by Megan Goldin
Publisher: Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Random House 2023
True crime podcaster Rachel Krall is back, in search of a popular influencer who disappears after visiting a suspected serial killer.
Being an influencer is like feeding a monster … nothing is ever enough. No matter how much you give, there’s always someone giving more. Eventually you have to give your soul …
Suspected serial killer Terence Bailey is about to be released from prison when he gets a surprise visit from Maddison Logan, a hot, young influencer with a huge social media following. Hours later, Maddison disappears, and police suspect she’s been kidnapped – or worse.
When they hit a wall in the investigation, the FBI reluctantly call in true-crime podcaster Rachel Krall for help in finding the missing influencer. Maddison seems to only exist on social media; she has no family, no friends, and other than in her posts, most people have never seen her. Who is she, really?
Using a fake Instagram account, Rachel goes undercover to BuzzCon, a popular influencer conference, where she discovers a world of fierce rivalry that may have turned lethal.
Racing to find the missing woman before it’s too late, Rachel is forced to confront the very real dangers that lurk in the dark corners of the internet. She discovers that some social media influencers have secrets, and some of them can be deadly.
The heart-stopping new thriller from international superstar Megan Goldin. A wickedly entertaining and terrifying look at how dangerous our obsession with social media fame can be.
by Lily Malone
Dark Corners was a summer holiday read for me while staying with my in-laws and family on the South Australian Yorke Peninsula. My setting was far more remote, rural and rustic than America’s tourist hot spot of Daytona Beach during a glamour-filled social media influencer conference, BuzzCon, where the book is set.
The female lead, Rachael Krall, is a former reporter turned crime podcaster: somebody who people, including convicted criminals looking for justice, can turn to when it comes to taking a fresh look at a cold case. As the story opens, Rachael is invited to Daytona Beach by the FBI, who are seeking her help to find an influencer, Maddison Logan, who went missing prior to BuzzCon. A prisoner, Terence Bailey, who refuses to talk to authorities, has mentioned Rachael by name, and that’s enough to have the FBI flying Rachael to meet him two days before he is due for release. Bailey is a prime suspect in a string of earlier unsolved murders and with time running out the FBI are desperate for evidence to stick those murders on him and keep him behind bars.
This meeting with Rachael and Bailey doesn’t go well, and the FBI want to send her home. Rachael, not being the type to run from a good crime story, chooses to stick around in Daytona Beach and do her own investigating. To do so, she rekindles an older Instagram account, buys a few thousand followers, and gets herself an invitation to BuzzCon. Rachael then tries to navigate this hive of selfie-loving, social-climbing peeps and try to sift out the truth from gossip, rumour and innuendo amidst this post/like/#/share/follow-focused crowd.
Rachael, it must be said, seems much better at this investigating caper, and gets much further faster when it comes to finding missing Maddison Logan, than does special agent Joe Martinez, and the resources of his taskforce at the FBI (or the local police for that matter).
I enjoyed this story as a holiday read, and it’s definitely a page-turner. Written in a dual narrative style, it includes a narrated podcast from Rachael regarding the cold case as well as chapters from the killer’s perspective. At the end of the day, this is where I felt the writing most shone.
We are first introduced to Thomas McCoy, our killer, early in the story when he is at his workplace. He’s a rideshare driver (think taxi or Uber). A bee buzzes in his car window while he’s waiting for a client and it’s a surprisingly tense moment as Thomas toys with his own decision about the bee’s future.
It’s a terrific scene.
I only had two issues with this story. I felt I knew the killer inside out, yet I never quite got to know Rachael. The superficial environment of BuzzCon and the fact that Rachel was there under a false identity meant she was hiding her true self from the people she met. Because of this, I felt I was at arm’s length from Rachael throughout the story. Perhaps that was the intention of the author, to mirror the shallow world of the social media influencer.
Toward the end of the book, Rachael makes a decision that puts her on a path to danger. I get that this was necessary to build to the inevitable confrontation, but it felt contrived and didn’t sit well with me.
All that aside, readers of crime fiction will enjoy this story. The plot is tight and the backstories of the dead and missing girls that are uncovered as the case deepens are all harrowing and ring true.
This was a solid 4-star read for me.