by Matt Witten
published by Oceanview Publishing on January 17, 2023
AMBER LOVE 06-FEB-2023 This review is a courtesy provided by NetGalley. To support this site and my other work, please consider being a monthly donor at Patreon.com/amberunmasked; you can also buy my books through Amazon (or ask your local retailer to order you copies). I’m also an Amazon Influencer so you can shop through my lists of recommended products.
How far will she go to catch the killer—and make her podcast a hit?
Petra Kovach, a talented and idealistic young reporter, is on the brink of being laid off from her third failing newspaper in a row. To save her job, she pitches the launch of a true crime podcast about a sensational, unsolved murder.
Years earlier, an alt-right YouTuber was killed in her Harvard dorm room, and the case went cold. Petra knew the victim—she was once her camp counselor and loved her like a little sister, despite their political differences.
Petra’s investigation gets off to a rocky start, as her promising leads quickly shrivel up. In her passionate quest for justice—and clicks—Petra burns sources and breaks laws, ultimately putting her own life on the line. Even as her star rises, she worries it could all come crashing down at any moment if her actions are exposed.
When her machinations start to backfire, there’s only one way to fix everything and solve the murder—even though it may cost her everything she loves.
KILLER STORY delivers page after page of surprises through the eyes of Petra Kovach, a journalist about to be laid off again from yet another newspaper. Author Matt Witten bravely acknowledges that financial uncertainty is a type of trauma. Other than the love for telling the truth and spotlighting stories on issues, it’s been a curiosity why anyone enters journalism these days. Every story is reduced to soundbites. Coverage on a long story would be three minutes on television. In written stories, people rarely continue reading beyond the second paragraph. Petra Kovach and her managing boss are on the chopping block until she comes with a proposition that might save their asses: a true crime podcast.
Petra is obsessed with the murder of an old friend—a girl she knew when they were teens and Petra was a camp counselor. Olivia Anderson’s life takes turns Petra would never have guessed. She goes from bright-eyed and idealistic teen journalist to a college vlogger spouting alt-right, misogynistic rants full of victim-blaming, denials, and accusations of hot button news around Harvard. Despite her personality at the time of her murder, Petra wants to solve Olivia’s murder.
As each chapter ends on a cliffhanger, readers just might find Petra Kovach as shady and unlikeable as I did. She loses all her ethics as a journalist in order to make a name for herself in podcasting. It feels like she’s constantly getting way with selfish behavior. Her fiancé Jonah tries to be Petra’s conscience. Their relationship crumbling through the course of the book is the first consequence Petra ever faces for her selfish decisions. Somehow, she keeps stringing Jonah along from one lie to the next. She does the same to her boss and her sources! Petra is conniving yet that’s how she describes her ultra-competitive co-worker Natalie, the newspaper’s golden goose reporter on the crime beat.
Petra is simply a terrible human being. I did not root for her to find Olivia’s killer after chapter two. Plus, due to her politics, Olivia Anderson doesn’t feel like a sympathetic victim at all either, which is intentional by author Matt Witten. According to his comments in the Author’s Notes at the back, he expressed curiosity for what happens to someone so young and vulnerable that can lead them to manipulative people who implant dangerous thoughts in their heads. He used Tomi Lahren as inspiration. There is also a section for book club discussion questions.
What I did love was Witten’s knack for describing people. It’s a modern take on the choppy old noir style. He lets short sentences flow in a cadence that gives what a reader needs to know in order to make their own assumptions about what someone would be like. Maybe this is considered neo-noir. There is one gun. Olivia comes across as an ingenue. Natalie is the femme fatale. Protagonist Petra has definitely been down on her luck before she pitches this investigative reporting podcast.
- Sexual Assault
Rating: 4 stars