Saturday, January 15, 2022

The Appeal

The Appeal by Janice Hallett
1/25/22; 432 pages
Atria Books

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.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Atria Books.

No comments: