Tell Me Everything: The Story of a Private Investigation
“a narrative so mesmerizing that it’s impossible to put the book down. Tell Me Everything is, quite simply, an exceptional accomplishment.”
“You know all my tricks now,” Erika Krouse writes at the conclusion of her debut memoir, Tell Me Everything, “but it doesn’t matter. Give me twenty minutes alone with you, and you’ll still tell me all your secrets.”
She has that kind of face, it would seem. As she explains up front, it’s an ordinary-looking face that somehow inspires people to confide in her, regardless of their age, gender, sexual orientation, or financial status. They feel compelled, despite themselves, to open up and spill it all out.
Working a series of horrible temp jobs in a Colorado university town, including one in which her boss timed all her bathroom breaks and wrote her up for laughing, she encounters a man while browsing in a bookstore.
They chat for a few moments and then the man admits he’s a lawyer. He confesses he’s considering leaving his law firm. That he hates his job.
“Then he stopped, shocked. ‘Wait.’
“‘I’ve never told anybody this stuff.’”
Realizing that Erika has a gift, he offers her a job on the spot as a private investigator, working on his lawsuits, getting witnesses to open up and share their information with her. She accepts with alacrity, since the salary he offers is five times what she’s currently making.
The lawyer, Grayson, then gives her a few cases to start with, and although she unsuccessfully fumbles around, her lack of training and experience a definite handicap, she keeps trying.
Finally, Grayson decides he isn’t using her talents appropriately and brings her into a rape case involving college football players who had crashed a young woman’s private party and sexually assaulted her. Reluctantly, Erika accepts the assignment.
Thus begins the investigation that forms the center of her memoir, the infamous University of Colorado sexual assault scandal involving the football team and its coaching staff, a case that she worked on for Grayson between 2002 and 2007.
Also an author of fiction, including the short story collection Come Up and See Me Sometime (2001) and Contenders (2015), Krouse immediately reveals a well-honed talent for storytelling.
As she moves from one important witness to another, slowly building the case, she skillfully combines self-deprecating humor, suspense, and the horrifying trauma of rape into a narrative so mesmerizing that it’s impossible to put the book down.
Most important, however, is her decision to include her own personal story. As a small girl she was abused by someone within the household she will only refer to as X, and the relentless attacks left her with permanent emotional scars. Although the idea of investigating other women’s traumatic attacks initially appalls her, she soon realizes it’s an opportunity to confront her own internal demons as well as help them with theirs.
The result is an absolutely engrossing story, shocking and upsetting in all its details. The horrible treatment she receives from her mother and siblings, her budding relationship with “Scary JD” that seems impossible to succeed, and the stunning effects of sexual trauma that include physical damage to the brain, create a sine wave of emotions that carries the reader relentlessly forward.
When she writes “I don’t know the last time I was abused because it felt like there would always be a next time,” our heart breaks for her.
However, Erika’s personality shines through it all in a way that has us cheering for her as the ultimate underdog, bullied and broken by life but somehow refusing to give up the search for redemption.
As she suggests at the end, “Maybe this is the real human magic: listening to a person as she struggles to speak her most painful truth, and sharing my own truths in turn.” Readers will be very grateful that she has decided to trust people enough “to show them my true face, who I am between the seams of my scars. To tell them everything, too.”
On a par with I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by the late Michelle McNamara in terms of its impact and high-quality writing, Tell Me Everything is, quite simply, an exceptional accomplishment.