Allison Leotta was a federal sex-crimes prosecutor before she became a full-time crime novelist. Anna Curtis, a federal sex-crimes prosecutor who’s from Michigan and who then moved to DC parallels Leotta, who attended Michigan State University and now lives in DC. In this volume (I’ll be buying the remainder of the series), Anna is investigating a campus rape victim’s disappearance. Fraternities, date rape drugs, Title IX, campus fundraising and corruption, good guys with questionable ethics, and truly awful guys with no ethics. Anna even dates a veteran with a prosthetic leg.
Emily is the daughter of the president of Tower University and a freshman living in the dorms. She attends a frat party her first night in the dorm and wakes up with the son of the lieutenant governor inside her. What follows is a time-worn tale–depression, alienation, self-recrimination, and asshatery. When Emily decides to pursue a Title IX complaint, everything speeds up and slows down until the night she confronts Dylan and disappears–cue Anna Curtis, the Michigan native in Michigan to help her sister, who is assigned to the case.
Leotta moves between vlog entries (for a class), official campus documents, and the investigation to slowly spool out what happened and build the characters of those involved. Anna is an interesting enough character that I want to dig back into the earlier novels to see how Leotta built her. I enjoyed Leotta’s storytelling style enough to do so, also.
If I were to change anything, I would make Dylan, the rapist, less clearly evil. There is almost nothing sympathetic about him–besides an asshole father. I would also make Emily’s father’s purification less magical. He goes from repeatedly prioritizing his job over his daughter to giving it all up to spend time with his family, including his estranged wife.
The true driving force behind the novel, however, is the cultural truth about how we handle campus rapes–and that truth is the real crime.