The humans behind the hype


Podcasts, subreddits and social media: There are countless ways to feed constantly hungry true crime fanatics. But where does lore end and truth begin?

Lucy Chase is an Angeleno with a deadly secret . . . that she can’t even remember. The snarky antihero of Amy Tintera’s Listen for the Lie has spent years away from her small, less-than-charming hometown of Plumpton, Texas, where one night after a wedding, her best friend, Savannah “Savvy” Harper, was found dead in the woods. Lucy was found on the side of the road covered in blood and bruises, Savvy’s skin under her fingernails. Everyone thinks Lucy did it—even her parents—but so far no one’s been able to prove it, though Ben Owens hopes to find answers with his popular true crime podcast, “Listen for the Lie.” After Lucy reluctantly returns to Plumpton to attend her beloved grandmother’s 80th birthday party, she’s determined to avoid Ben and his probing questions, her nice-guy ex-husband, Matt, and the voices in her head urging her to kill. There’s just one problem: Ben is incredibly persuasive and exceedingly attractive. Will Ben’s interviews with Lucy and the citizens of Plumpton lead her to finally remember what happened to Savvy—and to herself? 

Tintera is both a New York Times bestselling young adult author and a Texas native, and her adult debut features a protagonist who’s as laugh-out-loud funny as she is complex. Little does her family know, Lucy is a successful pseudonymous author of romantic comedies who’s worried that her burgeoning career will be damaged if she’s unmasked as a potential murderer. Skillfully alternating between Ben’s podcast transcripts and Lucy’s compelling narration, Listen for the Lie grabs ahold of the reader from its first line—“A podcaster has decided to ruin my life, so I’m buying a chicken.”—and doesn’t let go until the jaw-dropper of a resolution.

Unlike Lucy, Theodora “Teddy” Angstrom of Kate Brody’s Rabbit Hole still lives in her hometown; she even teaches at her old high school. A decade after Teddy’s wild child of an older sister, Angie, left for a party when she was 18, never to be seen again, Teddy’s father intentionally drives off a bridge, leaving Teddy and her now thrice-widowed Irish immigrant mother to reckon with their complicated and tragic family history. What begins as a casual glance at Reddit threads about Angie’s disappearance leads Teddy down the titular rabbit hole—and to speculation that Angie is, in fact, still alive. Does Teddy’s estranged half brother hold the key? What about Angie’s teenage crush, Bill, now a local handyman and conspiracy theorist whom Teddy becomes romantically involved with? And why is Reddit user and local college student Mickey almost too eager to help Teddy find answers? 

Brody’s debut novel is both a suspenseful mystery and a provocative portrait of a broken family. Teddy is a sharply intelligent and rather cinematically flawed heroine—with her weaknesses for alcohol, junk food and, eventually, firearms—who readers will nonetheless find themselves rooting for. Cases involving young, pretty missing women are veritable catnip for the online true crime community, who can and do project endless speculations, theories and questions that often damage more than they resolve. Teddy’s story urges readers to consider the real people behind the clickbait, who often hunger for closure to no avail.

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