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The Murder List


The Murder List

Everyone has a different feeling about jury duty. Some are excited to serve and love the drama of the courtroom. Rachel North simply hates it. She just earned a promotion to chief of staff to the Senate president, so jury duty could not have come at a worse time. A junior staffer, Danielle Zander, is picking up the slack, but that does little to comfort Rachel. She needs to protect her position. It’s a dog-eat-dog world in the Senate president’s office. However, the trial drags on. Will it ever end? There seems to be a number of irregularities that cause inevitable delays. Eventually, though, the case is handed over to the jury. They argue, vote, argue some more, and come to their verdict. Finally, Rachel can get back to her job.

The defense lawyer, Jack Kirkland, has questions about what happened in that jury room. Jack invests a lot of care and emotion into each client. He sees it as a personal failure if he doesn’t win an acquittal. Rachel feels uncomfortable talking about the deliberations --- she thought they were supposed to be confidential --- but agrees to meet. While they are speaking, Rachel receives news of Danielle’s death. Her body has turned up behind their offices. Naturally, everyone is stunned. And they are even more shocked when they learn who the District Attorney charges with her murder.

"What looks like a classic romance turns into something else.... THE MURDER LIST is a new animal in the world of legal thrillers. Predatory and lethal."

Jump ahead now six years. We find Jack and Rachel married. She is working toward her law degree with a goal of becoming a partner with her husband in defending the downtrodden. This summer, in anticipation of her final year at Harvard, she will do her internship. The one big catch is that she will be interning under Martha Gardiner, the District Attorney and a woman Jack despises. He argues vehemently against it. If Rachel insists on working with Martha, it may end their marriage. But Rachel has little choice; she needs this in order to graduate. She assures Jack that everything will be fine. In fact, this can even work to their advantage.

Then the situation takes a turn for the worse when the DA reopens the Danielle Zander case. This is a time that Rachel would prefer to forget. It’s ancient history. Why dredge it up after all these years? Could there be new evidence? Has someone remembered something startling? They interview a string of witnesses, but little appears to come of it.

Back at home, how are Rachel and Jack surviving by now? To Rachel, Jack doesn’t act like the loving husband he was before. He seems jealous of her time with Martha. And he certainly doesn’t trust her. She tries to convince him that this internship is a way to discover the DA’s secrets. But, of course, it doesn’t work that way in the end.

Jack’s and Rachel’s backstories are as important as their current stories. One must know their past to understand their present. What looks like a classic romance turns into something else. And while every character has two distinct faces --- at least --- it can be hard to recognize if you’re seeing the yin or the yang. They wear different hats, assume different personas, and show the world what they want the world to see at that point. These characters are all very flawed, making them easy --- and hard --- to like. THE MURDER LIST is a new animal in the world of legal thrillers. Predatory and lethal.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on August 23, 2019

The Murder List
by Hank Phillippi Ryan