The Appeal by Janice Hallett is a highly recommended mystery
presented in an epistolary novel. If you are confident in your ability
to piece together clues and solve mysteries this novel will certainly
appeal to your inner investigator.
Olufemi (Femi) Hassan and Charlotte Holroyd are two law students who are reviewing case documentation for Roderick Tanner QC ahead of an appeal to overturn a murder conviction. The documentation in question consists of emails, texts, messages, letters, newspaper clippings, and police reports. It is a monumental task and Femi and Charlotte have little guidance in the beginning while they read through all the missives in an attempt to piece together the truth.
The case involves The Fairway Players, a local theater group, and a community rallying around a sick child. Martin Hayward, the director, shares the heartbreaking news that his two-year-old granddaughter, Poppy, has been diagnosed with a rare brain tumor. There is a new experimental treatment developed in the USA that works on her cancer, but it is very expensive to bring it over to the UK and they must immediately raise $350,000 dollars. The theater group and friends band together to start fund raising efforts. There are some questions beginning to emerge about the treatment and how the money is being managed.
As the cover discloses, there are fifteen suspects and one murder.
It's really best, in my opinion, to start this novel with just the
basics and follow along, meeting the characters, uncovering information,
and gathering clues as you read. Interspersed in the many documents are
chat messages between Femi and Charlotte discussing what they think at
that point. Admittedly there are times while reading that you will feel
like it is just an overwhelming information dump, but it will begin to
sort itself out. Some characters are sending out and replying to emails,
texts, etc. a lot while others are only mention in the written
materials or only respond infrequently. All crime novel enthusiasts will
know to pay attention to every clue.
Because of the format of the novel, character development is not
straightforward at all for many of the characters although you will
develop an impression of almost all of them. Some are very present in
the written material, others not so much. One picture or interpretation
will develop and then quickly be replaced
by another theory as the characters provide more information. The list
of characters and their connections to each other is presented several
times in different contexts so you will have some assistance in keeping
track of who is who and what has happened.
This is a complex, intricate puzzle of a novel that is full of
suspects and motives. I did feel like it was a tad bit too long at
times, but it is clever and does hold your attention.