Book Review: The Holdout by Graham Moore

The Holdout By Graham Moore is as good as a legal thriller can get, it is one very entertaining and will keep you guessing, and two it makes a statement about how our current legal system is broken and can be manipulated. The Holdout is two mysteries in one, as we get two different mysteries one is a did they or didn’t they murder? And the other is a who done it? The book is separated by a ten year span having a jury trial and then ten years later doing a retrospective documentary of what happened during the trial. This book was part 12 Angry Men combined with an Agatha Christie murder mystery (there’s one I’m thinking about but the plot could be a hint to where it goes, and would hate to spoil anything) with a dash of John Grisham. This novel is full of little twist here and there with a couple of big ones towards the end that guarantee to put you on your toes. I really enjoyed The Holdout thanks to Netgalley and Random House Publishing Group for giving me and advanced readers copy. The Holdout is being published on February 18 2020.

The Plot: Maya Seale is an attorney at a law firm in Los Angeles. We see her creatively defend a client and get a damaging police report tossed out on a technicality. She wins the case but before she can celebrate, she is confronted with a blast from her past, Rick. Ten years ago she was on the trial of the century, the Bobby Nock trial, as a juror. She was the one holdout that thought he was not guilty and convinced the rest of the jury of it as well. This victory lead her to go to law school and become a lawyer. The only problem with the Bobby Nock verdict is 84% of a America thought he was guilty with all the information the media got compared to the information in the trial. The jurors names were all leaked the media hounded them for information and insight, some of the other juror’s felt manipulated to vote not guilty. Rick wrote a book about it blaming Maya, and has been obsessed with proving Booby Nock, a 25 year old African American music teacher killed his, 15 year old Caucasian high school student, Jessica Silver. Rick is tells Maya that he has found information that is going to change the course of the old case, he and eight of the other juror’s ( one has passed away and one flat out said he was not interested) are going to sit down and tell all for a documentary ten years after the trial. Maya doesn’t want any part of it, but her boss thinks it will be could for publicity, so she reluctantly agrees. But she gets more than she bargained for when a member of the Booby Nock juror’s is murdered. Maya is left to solve this crime, with the more she finds out, the more doubts she has about the not guilty verdict of the the old trial. The only thing she can do, is solve both cases.

What I Liked: The way this story is told really stuck out to me, in the present the story is told in third person, but in the flashbacks to the Bobby Nock trial ten years ago we get a first person view of the trial through each jurors eyes, which was very effective. The Holdout balanced the fun mystery while taking a hard look at our current system of justice and the legal loop holes. There’s a great scene where someone is asked plead self defense, because it’s easier to plead than innocent. There were a lot of character’s with the 12 juror’s but everyone had their own personalities and their own agenda. There was plenty of murder suspects that kept me guessing the whole time. I loved the twist in this novel, I guessed wrong about who done it, I only got one plot twist right, but I felt it was a lucky guess, but most of the time this novel kept me guessing.

What I Disliked: I was only upset with one plot point in this book, it was a big one I thought I was going to be blown away by a reveal, and I was more like, that was just okay. The novel did redeem its self with the next plot point involving what to do with that reveal which I thought was really clever and not something that I was expecting.

Recommendations: I totally recommend this novel, I think this was a fun legal thriller that kept me on my toes, with who done it? This novel balanced legal thriller with classic mystery, if you like one or both of those genres than you are gonna have some fun with this novel. If you’re looking for a smart book that offers a biting social commentary, then this is the book for you. The commentary on our legal system is not in your face but it ask good questions to the reader, about what is right or wrong? How can a jury remain bias on the subject of race? What the media misses with it’s rush to be the first to post new information? I rated The Holdout by Graham Moore 5 out of 5, I was let down by one scene, but the charm and the fun of this novel got me to overlook it. This was the first novel that I have read by Graham Moore and it certainly will not be the last. He has written The Sherlockian which I’ve heard a lot of good things about and not only is he a novelist but a screenwriter of The Imitation Game the movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kira Knightley, a movie I quite enjoyed.

Book Review:The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (or The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle) by Stuart Turton is amazing an instant favorite for me. The book deserves a long slow clap for what it pulled off and accomplished. This book is an enigma wrapped in several riddles. The conclusion has four major twist that are all plausible and well thought out. The comparisons I’ve read about this book is Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day, which is very fitting. The novel embodies Agatha Christie’s writing by making a grand murder, and having many compelling characters full of family secrets all with reasons to murder. I told a friend it’s a murder mystery where you get to play 8 of the characters, all at once. The 7 and a half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is so fresh and new in its approach to and old fashioned murder mystery. It was unlike anything I’ve read before. Thanks for all the bloggers who made this book a can’t miss, and lead up to the hype of the novel.

The Plot: Aiden Bishop wakes up not quite feeling like himself, but it’s because he’s not himself he’s Sebastian Bell a doctor who’s alone in the wood with cuts on his arm. He says the only thing he can remember “Anna”. He feels like she’s in trouble he she’s a woman being chased by and man and heads in the direction of them. He doesn’t know what’s going on. The Man creeps up behind him and Bell cowers before him not daring to look up the man gives him a compass and a direction, which leads him to Blackheath an old mansion. Aiden soon learns there’s a murder taking place there and it’s his job to solve it using 8 host on the day of the murder. If he sleeps, loses conscience, or is murdered he goes into another host until all eight are used up. The day is repeated 8 days and he’s a different person every time. He can use versions of himself to help him, but everything still has to fall in order, also there are two others like Aiden also trying to solve the mystery, and who know who he really is, but can he trust either of them?

What I Liked: This novel makes sense, not at first but you’re just as confused as the character, but once everything is explained, everything fits, and its a beautiful thing. The writing is really good, this is my favorite line from it. “Anger’s solid; it has weight,. You can beat your fist against it, but pity’s a fog to become lost within.” This novel has a lot of character, but they all have they’re own voices, secrets, and agendas which made it easy to differentiate from one another. The twist are jaw dropping, and there’s more than a few. The way the story is told makes it very memorable and really unique as you go forward and sometimes backwards yet on the the same day. This novel nails the ending, actually I was satisfied after the first two major twists, and there’s a point that it could’ve ended, but it keeps going and offers two more major twist for ultimate satisfaction. There’s mysteries on mysteries, but the main mystery is very strong and kept my interest throughout.

What I Disliked: I still have questions? I feel satisfied with the ending but still have a couple of questions about the character’s and about time. I did not like that we did not get a time period for the party at Blackheath.

Recommendations: I whole heartily recommend The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcaslte, this novel is destined to be a classic. The only people I could not see enjoying this are distracted readers, there’s a lot of information and if you can’t remember it then you could get easily lost. The confusing beginning only last 3o pages and them it all makes sense. This novel is for murder mystery lovers with a fresh way of telling the story. Lovers of the Black Mirror and the Twilight Zone will have fun with the trippier elements of the story. This is a rock solid debut for Stuart Turton, and I can not wait to see what this guy dreams up next. I rated this novel 5 out of 5 stars.