Oh dear. Reading this book was like spending a very long day at the office. I was disappointed after seeing so many rave reviews and it being the Sunday Times Crime Book of the Year. I’m sorry to report that I considered abandoning it several times, but I continued with it in the hope that something would happen to change my opinion.
The premise of the book is that you, the reader, are sifting through a ton of evidence – mostly in email format – along with two junior lawyers (or law students? I’m not sure) whose boss has given them the evidence to review, but he withholds a lot of information so that they can have fun working everything out, apparently. Anyway, the case does include a murder but unlike a conventional murder mystery, it doesn’t happen until two thirds of the way through. The tagline on the book’s cover – ‘One murder. Fifteen suspects’ – suggests the murder is the main focus of the story, when it isn’t. There’s a lot about fundraising and fraud, a community drama group and overseas medical aid. There’s way too much going on, too many characters (such as they are – many have minor roles and you don’t get to know them), too much repetition. I’m sure it’s very cleverly plotted, but I’m struggling to think of anything I liked about it.
I didn’t find the book very credible, from the sheer number of emails everybody sends (they always have a good internet signal wherever they are, how lucky), to the use of italics (no one in real life bothers to use italics in emails… do they?), to myriad details about the characters’ actions. Why is so much written down, handy for the lawyers and police to go over later, rather than spoken on the phone or in person? And a character’s username was spelt wrong on a social media post, which wasn’t noted at all by the law students and I have no idea if it’s a genuine error or if we’re supposed to notice and be suspicious.
In summary, this book had no ‘appeal’ for me. Case closed.
First published in 2021.
7 thoughts on “Review of ‘The Appeal’ by Janice Hallett”
I write hundreds of emails each week and have never once used an italic in an email.
It was only a little thing that I picked up on, but it did bug me as I think the book was supposed to be realistic. The emails did seem too formal even between characters who were friends.
The best book I’ve read which used emails was a YA romance by Meg Cabot. I’m tempted to find it and read it again 🙂
I do remember reading some YA books about 20 years ago in email format 🙂 I think maybe it works better for romances than thrillers.
Agreed. Thrillers require more immediate language but a romance can be chewed over later via email.
I’m sorry you didn’t like this novel. I just finished it myself and enjoyed the original approach but I definitely wouldn’t want to have every mystery written this way. It’s a bit exhausting. Excellent review!
Thanks for your comment 🙂 I think there was too much hype and that always makes a book more disappointing than if I’d gone into it with no expectations! Yes it was exhausting, usually thrillers are quite easy to read but this felt like hard work!