Do you love epistolary fiction? Love murder and malfeasance in a British village? Like the idea of poring over evidence in a criminal case along with two junior associates at a law firm? Check out my review of The Appeal by Janice Hallett
The Appeal by Janice Hallett
To be published on January 22, 2022 by Atria Books. Thanks to the publisher for providing an advance copy for review!
Synopsis: The Fairway Players, a local theatre group, is in the midst of rehearsals when tragedy strikes the family of director Martin Haywood and his wife Helen, the play’s star. Their young granddaughter has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, and with an experimental treatment costing a tremendous sum, their fellow castmates rally to raise the money. But not everybody is convinced of the experimental treatment’s efficacy—nor of the good intentions of those involved. New actress Sam raises doubts. But are her suspicions justified? Or does she have a history with the doctor involved? As tension grows within the community, things come to a shocking head the night of the dress rehearsal. The next day, a dead body is found, and soon, an arrest is made. In the run-up to the trial, two young lawyers sift through the material—emails, messages, letters—with a growing suspicion that a killer may still be on the loose.
Review of The Appeal by Janice Hallett
The Appeal was published in the UK about a year ago and is now coming to a bookshelf near you!
So, a quick aside. Regular readers of my blog will know that I am NOT an epistolary fiction fan. At all. And when I was perusing The Appeal on Netgalley I did NOT read all the way to the bottom of the synopsis which called the book “a wholly modern take on the epistolary novel.” BIG WHOOPS.
But I decided to give The Appeal a try, and I’m glad that I did. While I would have preferred reading a book with a regular narrative format (or with epistolary elements rather than 100% epistolary) I still think the book had a lot going for it.
YES, the structure of The Appeal is that two junior lawyers are asked by their boss to look over all the texts, emails, and letters that were used as evidence in a case. (They get no legal documents lol which is a good thing for the rest of us.)
What I liked about The Appeal
The setting. I love a good small town setting where everyone knows each other and I thought this aspect worked well with the epistolary element, as the characters sent snarky emails to each other … about each other. The sly humor of the book gave me Where’d You Go Bernadette vibes.
The misdirection! The book did a great job of keeping the reader guessing about what was going on and who was up to what. Until the end, it wasn’t even clear who the murder victim was. In this way it reminded me of Big Little Lies.
What I Liked Less
I felt like there were aspects of the crime that weren’t well explained at the end. I can’t say more, but you can get all the details in my Spoiler Discussion for The Appeal.