Two sequestered jurors on a tabloidworthy Florida murder trial tumble into an impassioned, illicit affair in this engaging, empathetic novel.
In a jury holding room, waiting to be called into the courtroom for a voir dire, two prospective jurors, identified for most of the book only as C-2 and F-17, begin a flirtation that rapidly grows into a full-blown love affair. C-2 is a 52-year-old female photographer of some renown. Having shot portraits for magazines like Rolling Stone and Interview early in her career, she eventually concluded she was interested in people not as individuals but as a species, and she turned her lens to other subjects, such as war and animals. C-2 is married to a much older man, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who is now 85. Their once-ardent relationship has evolved, and she is increasingly aware of the toll time is taking on their lives and bodies. Now, intensely attracted to F-17, a professor of anatomy in his early 40s with a pitted complexion, piercing blue eyes, and “beautiful feet,” C-2 finds herself hoping for “one last dalliance before she gets too old.” As the affair plays out against a backdrop of a gruesome, sad, and unsettling murder trial (a teenage girl stands accused of killing her toddler brother, but is the real culprit her twin sister?) and the shabby Econo Lodge accommodations and unappetizing luncheonette meals the court has arranged for the jurors during their sequestration, C-2, as both a lover and a juror, must weigh issues of guilt and innocence, loyalty and betrayal, life and death, passion and compassion. Ciment (Act of God, 2015, etc.) lays out the plot—part love story, part whodunit, part coming-of-old-age tale—with gentle sensitivity and straightforward intelligence, approaching complex emotions and conflicting loyalties as might a good juror: observing her characters’ behavior with an open mind and heart, an ability to consider context and varied perspectives, an appreciation for the evidence, and a notable lack of judgment.
This honest, mature look at life and love adds to a growing body of evidence leading to a decisive verdict: Ciment is an author well worth reading.