Based solely on the first episode, the new HBO limited series, The Night Of, seems to be equal parts True Detective and NPR’s Serial in the best ways possible. The story follows a young man, Nasir Khan (who goes by Naz) who gets swept into a horrible crime after a night of misguided frivolity with a mysterious, beautiful woman. Naz, a college student, picks her up in his father’s cab on his way to the popular kids’ college party, and has a dreamlike night of sex, drugs and odd drunken knife games before waking up to a nightmare: the woman’s body has been stabbed to death in bed next to him. Naz, who clearly doesn’t watch a lot of Law & Order, flees the crime scene looking guilty as sin, and is nabbed by the police before they even know that someone has been murdered.
However, what’s interesting about The Night Of from the outset is that the show seems just as focused on whether or not Naz actually committed the murder, as it is on the way the criminal justice system will treat him. Naz, played nerdy-innocent by Nightcrawler’s Riz Ahmed, is clearly not cut out for criminal life, and is consistently walking into verbal traps laid out by his interrogator, Box, played by Bill Camp. His lawyer, Jack, played by a super grumpy John Turturro, is equally dubious (he’s introduced with a horrible case of foot fungus front-and-center). From all sides, Naz seems to be in a pretty horrible situation, with racial and societal factors notwithstanding (plus, like, all the DNA evidence the cops found on his body!).
We really can’t wait to see what follows this hyper-intriguing premiere, which seems to be cut from the same cloth as Netflix’s Making a Murderer. In prep for next week’s episode, check out this crime-heavy reading list:
Underground Airlines, Ben Winters (Mulholland Books, July 5, 2016)
Set in a modern-day dystopia where the Civil War never occurred, this mind-bending thriller follows Victor, a young black man who works as a bounty hunter in the states that still enforce slavery. It’s already being hailed as one of the most controversial books of the year, for obvious reasons. This socially charged, unbelievably inventive thriller-mystery will have you on the edge of your seat while simultaneously giving you a whole new perspective on race in America.
The Whites: A Novel, Richard Price (Henry Holt and Co, 2015)
The Night Of is penned by author and screenwriter Richard Price, so it’s not too big a leap to read his latest novel of New York City crime and corruption, The Whites. Following a disgraced police detective, Billy Graves, who has slowly worked his way back from oblivion, the novel centers around a fateful crime that has ties to Billy’s ignoble past –- and the one case he couldn’t close.
The Executioner’s Song, Norman Mailer (Grand Central Publishing, 2012)
This classic, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel follows the real-life story of convicted killer Gary Gilmore, a man more famous for his courtroom antics than the murders that landed him there. After his conviction, Gilmore insisted on being executed for his crime, fighting a justice system intent on keeping him alive despite originally sentencing him to death.
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, Erik Larson (Vintage, 2004)
As we patiently wait for Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese’s sixth collaboration in the book-to-movie adaption of The Devil in the White City, we can continue rereading the thrilling words of Erik Larson in his 19th century true crime novel. Set during the Chicago World’s Fair, Dr. H.H. Holmes, A.K.A. The psychopath which inspired American Horror Story: Hotel and my personal favorite murder-villain Mr. James March, played by Evan Peters. This portrayal of a cold-blooded killer will send chills through your body while hiding under your covers.
Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three, Mara Leveritt (Atria Books, 2003)
Based on actual events in Memphis; three bodies turn up in Devils Den and three satanic followers are immediately charged. When all the evidence points at you and the town is against you, where does your voice stand? Take advice from the controversial Steven Avery in Making a Murderer and now Nasir Khan in The Night Of who face a wrongful conviction in the tangled web of the legal system.
Main image credit: Courtesy of HBO