The Hot One

A Memoir of Friendship, Sex, and Murder

The Hot One

A true-crime, coming-of-age story with a tragic twist: a New York editor’s quest to uncover the truth about the brutal murder of her wild and seductive friend in a “riveting…and thoughtful examination of how we grow up and apart” (Cosmopolitan).

As girls growing up in rural New Jersey in the late 1980s, Ashley and Carolyn had everything in common: two outsiders who loved spending afternoons exploring the woods. Only when the girls attended different high schools did they begin to grow apart. While Carolyn struggled to fit in, Ashley quickly became a hot girl: popular, extroverted, and sexually precocious.

After high school, Carolyn entered college in New York City and Ashley ended up in Los Angeles, where she quit school to work as a stripper and an escort, dating actors and older men, and experimenting with drugs. The last time Ashley visited New York, Carolyn was shocked by how they had grown apart. One year later, Ashley was stabbed to death at age twenty-two in her Hollywood home.

“Original and engaging” (Kirkus Reviews), The Hot One is the story of Carolyn’s emotional quest to find out what really happened to her oldest friend. It’s a journey that takes her through the hills of Hollywood, into courtrooms in Los Angeles, to strip clubs in Las Vegas, and back to her own childhood memories as she tries to unravel why she and Ashley became so different. How did Ashley end up the overtly sexual risk-taker—the hot one—while Carolyn was seen as the smart one, the observer? Carolyn’s “memoir will shock and fascinate” (Booklist) readers as she explores the power of female friendships and pays tribute to the ones that stay with you long after they’re gone.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Hot One includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Carolyn Murnick. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Carolyn and Ashley are childhood friends who grew up together in rural New Jersey playing piano, taking photographs, and dreaming of the future. By the time the girls have become young women, they’re living on two different coasts and leading two very different lives. Carolyn is a college student at Columbia University and Ashley is living in Los Angeles, occasionally attending school while working part-time as an escort and stripper. The last time Carolyn sees Ashley is during a visit to New York, a visit that solidifies that their paths have diverged and their friendship is not what it used to be. At age twenty-two, Ashley is found brutally murdered in her Hollywood home. The Hot One traces Carolyn’s journey as she investigates the murder, a decision that leads her through the final days of Ashley’s life, her secret work, and the circumstances that led to the two friends having such unfairly different experiences in the world. This memoir is sad and funny, a coming of age as much as a true-crime narrative. see more

About the Author

Carolyn Murnick
Photograph © Celeste Sloman

Carolyn Murnick

Carolyn Murnick is an online editor at New York magazine. She received an Emerging Writer Fellowship from the Aspen Institute in 2014. Her personal essays have appeared in two anthologies: Before & After: Stories from New York and Lost & Found: Stories from New York. She lives in Brooklyn and The Hot One is her first book.