The Murder Rule Dervla McTiernan Harper Collins, €12.99
‘They think I’m here to save an innocent man on death row. They’re wrong. I’m here to bury him.’ This is the enthralling premise of Dervla McTiernan’s new standalone legal thriller set in the United States.
The Murder Rule focuses on Hannah Rokeby, a young law student who blackmails her way onto an initiative called the Innocence Project at the University of Virginia. The programme works to set free death-row prisoners who are widely believed to be innocent of the crimes they were convicted of committing.
Their current project is the case of Michael Dandridge, who was jailed 11 years previously for the rape and murder of a woman called Sarah Fitzhugh. Hannah, however, is there to do everything she can to ensure this man never walks free.
She manages to convince the team she is as passionate as they are, but instead engages in a range of underhand tactics to deliver on her promise to keep Dandridge behind bars forever.
Meanwhile, she’s trying to support her mother Laura, a dependent alcoholic who finds it hard to deal with day-to-day life. McTiernan’s dual timeline includes diary entries written by Laura to fill us in on a series of harrowing events that happened to her 20 years previously.
These entries also contain the reason Hannah is pursuing such a dangerous path.
Secrets, corruption, deceit, jealousy, intimidation and greed, all skilfully intertwine to create a story that unexpectedly twists in on itself with a heart-breaking conclusion. Cork-born McTiernan also nails the intricate legal aspects of the plot.
She’s a solicitor and admits she is “fascinated by law, its nooks and crannies, it’s weird idiosyncrasies and its deep injustices”. She captures this, and much more, in The Murder Rule.