Considering the enormous popularity of true crime podcasts, it’s surprising that Conviction is the first mystery I’ve come across that uses one as a jumping-off point. The main character, Anna, is a busy mum of two who loves to escape into audio stories: “A good podcast can add a glorious multi-world texture to anything. I’ve resisted an Assyrian invasion while picking up dry-cleaning. I’ve seen justice served on a vicious murderer while buying underpants.”
Unfortunately, her latest download (“Death and the Dana: A sunken yacht, a murdered family on board, a secret still unsolved…”) hits a bit too close to home for Anna when she realizes that one of the victims is Leon Parker, a former friend of hers. She had lost touch with him and had no idea that he’d married a billionaire and lost his life aboard a yacht reputed to be haunted. Anna listens to the podcast with increasing alarm, wondering if Leon could have possibly killed himself as well as his two children, who were also aboard.
Already shaken up, things for Anna get even worse when her husband tells her he’s leaving her for her best friend, Estelle, and taking her on holiday to Portugal. While they’re away, a desperate Anna teams up with Estelle’s partner Fin, a rock star who suffers from anorexia, in an attempt to figure out what really happened to Leon.
The first few chapters, where we get complete transcripts of the podcast, are incredibly gripping, but once Anna and the fragile Fin begin their quest, the book goes off the rails a bit as Fin decides to produce his own podcast. Despite the fact that he is recording it on the fly on his phone and posting it to Twitter, it becomes a major sensation. Perhaps Fin’s fame would help garner some extra attention, but today’s top podcasts have high production values and are carefully edited, not produced on the run during, say, a train journey, which is guaranteed to have lots of extraneous background noise.
Naturally, Fin and Anna start to get too close to the truth, which puts their lives at risk, and soon they’re outrunning hit men and leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. I stuck with the book because I’d enjoyed the first half so much, but the second half is significantly more implausible and less compelling.