The Murder Game by Julie Apple

The Murder Game

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In Apple’s debut thriller, a Montreal prosecutor’s latest case involves a friend from law school who claims the murder he committed was involuntary—because he was sleepwalking at the time.

Soon after stabbing a man to death, lawyer Julian McCarthy calls the police and claims not to know the victim or have any recollection of killing him. When Crown Prosecutor Meredith Delay’s boss assigns her the case, she warns him that there’s a conflict: she knows Julian from McGill University Law School, which they both attended more than a decade earlier. But her boss doesn’t budge, and she soon finds out that she’ll be facing another McGill alum—Julian’s attorney and her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Jonathan Sayers. Julian purports to have a history of sleepwalking, during which he has unconsciously performed complex tasks. He invokes “non-insane automatism” as a defense; in other words, he asserts that he killed someone unintentionally. Meredith tries to debunk Julian’s claim, starting by investigating a possible link between him and the victim, Nick Allan, a professional hockey player and convicted sex offender. If she can prove that Julian knew Nick, she’ll have confirmation that he lied to police. In her personal life, Meredith is in a loveless relationship; she’s also been depressed lately and trying to avoid opening a bottle of pills (“for the pain to recede”) in her medicine cabinet. This largely humorless story perfectly complements its grim narrator, Meredith. Even she can’t explain why she continually avoids having a closer connection with her nice-guy boyfriend, Chris. Readers eventually learn why she’s in such a funk via recurrent flashbacks to her law school years and her vacillating romance with Jonathan. Fortunately, Apple also shows how Meredith’s work in the present day with her firm’s newest lawyer, Richard Toms, brings out her best qualities; she displays both patience and professionalism in answering the inexperienced lawyer’s myriad questions, most tellingly in short notes she writes him at trial: “Poker face,” she writes at one point, so he won’t openly react. A mystery blankets the narrative from the opening prologue, set months after the main plotline, in which Meredith calls herself “nearly a fugitive.” The ending, however, is a bit predictable, although how Meredith and others get there is the fun part.

An often dour courtroom tale with a pleasantly complicated protagonist.

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher
Program: Kirkus Indie
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