Review: The Appeal (Janice Hallett)

A very real warning up front: if you do not care for epistolary novels (stories told primarily in the form of letters, emails, and other documents), you will absolutely not like this book.

On the other hand, if you’re a fan of, or at least welcome to, the epistolary novel, as I am, and have the patience to keep track of all the characters and the details of the story itself, you will be well rewarded by an outstanding debut novel that is almost perfect and told entirely in documents alone.

The setting is a small town in England, and the story begins with a legal team introducing documents, so we know we are are actually closer to the end of the story than the beginning. We then dive into the tale from the beginning (documents-wise), where a small theater troupe is about to cast and present a play. One of the members, however, has gone MIA, and several people are emailing wondering what’s happening.

The truth is sad: his granddaughter has been diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of cancer. There is a very new and experimental treatment the family wants to try, but it’s very expensive. There is some fundraising, but also people skeptical of this treatment. Eventually, someone winds up dead, and that’s when the book ramps up.

I won’t go further into details about the plot from there, as it’s much too easy to get into spoilers. I will name the one quibble I have with the book: someone presenting documents of a case is expected to weed out the things that are not particularly relevant to the incident under investigation, and there are a few too many of those still left in that don’t add anything to the story.

Beyond that, it’s a twisting, surprising case, and well worth a read.

A solid four out of five stars.

Expected publication date: January 25, 2022

Thanks to Atria Books and NetGalley for the reading copy.

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