at guessing what was happening in True Crime Story and feel like I need to read the book again and make notes! I’m sure there are various clues scattered throughout but I probably missed most of them. A friend said she would use sticky tabs to highlight key points!
Overall, it’s an innovative and intriguing read, definitely something a bit different! I found it absorbing and immersive and disturbing in parts. It’s dark and tense, with a great sense of foreboding, and it feels like we’re not being told everything and there are sinister undercurrents to the story. It makes for very uncomfortable reading.
It’s the first book of the author’s that I’ve read but I’ll definitely be checking out his Aidan Waits series soon!
Buy the book
True Crime Story by Joseph Knox can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in hardback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.
About the author
Joseph Knox was born and raised in and around Stoke and Manchester, where he worked in bars and bookshops before moving to London. He runs, writes and reads compulsively. His debut novel Sirens was a bestseller and has been translated into 18 languages. The Smiling Man and The Sleepwalker are the second and third books in his bestselling and highly praised Aidan Waits series.
Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my copy of True Crime Story and for my place on the blog tour.
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