I’m excited to bring you my thoughts on a fun mixed media book I read in June last year – The Appeal by Janice Hallett. It’s the book that introduced me to this narrative style, and I loved it! I’ve gone on to read other books in this style since and I’m still a fan, regardless of genre.
Shall we take a look at the details?
The Appeal – Janice Hallett
Publication Date: 14 Jan 2021
Enclosed are documents relating to the events surrounding the Fairway Players’ staging of All My Sons, and the tragic death of one of its members. Another member is currently in prison for the crime. We have reason to suspect that they are innocent, and that there were far darker secrets that have yet to be revealed.
We believe that the killer has given themselves away. It’s there in writing, hidden in the emails, texts, and letters. Will you accept the challenge? Can you uncover the truth? Do you dare?
The selling point of this book is the format in which the story is told. Written in mixed media, we unravel the lives of a wide cast of characters through emails, texts and posters, to give just a few examples.
The interesting thing about this format is that you experience a lot of different voices and perspectives. As a result, a lot of the story is told in subtext and us readers need to pay attention to what isn’t said as much as what is.
The opening media is a letter to the junior lawyers, who are in the same position as the reader. We are reviewing the evidence of a murder case, we’re invited to scrutinise everything. We’re told at the beginning that the senior lawyer believes the wrong person has been arrested, and so our journey into the mystery begins…
The Appeal unveils an intricate mystery that starts off quite simple, but quickly branches out. The local Theatre troupe, Fairway Players, pull together when they receive the news that their star performer’s grandchild is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. However, not all is as it seems. Whilst we discover in the opening pages that at some point, a murder takes place, this doesn’t happen early on in the narrative. We spend a good portion of the book getting to the point of this event, and naturally, wondering who the victim is.
The Appeal has a clever, complex and twisty narrative. Nothing is as it first appears. As we delve deeper into the narrative, we uncover truths and deceptions that keep us compulsively turning the pages. Honestly, it is a book where you are best off not believing what you are told and making up your own mind.
Whilst had worked out something fishy was going on pretty early on, there are plenty of false trails planted that kept me from uncovering the truth entirely. I’m sure that will be the same for most readers. I can honestly say that when I wasn’t reading this book, I was thinking about it and trying to unpick the tangled threads that create this fantastic read!
The cast of characters is vast and complex. Couple that with a small town like community, who are distrustful of newcomers by nature and wreathed in gossip, subterfuge and scandal, and this is a simmering pot begging to overspill!
The two-facedness we see in some characters and their relationships with others is relatable. Sadly, it’s something we’re all too familiar with. Naturally, as we experience the narrative through multiple subjective points of view, we rarely get an unbiased view of events. Characters either colour themselves and their actions through rose-tinted spectacles, or alternatively, we get equal or opposing biased viewpoints from others.
Some characters seem more independent and objective than others. But, with questionable pasts, are we getting the truth? Equally, there are blantant attention seekers and liars. For those types, any readers like me will quickly formulate their own opinions as to who to take with a pinch of salt, and those to disregard completely! With a full spectrum of characters and underlying motives, readers can experience every emotion going in this book. The question is, who do we believe?
Imagine trying to unpick a murder mystery from suspects that are in your social circle. You already have your opinions of people; who is most likely to have an agenda, who wouldn’t harm a fly etc. It’s all subjective and consequently full of bias. The same goes for The Appeal! With over 20 characters to keep tabs on at a semi-intimate level, it’s a lot to digest. But, that’s fun if that’s your bag.
The Appeal is a fun and intriguing mystery with a lot of layers and complexity. With questionable characters, events and a narrative style that keeps readers engaged, it’s the perfect read for anyone looking for a change of pace!
Have you read The Appeal, or any other books by Janice Hallett? I own a copy of The Curious Case of the Alperton Angels, but I haven’t read it yet.
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts or comments!