The Appeal

A fresh take on the murder mystery

Book title

The Appeal

Author

Janice Hallett

Standalone or series

Standalone

First time reading this author?

Yes

Why I picked this

I bought this as a Waterstones recommendation a couple of months ago to top up an order into free postage, but at that point hadn’t seen anything about it. The strapline on the cover ‘One murder. Fifteen suspects. Can you uncover the truth?’ was enough to make it worth a punt. Since then I’ve seen it everywhere with lots of great reviews.

Review copy or purchase

Purchase.

What it’s about

A fundraising campaign to help a young child combines with an amateur dramatics group and the arrival of two newcomers. It all ended in tragedy and the wrong person may have gone to prison. Through emails and other messages figure out what really happened.

Review

An interesting format which made for a pleasant change of pace.

I really liked the concept of The Appeal. Two trainee lawyers are provided with a pile of email and text message correspondence by a lawyer preparing to appeal against a murder conviction on behalf of a client he considers is innocent. The story is told through these emails, and interspersed with WhatsApp messages between the trainees discussing what it means. Additional information is revealed to them, and the reader, by their mentor at various stages to move the book on. This was quite fun. It was like reading along with the trainees and discussing the story and theories on what’s happened with them.

The modern take on a story told through letters (an epistolary novel just to prove I remember secondary school English lessons) works really well. It makes what’s quite a lengthy book in page numbers actually quite a quick one to read. And, even though there are exchanges missing in the story – correspondence from two of the characters are referred to but not included – it’s easy to follow what is happening.

I enjoyed the setting too. It’s based around a local amateur dramatics group from auditions to performance, with most of the characters involved in the group to some extent or other. This performance is different from their normal ones as all money raised will be donated to a fund for experimental treatment for the daughter of one of the members.

The only downside was that while the blurb talked about one murder and 15 suspects within the book it took a long time to establish that the case was a murder appeal and who the victim and suspects were. While it wasn’t a big barrier it did pull me out of the story a few times wondering when we were finally going to get to the point.

I liked the way that once this is established the trainees go through a number of different ways of assessing what the evidence shows and who they suspect. It was fun to read something that reflects that inner reader’s voice suspecting everyone as you try to solve the mystery before it’s revealed.

Given the various options the final reveal felt a little bit anticlimactic. But, overall an interesting experiment in a different approach to a murder mystery. My only concern is whether the author’s follow-up novel The Twyford Code can maintain the similar format successfully or whether it will only work as a one-off.

Rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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