By: Graham Moore
Thriller, Murder mystery, Courtroom drama
Published: February 18th, 2020
From the Cover:
It’s the most sensational case of the decade. Fifteen-year-old Jessica Silver, heiress to a billion-dollar real estate fortune, vanishes on her way home from school, and her teacher, Bobby Nock, a twenty-five-year-old African American man, is the prime suspect. The subsequent trial taps straight into America’s most pressing preoccupations: race, class, sex, law enforcement, and the lurid sins of the rich and famous. It’s an open-and-shut case for the prosecution, and a quick conviction seems all but guaranteed—until Maya Seale, a young woman on the jury, convinced of Nock’s innocence, persuades the rest of the jurors to return the verdict of not guilty, a controversial decision that will change all their lives forever.
Flash forward ten years. A true-crime docuseries reassembles the jury, with particular focus on Maya, now a defense attorney herself. When one of the jurors is found dead in Maya’s hotel room, all evidence points to her as the killer. Now, she must prove her own innocence—by getting to the bottom of a case that is far from closed.
As the present-day murder investigation weaves together with the story of what really happened during their deliberation, told by each of the jurors in turn, the secrets they have all been keeping threaten to come out—with drastic consequences for all involved.
I love a good courtroom drama; maybe it started with Legally Blonde, and maybe it just stemmed for my love of murder mysteries and thrillers. However, this is no ordinary courtroom drama. The book spans a decade and covers two different court cases, which are linked by the same individuals. In the first case, a jury is selected to hear the trial of the disappearance of a rich and popular teenage girl (Jessica Silver). At the defense is her young African-American teacher (Bobby Nock), who is up for the death penalty. After all evidence has been produced, and all arguments have been stated, the jury deliberates. An initial blind vote reveals only one juror (Maya Steele) finds Bobby not guilty. Near the end of the jury deliberations, there is only one juror (Rick Leonard) who still finds Bobby guilty. When they finally deliver the not guilty verdict to the court, the world turns its back on the jurors for setting Bobby free and no one’s lives remain the same.
On the tenth anniversary of the trial, the jurors gather at a hotel to hear what Rick plans to reveal as “brand new, incontrovertible evidence” of Bobby’s guilt. However, one of the jurors is found dead and Maya is put at the top of the suspect list. Now a top performing defense attorney herself, Maya must use her connections with the other jurors and her own legal prowess to prove her innocence and bring justice. She also has to come to terms with the possibility that maybe she was wrong about Bobby’s innocence 10 years prior.
I was so impressed by Moore’s attention to detail and character development. He has a way of making you trust someone, and then pulling the rug out from underneath your feet. There were several twists and turns throughout this novel, and on several occasions I found myself viscerally reacting to what was being revealed in the plot. I loved every minute of this novel, and even felt like the ending was brilliant. I never could have guessed what would actually happen. However, there was a feeling of disappointment upon finishing the book. Maybe it was because I wanted to keep reading and maybe it was because I felt like things ended almost too perfectly. Who knows. Just prepare yourself as you might feel somewhat disappointed at the end.
Overall, this is an incredible book by an incredible author (he is the same one who wrote the Academy Award winning screenplay for The Imitation Game). If you are looking for a great book that will suck you in for the weekend or on a gloomy day, this is it right here.