The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan is published with Harper Collins and is described as ‘the gripping new crime thriller’ from this No.1 bestselling author. The Murder Rule was inspired by a story that Dervla McTiernan read about a young Irish law student who had spent her summer volunteering in the US working for the Innocence Project. Her fascination with this story developed into a seed of an idea and, combined with her own experiences from being a lawyer, The Murder Rule was born.
The Innocence Project was originally founded in 1992 by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld and its aim is to work ‘to free the innocent, prevent wrongful convictions, and create fair, compassionate, and equitable systems of justice for everyone.’ InThe Murder Rule young Maine law student Hannah Rokeby has her mind set on volunteering for a semester with the Innocence Project at The University of Virginia School of Law Charlottesville, Virginia. With a determination and a rather untoward approach, Hannah achieves her objective. Leaving her mother behind, she leaves home and makes the trip to Virginia. After settling in to her new accommodation, she arrives at the offices of the Innocence Project with a plan.
Michael Dandridge is facing a possible death sentence for a murder he has always denied. Already after spending eleven years in prison, he claimed that he was set up via an anonymous tip off, an extracted confession and planted evidence. His case is due to be heard again and this time the Innocence Project, under the steerage of Robert Parekh, Associate Professor of Law and Director of the Innocence Project, is involved. Parekh and his team, a mix of students and staff members, are gathering the facts, leaving no stone unturned, in an attempt to decipher the truth. Hannah is determined to be part of Dandridge’s team but Hannah has her own agenda. By duplicitous means Hannah soon finds herself right where she wants to be but as their investigation makes some shocking reveals, Hannah is left confused.
An asset to any team, Hannah works outside the box. She sees the world a little differently from her fellow students and has unorthodox means of separating the truth from the lies. But Hannah’s judgement is clouded due to her own backstory which is why she is there in the first place. Interspersed through the novel are pages of a diary written by a young woman which provide an insight into Hannah’s motivation. Hannah is quite Machiavellian in her approach, manipulative and unscrupulous in many of her actions but she has always believed a truth and now is her chance to finally achieve the justice she believes in.
The Murder Rule is a book that came up a little short for me in places. Hannah Rokeby, and many of her colleagues on the Innocence Project, are students of law and yet, as volunteering students, they are involved in a death row case at a very high investigative level. I did feel that they were allowed a little more authority and influence than was realistic and, at times, The Murder Rule felt more like a YA (young adult) novel to me. I flew through it, eager to see what Hannah was up to and the final pages were quite unexpected. Hannah isn’t a particularly appealing protagonist. Her behaviour is very questionable yet her heart is in the right place. She believes in a cause and is prepared to put everything on the line, no matter the cost.
The Murder Rule is a standalone book, a step away for Dervla McTiernan from her Irish crime fiction series, featuring Detective Cormac Reilly, one that has garnered great praise internationally. Dervla McTiernan writes complex characters and Hannah Rokeby is definitely one such individual. Hannah’s backstory was quite interesting and I would have liked to read a little more about the relationship between mother and daughter, as it did seem to wrap up rather swiftly.
Overall, a lively read with an interesting plot, The Murder Rule is an entertaining novel with sufficient moments to keep the pages turning.
(c) Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)
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