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  • Writer's pictureNia Forrester

'The Murder Rule' by Dervla McTiernan

I love this author. I really do. But I have no idea why she thought it would be a good idea to fix what wasn't broken. Her previous novels were based in Ireland where she appears to understand the culture, setting, and people very well. In this one, the action is based in the States and I'm sorry to say that it's apparent she doesn't understand the culture, setting or people almost at all. The premise of 'The Murder Rule' is on its face farfetched, but since the author is a favorite, I thought I'd give it a chance. But maybe, as a lawyer, I know a little too much, because first of all, I've NEVER heard a reference to "the murder rule" in the law. What she describes seems to be what's referred to as the "felony murder" rule--where a defendant can be held criminally liable for a death that results while in the commission of a felony, even if the death of the victim was not intended. So I was a little put off by that misnomer, but still thought I'd hang in there.

But then ... the plot and crime at its center did not in any way, shape or form refer to a felony murder, but to the intentional killing of a woman. It almost felt as though the author heard about the felony murder rule, this peculiarity in American law and decided to write a story that borrowed on that peculiarity ... except ultimately she didn't have the knowledge about American law to pull it off. But having spun a complicated yarn--involving a young woman who depends on a series of complicated ruses to weasel her way onto the defense team of a man she "knows" is guilty, just to sabotage his case--the writer appeared stuck. Somewhere in there, the story devolves into a series of cliches about American society and law enforcement, complete with a corrupt sheriff who runs a small town through intimidation, a trio of goons starting an unprovoked bar fight with the complicity of scared locals, and a car chase. Why, Dervla? Why?

And finally, the author didn't seem to (and this is the kiss of death for me) know her main protagonist very well. Hannah is almost a stereotype--a plucky can-do American girl who will stop at nothing (not even a few dirty tricks) to "get justice" as she sees it. Hannah was barely likable but more importantly, scarcely believable. The circuitous way she intends to get that justice makes for an intriguing blurb, but once we begin to see the lengths she was willing to go to, we're left to ask, 'but why?' As a previous reviewer points out, the best way to undermine a defense that you believe is false is to support and bolster the case of the prosecution. Not to contrive to move across country, tell a series of easily debunked lies and ruin someone else's life to get a position on the ... defense team?

Anyway [deep sigh] ... I'm going to consider this a blip in an otherwise stellar track record of an amazing author, and just wait for the next book.

My rating: ★★

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