book review · cosy · crime · recommended

Book Review – The Appeal

IN A TOWN FULL OF SECRETS
SOMEONE WAS MURDERED.
SOMEONE WENT TO PRISON.
AND EVERYONE’S A SUSPECT.
CAN YOU UNCOVER THE TRUTH?

Dear Reader – enclosed are all the documents you need to solve a case. It starts with the arrival of two mysterious newcomers to the small town of Lockwood, and ends with a tragic death.

Someone has already been convicted of this brutal murder and is currently in prison, but we suspect they are innocent. What’s more, we believe far darker secrets have yet to be revealed.

Throughout the Fairway Players’ staging of All My Sons and the charity appeal for little Poppy Reswick’s life-saving medical treatment, the murderer hid in plain sight. Yet we believe they gave themselves away. In writing. The evidence is all here, between the lines, waiting to be discovered.

Will you accept the challenge? Can you uncover the truth?

The standout debut thriller of 2021 that delivers multiple brilliant twists, and will change the way you think about the modern crime novel. 

Purchase link: Amazon UK

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About the Author

Janice Hallett is a former magazine editor, award-winning journalist and government communications writer. She wrote articles and speeches for, among others, the Cabinet Office, Home Office and Department for International Development. Her enthusiasm for travel has taken her around the world several times, from Madagascar to the Galapagos, Guatemala to Zimbabwe, Japan, Russia and South Korea. A playwright and screenwriter, she penned the feminist Shakespearean stage comedy NetherBard and co-wrote the feature film Retreat, a psychological thriller starring Cillian Murphy, Thandiwe Newton and Jamie Bell. The Appeal is her first novel.

My Review

Five Fabulous Stars

To say this book is unconventional in its format might make a reader walk away. If that’s you, then stop! Come back! I thought the same. A story told through emails, text messages, sticky notes and legal documents sounds like a lot of work for the reader, but it quickly becomes all-engrossing to the extent that you won’t be able to read one more message, then another and another until you’re so far in the only way out is by reading on.

It surprised me too. I’d seen so many dazzling reviews; they couldn’t all be wrong. And, trust me, they weren’t.

This witty thriller is giving Richard Osmond’s Thursday Murder Club a run for its money in the cosy crime stakes, as it continues to charm readers. Hallett’s debut, set in a sleepy town where an am-dram production of All My Sons is in the works, is funny and full of twists. Amateur sleuths and thespians alike will love it ― Evening Standard

This ingeniously conceived whodunnit encourages the reader to turn detective in a murder case set against the backdrop of an amateur dramatic club. Brain-twistingly clever ― Metro

[A] daring debut… Hallett will soon have you laughing out loud… The Appeal is clever and funny ― The Times


From the book’s description you learn that someone has been murdered and everyone is a suspect. Now, together with law students Femi and Charlotte, you get the chance to put the pieces together to find out what happened. Go!

The story runs alongside the performance of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons by an amateur dramatics group. Newcomers to the village are persuaded to attend the casting auditions as a way to get to know everyone. But before the casting is even decided, it’s revealed that the director’s granddaughter has brain cancer and treatment, although experimental, is only available in the US. Instantly, the group make plans to raise the necessary funds as they rehearse and perform the play. It’s the old adage that it takes a village to raise a child.
The family are the linchpin of the village, the people “you want to know” and by whom you want to be accepted. Being in that inner circle is, for many, a privilege, and offering to help with the fundraising a means to gain recognition with the “powers that be”.

The newcomers, however, do not have that sense of needing to be accepted and, perhaps, are the best eyes through which to watch events play out. They are encouraged to participate by Izzy, who for some reason has attached herself to them like a limpet, often volunteering to be a go-between for them. Izzy is hugely unaware of her “standing” within the community, and it seems ignorant of how she is perceived by others. Her actions are deeply amusing and sad. She seems to be super generous and thoughtful whilst also verging on annoying – you know the type, right? For me, she is a key character in bringing out the true personality of other characters. Their “tolerance” of her varies, creating some laugh-out-loud moments but not without episodes of cringeworthy desperation and frustration. What amazed me was how the author was able to bring out so many personality traits in the characters’ messages – from the straightforward, no nonsense tactlessness of some to the almost hero-worshipping of others. So refreshingly creative and effective. I couldn’t quite believe how absorbed I became in this story. Amid a tale of a family facing the ultimate challenge in saving the life of a young child to rumours of wrongdoings in Africa, it all comes together beautifully.

Without any spoilers, this is one very clever cosy mystery: witty, poignant, delightfully addictive, hugely satisfying, and (for once I’ll say this myself) unputdownable! I’ve already got the author’s next book on my Kindle and cannot wait for the right kind of rainy day to settle down and get stuck in. Easily one of my favourite books this year.

Enjoy!

As always,

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