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'Limetown' review: Book based on popular podcast relies on lazy storytelling

The book does manage to enhance the mystique of the fictional Limetown.

"Limetown," based on the popular podcast of the

"Limetown," based on the popular podcast of the same name, is out Tuesday. Photo Credit: Simon & Schuster

When the paranormal podcast “Limetown” debuted in July 2015, it soared to the top of the charts. Listeners intently followed reporter Lia Haddock’s investigation into the disappearance of more than 300 residents — including her uncle, Emile — from Limetown, Tennessee, 10 years earlier.

The podcast used voice-over narration, live interviews and archive footage to tell its story, drawing comparisons to “Serial,” which redefined investigative reporting podcasting. Except “Limetown” was fiction, the creation of Zack Akers and Skip Bronkie.

Now the Brooklyn-based duo have teamed with author Cote Smith for a prequel novel, for some reason also called “Limetown,” that seeks to explain the mysterious research town’s origin.

The book really tells two stories. The first tracks 17-year-old Lia’s steps immediately after the disappearance, starting with her internship at an Australian radio station where someone leaves her clues about a secret research facility.

The second follows the young Emile, who is an honest-to-goodness mind reader. He and his brother Jacob, Lia’s dad, run away from their foster home in search of their missing mother and end up in Colorado where they uncover a ... secret research facility.

There are so many parallels between the two narratives that it starts to feel more like lazy storytelling than eerie coincidence. Emile’s journey is more compelling, however, largely because Lia’s nascent journalistic drive is impelled by cloyingly simplistic aphorisms.

Podcast fans may spot some retcon when it comes to what Lia knew and when, but generally the book effectively enhances Limetown’s mystique.

That doesn’t mean readers will come away with any clearer understanding of what actually caused the disappearance or what was going on in the town. Those questions aren’t answered here. Maybe try season two of the podcast, which conveniently premiered last month.

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