Tuesday, February 21, 2023

I Have Some Questions For You, by Rebecca Makkai: About The Murder Show

Few novels meet the current moment with the confidence and astuteness of Rebecca Makkai's new novel I Have Some Questions For You. This thrilling literary mystery centers on our disturbing obsession with crime (especially against women) as entertainment. Why are we so fascinated with violence? Does our fascination with violence interfere with real justice when a crime becomes part of the public consciousness?

Heady questions, for sure, and Makkai isn't done there. This novel also looks at the power (for both good and bad) of social media, how we remember the our individual histories, and what we can really do to right past wrongs. 

Yes, there's a lot going on here. But at 450 pages, there's plenty of room here to handle it all. The novel is about Bodie Kane, an early 40s podcaster and film professor who returns to her elite New England boarding school to teach a class. She becomes obsessed all over again with the murder -- a supposedly solved murder -- of one of her classmates when she was still in school back in the mid 1990s.

Even though the murderer was quickly apprehended, tried, and convicted, it's a case that has never really died. Internet sleuths have poured and re-poured over all evidence (real and imagined) and unleashed multiple theories ranging from crackpot conspiracy to "hmm, that may actually make some sense." As she returns to the haunts of her youth, Bodie begins to believe something may not quite be right about that supposedly open-and-shut case, as well. Was justice miscarried for reasons of convenience? Is there more to this story?

Though it's almost too easy, comparisons to Donna Tartt's The Secret History are inevitable -- but that's a good thing, because this novel proudly stands on its shoulders as a terrific entry in the "slow-burn boarding school murder mystery" genre. Like good fiction should be, this novel is terrifically entertaining, but also may leave you with some uncomfortable questions for yourself.

(And now for some levity... As evidence that the "murder show" has -- or had, at the time of this skit in late 2021 -- reached the peak of the zeitgeist, here's Saturday Night Live's Murder Show song. This just absolutely slayed me. Pun intended and I'm not apologizing.)

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