Fiction

Can you Solve the Case?

The Appeal by Janice Hallett

Cover of the book called The Appeal by Janice Hallett. Cover features a red ribbon tied around a stack of papers. Image is to accompany the book review on the same page.

Someone was murdered.

Someone went to prison.

And everyone’s a suspect.

The Appeal by Janice Hallett

The Appeal is a fun, murder-mystery book set in a small town in England. The story centres around an amateur theatre group called ‘The Fairway Players’. The group are rehearsing for their upcoming production of Arthur Miller’s classic drama, ‘All My Sons’. Meanwhile, it is discovered that the two-year-old granddaughter of the Chairman of The Fairway Players has a rare form of brain cancer and urgently requires life-saving medical treatment. The various members of the theatre group rally around the Chairman and his family, starting a charity appeal for little Poppy inclusive of a fundraising ball, a raffle, merchandise and even a yogathon.

But there is another appeal at the heart of this story: a court appeal. At the outset, the reader is presented with a letter from a QC instructing his young protegees to read through the swag of evidence presented before them, consisting largely of a trail of emails between the various members of The Fairway Players. You see, someone has been murdered, someone has been sent to prison and everyone at The Fairway Players is a suspect.

The author, Janice Hallett, wrote The Appeal as a tribute to her many years spent in community theatre. Setting the story around an amateur theatre group is a clever way to bring together a host of characters who otherwise wouldn’t typically interact and provides an almost endless list of suspects. For example:

Martin Hayward, aged 59, Chairperson of The Fairway Players amateur theatre group, joint owner of The Grange Country Club and grandfather to the terminally ill Poppy Reswick.

Isabel Beck, 29, Elderly Care Nurse and amateur dramatic. She’s lonely, fairly socially isolated, has obsessive tendencies and lives for The Fairway Players.

The two newcomers to town, recently returned from many years spent working as volunteer nurses for a medical humanitarian organisation in Africa.

The characters in this book are many and varied and whether they serve as a possible suspect or are included purely for entertainment value, they all contribute to weaving a detailed and enjoyable story. Acknowledging the large cast of characters, the author has included a complete listing of all the members of The Fairway Players which provides a handy character reference for the reader towards the start of the book.

The Appeal is highly original in that there is no narrative to the story. Rather, the story unfolds as a series of emails and messages between the members of the amateur theatre group. Together, this communication trail comprises the evidence presented to two law students by their solicitor mentor for review as he prepares to launch an appeal on a current conviction involving certain members of The Fairway Players. The presentation of all the evidence for the case forms the story and puts the reader in the midst of the investigation, challenged with solving the case alongside the two young articled clerks.

If you are up for some sleuthing with a side of community theatre, you’ll really enjoy this highly original and entertaining novel.

The Appeal by Janice Hallett, Published 2021 by Viper Books, 416 pages

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