A young law student tries to derail a murder trial
First Rule: Make them like you.
Second Rule: Make them need you.
Third Rule: Make them pay.
They think I’m a young, idealistic law student, that I’m passionate about reforming a corrupt and brutal system.
They think I’m working hard to impress them.
They think I’m here to save an innocent man on death row.
They’re wrong. I’m going to bury him.
Dervla McTiernan’s latest novel has been getting quite a bit of good buzz in the lead up to publication. The synopsis was intriguing, and I’m always on the look-out for new authors to follow. (Because, you know, I never have enough to read.) After receiving a review copy, I dove right in, and blitzed through it in just a few sittings. This is a well-paced, well-written, and gripping thriller.
Most of the novel is told from two perspectives: Hannah, a law student who transfers to the University of Virginia to work on the Innocence Project. Specifically, she’s interested in getting attached to the latest big defence case that is taking up the bulk of the director of the Project’s time. However, she’s not there to help the case, but to hurt it. Over the course of the novel, and guided by the second main perspective, we start to gain insight and answers about Hannah’s agenda. The second primary P.O.V. is that of Laura, Hannah’s mother, in the form of a diary from years ago. Another a gradual unfolding of details, the diary entries present a story of young love, and the apparent dangers of trying to exist in monied echelons when you yourself are not from it.
The supporting cast was interesting and well-drawn. The ways in which Hannah, in particular, is pulled between conflicting agendas and developments makes the story more interesting. She sometimes finds herself entirely in over her head, too, which was an interesting development after a beginning that paints a picture of someone who has put in a lot of time planning this caper. More evidence that the best laid plans do not remain intact when they come into contact with the enemy… I liked the way the author threw obstacles in Hannah’s way, and the mostly-realistic ways in which they shifted the character’s thinking and understanding of what is really going on.
McTiernan does a very good job of providing the reader with a gradual trickle of hints, facts, and twists that keep us guessing. There were a couple of times when I thought I’d figured it out, but then something happens or is said that sheds light on the fact that few narrators are wholly reliable. The author’s pacing and writing are excellent.
My first Dervla McTiernan novel, and by no means my last. Really enjoyed this, and looking forward to seeing what the author comes up with next. In the meantime, of course, I can go back and read the Cormac Reilly series.
Dervla McTiernan’s The Murder Rule is due to be published by William Morrow in North America (May 10th) and Harper Collins in the UK (May 12th).
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Review copy received from publisher