The Appeal is a new take on the epistolary novel, though rather than well-thought-out correspondence between two people, it’s a collection of text messages and e-mails among several people that are being reviewed by junior lawyers to look for grounds to appeal a conviction.

The title, The Appealcleverly does double duty as it is about two lawyers looking for grounds for appeal and about a fundraising appeal that led to murder. The Fairway Players are a local amateur dramatic group that puts on a short run of different plays, selling tickets, and generally being a great success. The director, though, announces that his granddaughter has cancer and they must raise funds for an experimental treatment or she will die. Everyone thinks of ways to raise the money, though the amount needed keeps growing and the financials are all a bit fuzzy. Meanwhile, two healthcare workers have moved to the community after years in Africa and joined the cast. One of them asks inconvenient questions about the treatment and is killed. A troubled woman confesses, but is she really guilty and can these young lawyers find the answer in the texts and emails?

I didn’t care for The Appeal. Unlike letters, texts and emails are seldom well-written. They are repetitive. In a regular narrative, the author can simply tell us that Isabel Beck is an annoying busybody who rattles on and presumes much all the time. A few people could roll their eyes at yet another email from her, or say will she ever shut up, but this way, we have to be afflicted with her neverending river of emails that drone on and on and on and on. I came to hate that character. Because we had to come to dislike Issy on our own, we were punished with email after email after email. Telling this story by the ordinary narrative would have been so much less painful for the readers. Sadly, she was not the victim.

My biggest problem with the book, though, is the entire premise that an appellate lawyer would not offer some direction to the lawyers reading through this abundance of gossip. He wants to win his appeal, so he should at least tell them who has been convicted and needs an appeal. Then when they come up with their solution, it’s a house of cards built on nothing but supposition which is not enough evidence nor reason for an appeal. It’s all ridiculous as is the idea that the real murderer would confess. Nothing seemed credible. Not the credulity of the  driven woman organizing the fundraising, not the tolerance for the busybody constantly emailing people, not the appellate lawyer setting up this examination, not the murderer. The only likable people were the victim and the murderer.

I received an e-galley of The Appeal from the publisher through Edelweiss.

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