Adapted from the classic 1925 book An American Tragedy, this audiobook was completely updated for our modern world.
In this story, social media fitness influencer Cleo Ray is on trial for killing her lover Beck Alden. Cleo supposedly killed Beck to hide her same-sex relationship from her new boyfriend Sandy, who is a rich influencer and who she wants to marry. The trial is set in a conservative area of CA, with a district attorney up for election vs the celebrity defense counsel paid for by Cleo’s rich uncle. The narrative is set up like a podcast (which made for a powerful full-cast audiobook) and we get interviews with Cleo and all the other participants, minus Beck. Cleo admits she went in with the intent to drown Beck on a canoe trip but didn’t go through with it, although an accident causes Beck’s death anyway. That she escapes the scene of the crime and doesn’t report the death, looks very bad for her case. As the trial proceeds we learn about Cleo’s childhood, but do her past misdeeds and trauma excuse her current actions?
During my book reading, I watched the 1951 movie A Place in the Sun starring a young Elizabeth Taylor, which is also adapted from the original story, and in both stories, I found the character Cleo (Clyde in the movie) reprehensible. I didn’t buy the adoration they had for their new loves and was furious at how callous they were to toss off their first partners. But the book as a whole is excellent because it is indeed a tragedy of how selfish actions led to so much heartbreak and loss for the people involved.