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The Horrific Real-Life Case That Inspired The New Thriller 'The Missing Hours'

"The Missing Hours," a new thriller by Julia Dahl, is about a college student who wakes up knowing something horrible happened to her — but she doesn't remember exactly what.

By Becca van Sambeck

In "The Missing Hours," a New York City college student wakes up one morning and knows something horrible happened to her when she was heavily intoxicated. But the book isn't exactly a mystery about what went on that night — instead, it's an examination of sexual assault and the way such trauma affects everyone around her.

"[The sexual assault] is kind of like a ripple effect, a bomb going off in her life, and the shrapnel goes everywhere," author Julia Dahl told Oxygen digital correspondent Stephanie Gomulka while discussing her new book.

"The Missing Hours" is certainly filled with twists and turns, but also has a lot to say about toxic masculinity and the way society treats sexual assault victims. The dark, thought-provoking read was selected as the September pick for Oxygen Book Club,  which highlights books in the true crime and mystery sphere each month and features exclusive interviews, guided discussions, and more.

"It's quite different [from Dah's other books]. It's more of a thriller, a suspense novel. 'The Missing Hours' is about a crime, and the aftermath of a crime, but it's more about the impact of the crime than solving who did it," Dahl explained.

Dahl worked as a reporter for many years, and said one case she covered in particular really stuck with her and ended up inspiring this novel.

"I covered a case out of Ohio. It was called the Steubenville rape case ... it was a case about a girl who got really drunk art a party and was assaulted and her peers took pictures of the assault and the aftermath and spread them around, and you know, I covered that story and the trial and I couldn't stop thinking about that girl and what it would have been like to not know what happened to you but have all these other people see what happened to you ... even though I reported on that story almost 10 years ago, it really stuck with me and I wanted to write about that," Dahl said.

Other cases she wrote about as a journalist also ended up influencing the novel.

"I reported on a ton of other stories involving sexual assault, so on campus I interviewed women who were suing their universities for the way they did not support them when they came to them with sexual assault. I've interviewed tons of victims who felt going to the police was as traumatic as being assaulted. They felt like perpetrators they way they were questioned and disbelieved," she explained.

That fear of going to the police and of knowing people would dismiss her story, impacts many of the main character's actions after her sexual assault, leading to an explosive conclusion.

To see more of Dahl's interview with Gomulka, watch the video above.

Check back each month for Oxygen Book Club's picks, which highlight the best true crime stories the literary world has to offer.

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