Author: Janice Hallett
Publication: Viper, paperback, 2021
Setting: Present-day BritainDescription: Two law clerks, Femi and Charlotte, are working for a British appellate lawyer. His client has been arrested for murder and he gives these young women all the documents from the case, hoping that without any preconceptions they will help him find the evidence of a different killer in time for the appeal. Reviewing dozens of emails, the young women follow members of an amateur theatrical company that was performing All My Sons by Arthur Miller and find a lot of suspicious behavior. One of the cast was murdered and there are now 15 plausible suspects. Can the reader figure out what really happened faster than Femi and Charlotte?
My Impression: This is an entertaining murder mystery that reminds me of those parties where everyone is assigned a character and one is chosen to be the killer. The story centers on a group of thespians, particularly the Hayward family that stars/directs and Isabel Beck, a nurse, who likes to be part of the production despite limited acting skills. The cast rallies around the Haywards when their granddaughter gets sick and needs expensive treatment. Soon everyone is planning fundraisers but one person begins to wonder if there is a scam going on. The story is told so well that the reader forgets she is gleaning the narrative from a series of documents, which come with these instructions:
Please bear in mind:Periodically, the law clerks compare notes and wonder what exactly is going on and, impressively, they begin to see a pattern and figure out what really happened in the gossipy town of Lockwood.
1. Only a limited number of emails, texts, and messages could be recovered, so the correspondence is not complete.
2. It is, however, broadly chronological
3. I’ve included various extras – i.e., newspaper clippings, social-media activity and other sundries – in the pursuit of context.
4. If I come across anything else of interest, I will forward it to you.
See what you think.
The combination of the epistolary novel and the mystery involving a small group, threatened by two newcomers, makes an unusual story and the parts about the theatrical production are amusing. I also appreciated the subtle but clever final email. This will be published in the US later this month. This is my first mystery of the year in the Cloak and Dagger Challenge hosted at Carol's Notebook.
Source: I was very curious about this because it was the Sunday Times Crime Book of the Year so I purchased for my sister but obviously had to vet it before wrapping. Some people are comparing it to The Thursday Murder Club - one enormous difference is that book is full of engaging characters while no one in this book was very likable. So I would say enjoyable but only a 3/5.