In Rebecca Makkai’s engrossing novel I Have Some Questions for You, a successful podcaster and film critic takes a job at a New Hampshire boarding school where, 23 years ago, a white female student named Thalia Keith was murdered. The school’s athletic trainer, a Black man named Omar Evans, was convicted of the crime and has been imprisoned for decades.
Bodie Kane sees the invitation to teach a course on podcasting at the Granby School as an opportunity to give back to her alma mater. It’s also a chance to investigate the murder of Thalia, who was Bodie’s classmate; with her interest in true crime, Bodie has had lots of time to think about how poorly the case was initially handled. Bodie suggests to her class that revisiting the case would make a good podcast, and two of the students begin what evolves into a groundbreaking inquiry. Meanwhile, a major #MeToo scandal involving Bodie’s ex-husband, a well-known visual artist, threatens her reputation, veracity and livelihood.
Back at Granby and surrounded by the familiar landscape, classrooms and even some of the old faculty, Bodie is overwhelmed by memories of her trauma-filled childhood and wonders how those experiences might have shaped her high school years. She also starts to question her impressions of the school’s music teacher, Denny Bloch, whom she thinks may have been involved in a sexual relationship with Thalia. Bodie cannot help but subtly shape the students’ investigation, and the more time she spends at the school, the more she questions the motives of her classmates, her professors and even herself.
Makkai places the fictional murder of Thalia Keith and imprisonment of Omar Evans in the wider context of violence against women and institutional racism. If the book has any faults, it’s that we never hear from Omar himself, and his experiences only come to Bodie second-hand. But I Have Some Questions for You is Bodie’s story, a well-plotted indictment of systemic racism and misogyny craftily disguised as a thriller and beautifully constructed to make its points.