Tuesday, April 26, 2022

The Murder Rule

The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan
5/10/22; 304 pages

The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan is a highly recommended novel of psychological suspense.

Maine law student Hannah Rokeby has set her plan into motion. She has transferred to the University of Virginia for a semester in order to join the Innocence Project which looks for new evidence in cases where convicted individuals profess their innocence. Once in, she orchestrates an offer for her to join the team working on freeing Michael Dandridge, who has served 11 years for the rape and murder of a woman. Her alcoholic mother, Laura, has feared him for years.

The narrative alternates between Hannah's current actions (in 2019) and excerpts from Laura's 1994 diary. In 1994 Laura was working as a maid at a hotel in Seal Harbor, Maine. She became friends with wealthy Tom Spencer and also knew Tom's friend Michael Dandridge who was staying with him in the family vacation home. It is a slow build up to answer questions and disclose what is really happening but it becomes clear that Hannah has joined the Innocence Project and finagled a way onto the team trying to save Michael's life for a completely different purpose. And the team discovers unexpected information that surprises everyone.

Hannah is very self-contained, focused, and clearly has a goal in mind, a goal she is willing to lie and manipulate in order to reach. She's not particularly likeable. Readers won't know her end game until they are already invested in the plot. Clues and additional information are gradually revealed in the even pace narrative that gradually becomes more intense, accelerated, and dangerous as it races to an explosive, twisty ending.

What begins as a mother and daughter story changes to something else and McTiernan does an excellent job leading the reader down one path while clearly changing the direction multiple times. There are a few plot threads that leave questions unanswered and not everything is completely believable, but there is no doubt that this is a compelling novel of psychological suspense that will hold your attention to the end.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.

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