cover image The Appeal

The Appeal

Janice Hallett. Atria, $27 (448p) ISBN 978-1-9821-8745-3

At the start of British journalist, playwright, and screenwriter Hallett’s ingeniously plotted debut, two young lawyers face a Herculean challenge: blitzing through almost two years of emails, texts, and messages so they can assist with an appeal brief due within days. Initially, the communications among members of a London area amateur theater group seem unremarkable, even banal. But things get real when troupe leader Martin Hayward shares that his two-year-old granddaughter, Poppy, has been diagnosed with a rare brain tumor—for which the only hope is an astronomically expensive experimental drug. Though plans for the show proceed, an urgent appeal to raise funds for Poppy’s treatment takes center stage. As contributions climb and someone ends up dead, Hallett skillfully lays an intricate and twisty trail of bread crumbs that leads to half a dozen suspects, which should delight those eager for the opportunity to sift through the evidence. For others, however, reading this murder mystery may feel more like attempting to solve a large jigsaw puzzle without a picture for guidance. Either way, Hallett remains a writer to watch. Agent: Markus Hoffmann, Regal Hoffmann & Assoc. (Jan.)