I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.
One jury member changed the verdict. What if she was wrong?
It was the most sensational case of the decade.
Fifteen-year-old Jessica Silver, heiress to a billion-dollar fortune, vanishes on her way home from school. Her teacher, Bobby Nock, is the prime suspect. 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, persuades the rest of the jurors to vote not guilty: a controversial decision that will change all of their lives forever.
Ten years later, one of the jurors is found dead, and Maya is the prime suspect.
The real killer could be any of the other ten jurors. Is Maya being forced to pay the price for her decision all those years ago?
When reading the blurb of this book, I thought it sounded a little like Twelve Angry Men, but, you know… ten years later. Then as I kept reading, and realised there was extra murder involved, I was totally sold.
The book is told in a mixture of present-day murder investigation and flashbacks to the trial of Bobby Nock, a black teacher who was tried (and acquitted) of the murder of billionaire heiress Jessica Silver. Maya, our protagonist, was the turning point of the jury, convinced that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Bobby, who turned the rest of her jurors around to her side. But as the tenth anniversary of Jessica’s disappearance approaches, the jury reconvenes for a retrospective, where one of them is found dead – in Maya’s hotel room. Secrets unravel in present day and past day chapters, as Maya races to discover who the killer is – and where they might strike next.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, reading it over the course of two engrossing days, deeply engaged in the twists and turns of this mystery/courtroom thriller/detective novel. Past wrongs intertwine with present as characters who barely know each other and yet intimately know each other form allegiances and gang up against each other. And at the centre of the book is fifteen-year-old Jessica Silver – blonde, beautiful, billionheiress, her body never found.
This was actually my only problem with the book. Jessica, the central victim of the narrative, was never a person so much as she was an image on which to hinge the story. There were flashes of exploration of why that might be the case near the end of the book, but not really enough for me. I think there was a whole angle to be explored in this book about why the daughter of a billionaire – white, young, pretty, female – was the subject of a media frenzy, and whether that contributed to the excoriating backlash against the jury who failed to convict her purported killer.
But outside of that complaint, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Maya was a compelling and enjoyable heroine, a lawyer whose legal training fails to stop her from doing the eminently stupid things that the protagonist of every gritty thriller does. That is to say, investigating her own case. But that was knowingly presented in the narrative, with Maya’s boss rolling his eyes in frustration at Maya’s refusal to act in the way she knows is most effective. Maya’s present-day narrative is interspersed with chapters from the other 11 jurors, each in turn. I didn’t realise at the beginning that this was the format. Rick, the juror whose perspective is presented first, is perhaps the most central to Maya’s story, so I thought they would be dual narrators. When he vanished, I realised I had been mistaken, and then a parade of other narrators began to appear, so I realised what was going on. There was, perhaps, a lack of depth to some of the other jury members, as they appeared only for their few pages, to present their view of how the court case developed, but I can appreciate the reasoning behind that narrative decision. It didn’t quite work for me, and I’m not sure why – just didn’t quite hit the right note. But it wasn’t terribly off-putting either. That does mean that there are a total of 12 different POV characters in this book, some of which are only seen incredibly briefly, so if you’re not a fan of multiple POVs, this will definitely put you off.
Overall, though, this was a thoroughly engrossing thriller, with enough elements of danger, mystery, and legal proceedings to keep things interesting. Maya was a relatable and sympathetic heroine, and the plot was littered with enough twists and turns to keep me guessing throughout. Very enjoyable, and I’ll look out for more from Moore.