The Appeal by Janice Hallett – review

Published by Viper Books

Publication  date – 1 July 2021

Source – review copy

There is a mystery to solve in the sleepy town of Lower Lockwood. It starts with the arrival of two secretive newcomers, and ends with a tragic death. Roderick Tanner QC has assigned law students Charlotte and Femi to the case. Someone has already been sent to prison for murder, but he suspects that they are innocent. And that far darker secrets have yet to be revealed…

Throughout the amateur dramatics society’s disastrous staging of All My Sons and the shady charity appeal for a little girl’s medical treatment, the murderer hid in plain sight. The evidence is all there, waiting to be found. But will Charlotte and Femi solve the case? Will you?

Law students Charlotte and Femi have been handed a case file of papers. Their tutor, Rodderick Tanner QC, believes there’s been a miscarriage of justice and that the wrong person has been imprisoned for a murder that took place in Lower Lockwood. The catch. He’s only given them part of the case file and hasn’t told them who the victim is or who has been convicted. Can they work out who was killed and who was to blame?

The case is told through emails, text messages, letters and transcripts of calls between the suspects and between the legal team. The clues are there to find, in amongst the talk of putting on the play and raising money for the young daughter and granddaughter of the leading lights in the am dram society. The nature of the narration means that the reader feels a lot more involved in the drama. There is a sense of overhearing private conversations, of an intimacy that comes from the personal, immediate way the story is laid out.

Whilst there are a lot of characters, there are lists of the main players and how they relate to each other. The tones of emails and texts allow the reader to gauge the characteristics of each person, their foibles and secrets that lie just beneath the surface. These aren’t all particularly likeable characters. There are the annoying hangers on, treading a fine line between eccentric and lonely and potential stalker. There are family dynamics at play, unseen power struggles, long buried secrets and tensions just barely contained. These are often private messages so the reader sees the catty side of someone who would no doubt hide that persona in public.

By following the clues, and looking to see what was missing from the information being provided, I was soon able to work out who had been killed and who had been sent to prison for the crime. As the story progressed, the clues were laid out for the reader to establish whether that person was the killer or not before the reveal.

My only issue with the book was that if this case had been given to the students to review, they wouldn’t have just had emails and transcripts, and things held back from them. This is no doubt down to my legal background, now long since a distant memory and the pedantic nature that has led me to often shout at the TV when crime dramas use artistic licence. With that in mind it’s probably fair to ignore that one criticism and to perhaps gently remind me that fact and fiction aren’t the same thing.

An entertaining and original take on a murder mystery, bringing the small town crime drama right up to date. I’m already looking forward to reading more from Janice Hallett.

*You can buy the appeal here (Please note this an an affiliate link. I may make a few pence if you buy through here. Other retailers are available). *

About the Author

Janice Hallett studied English at UCL, and spent several years as a magazine editor, winning two awards for journalism. After gaining an MA in Screenwriting at Royal Holloway, she co-wrote the feature film RetreatThe Appeal is inspired by her lifelong interest in amateur dramatics. Her second novel, The Twyford Code, will be published by Viper in 2022. When not indulging her passion for global adventure travel, she is based in West London.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. MarinaSofia says:

    I was convinced this was set in the 1950s or so, small town setting after the war. So it’s a shock to hear about emails and so forth…


  2. BookerTalk says:

    Making the reader work like this to identify the culprit is an interesting idea.Like you I question the authenticity of the idea that students would be given the case file but not told who the dead person is. Why not? Seems rather odd


  3. heavenali says:

    This sounds like a really fun involving read, I felt like Marina that it almost sounded like a crime story from an earlier age.


  4. This must be quite a challenge to write in a way that doesn’t lose momentum. It sounds like the author managed it though, impressive!


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