Do you adore bingeing on tv documentaries, but have blasted through them all and have nothing left to view right now? Loved ‘The Staircase’, ‘Surviving a Serial Killer’, ‘Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel’… Then why not check out these brilliant books that have fictional documentaries at their heart?
Six Stories, Matt Wesolowski
Elusive online journalist Scott King investigates the murder of a teenager at an outward bound centre, through a series of podcasts. The storytelling is wonderful, and there’s a constant tension running through it. The use of the podcast interviews as a device to push the plot on never becomes boring or feels forced.
Once I’d started Six Stories I was so addicted I raced through them all. Although they feature the same fictional podcast and citizen journalist, it’s not necessary to read them in order, and they absolutely work as stand-alones.
The way the stories are told is really fresh and interesting. They are presented as though you are reading the podcast where the presenter revisits fascinating events from recent past, and weaves in transcripts as well as other storytelling devices. The author really captures the individual voices of the characters being interviewed while all the time weaving intrigue, information and misinformation that kept me always slightly off balance, not quite sure what was going to happen next. I found it addictive reading and definitely recommend.
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DAISY JONES AND THE SIX, Taylor Jenkins Reid
Essentially about the rise and fall of a 70s rock band, this book uses the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll backdrop to explore love, rejection, temptation, and human nature. It’s so cleverly and subtly done, and instead of racing through it I found myself dipping in and out of it and savouring it. The writing style won’t be for everyone – it’s written entirely in script form, as though a transcript of a documentary, with each of the band members and their crew chipping in with their views and versions of events – but if you’re looking for something a little different then try this book. It’s being turned into a Netflix series, apparently, so read it before you watch it!
Adele, Nicola Cassidy
Historical fact and fiction combine cleverly to create this novel about the older sister of Fred Astaire, who was his first dance partner. The book is told partly in documentary style as a journalist called Ellie Morgan sets out on a mission to research Adele’s life; these sections include interviews, news clippings and transcripts of voice recordings. There are also flashbacks to 1905 through to the 1920s. Anyone who loves the Roaring 1920s will adore this book.
Final Cut by SJ Watson
Blackwood Bay used to be a buzzing seaside destination in Northern England. Now, thanks to an economic downturn, it’s fortunes have taken a turn for the worst. Film-maker Alex decides it’s the perfect location for her to shoot her new documentary. Locals are deeply suspicious of her intentions, though – as well they should be, because Alex is keeping a secret from them: she grew up in Blackwood Bay. As she films and investigates, memories surface and the past comes back to haunt her.
Blackwood Bay may be an ordinary place, but it’s home to an extraordinary secret.
THE GIRL IN THE MISSING POSTER, Barbara Copperthwaite
When dog behaviourist Stella Hawkins takes part in a Netflix documentary to throw light on her twin sister’s disappearance 25 years ago, she hopes for answers. What she gets is new information, fresh danger, and messages from the killer, offering to tell her everything
As well as the story unfolding in the present time, The Girl In The Missing Poster features chapters written as documentary transcripts, as friends and family reveal some of what happened on the night the 19-year-old police cadet was last seen.
Within the framework of the documentary, real crime statistics have been used that are current at the time of writing. It felt natural to me to write this way, as I’ve spent more than 20 years as a journalist. I wanted to portray as accurately as possible the impact it has when someone goes missing and the loved ones are left at home, forever wondering and never getting answers.
THE GIRL IN THE MISSING POSTER is available from: