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by Dervla McTieman
William Morrow, May 2022
295 pages
ISBN: 0063042207

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

First let me say that as I started reading, I was sure I'd been sent the wrong book. Dervla McTiernan is, in my mind, a wonderfully evocative writer of mysteries set in Ireland. This was a legal mystery set in the United States…how could it be the same writer? But, in fact, this is McTiernan's first standalone book, one that is entirely different from her Cormac Reilly series. What is the same is her skill with characterization and plot. Once I had convinced myself that this book was written by one of my favorite writers, I was (reluctantly) willing to give up the Irish setting I had been expecting and go with a legal mystery (not my favorite genre). Because McTiernan is that good.

The book deals with a number of tough subjects, including social inequality and toxic masculinity in addition to innocence vs. guilt, giving the reader something besides the mystery to think about. Hannah Rokeby is a law student who "transfers" into the UVA program so that she can join a team of lawyers and law students trying to free innocent prisoners. It's no secret to the reader that she isn't there to free Michael Dandridge, but to ensure that the Innocence Project does not do so. She's read her mother's diary, and she knows that Dandridge is not the innocent man the Project believes he is. The book cycles back and forth between Hannah's legal and investigative work for the Project and pages from her mother's diary. At about the halfway point in the book, there is a big twisty reveal, some of which I had foreseen and some of which I had not. It was late at night when I reached that point, and it took me hours to fall asleep as I pondered where McTiernan was taking the plot. This particular twist was better done than most, in that it turned the plot on its head while still leaving much to figure out.

I missed the atmospheric writing McTiernan is known for, and I missed the Irish setting. Nonetheless, I was caught up in the story line of THE MURDER RULE and give the author credit for being able to switch locations and genres so effectively. Some of the legal aspects seemed a bit unlikely to me, but then I am no expert. The title seems more tied to a thread of another case that Hannah would like the Innocence Project to adopt, so, if this turns out to become a series rather than the standalone it is purported to be, perhaps that's the point of the title. I will be on the lookout for the next Cormac Reilly novel, though, rather than the next Hannah Rokeby one.

§ Sharon Mensing, retired educational leader, lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors in Arizona.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, June 2022

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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