The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan is a standalone – a departure from the Irish-born Australia-dwelling’s Cormac Reilly series that I’ve enjoyed over the past four-ish years. I’ve read many good things about [The Murder Rule] over recent months and I can only agree as McTiernan manages to offer readers a likeable (though agenda-laden) lead, intriguing plot and several twists and turns to keep us guessing.The Murder Rule
by Dervla McTiernan
Published by HarperCollins Publishers Australia
Genres: Crime Fiction, Legal Procedural
They think I'm a young, idealistic law student, that I'm passionate about reforming a corrupt and brutal system.
They think I'm working hard to impress them.
They think I'm here to save an innocent man on death row.
They're wrong. I'm going to bury him.
Hannah’s very likeable though we’re introduced to her as she’s blackmailing her way onto the University of Virginia’s Innocence Project program. She’s also moving to Charlottesville without telling her mother and most definitely has an agenda. Because she doesn’t just want to volunteer for the Innocence Project, but she wants to work on a specific case. And she has to do some nefarious things to get there.
So it’d be easy to find her conniving and untrustworthy. Though interestingly she isn’t. We learn some of her backstory pretty quickly, including her complicated relationship with her mother Laura. The latter we’re told has never recovered from some events that took place when she was a similar age to Hannah.
Most of what Hannah knows about this time in her mother’s life comes from a diary she discovered when younger. And McTiernan takes us back to 1994 via diary entries and we’re introduced to an earnest young Laura trying to save for college by working as a hotel cleaner.
We learn Hannah’s seemingly dedicated herself to avenging what happened to her mother, and the impact it’s had on her own life.
Between the present and past we’re introduced to drug dealers, corrupt cops and blackmailers. It doesn’t take long before we discover the link between her mother’s past and the case she’s managed to wangle herself onto.
Hannah and her Innocence Project colleagues revisit evidence from two decades earlier while their supervisors are preparing new legal arguments. McTiernan was a lawyer herself so seems comfortable with the courtroom scenes and legal proceedings.
McTiernan offers up quite a few twists as the novel progresses so manages to sustain the climax for some time. I did wonder if some of the final courtroom scenes (and some of Hannah’s prior actions) were realistic but assume McTiernan knows more about their legitimacy or feasibility. Perhaps it’s more the ethics of some of the actions that will be worthy of bookclub discussion: the ends justifying means… or something.
I very much enjoyed this novel by McTiernan. She seems comfortable in this slightly crime-adjacent genre and I’d love to see more standalones mixed in with her usual series. (A la Michael Robotham, for example.)
The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan will be published in Australia by Harper Collins and available in early May 2022.
I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.