4 stars out of 5
By and large, I enjoyed this book. Now that I'm finished, though, I'm having a heck of a time coming to terms with what I read - but I'll give it the old college try. College, in fact, is a good place to start; that's where the four main characters - Meredith, Lilly, Jonathan and Julian - met as law students at McGill University in Toronto in the mid-1990s. Ten years later, they've graduated and, for the most part, have all grown up.
Now a prosecuting attorney, Meredith gets assigned to a grisly murder case, and surprise (or maybe not), the accused is old friend Julian, who is being defended by none other than Jonathan. Lilly, an attorney who works with Meredith, mostly stays behind the scenes to offer cryptic advice while Meredith grapples with her mixed feelings about the outcome. Will the talented Jonathan work his magic and get his client home free? Can Meredith prove her old friend is lying and convince the jury to return a guilty verdict? Perhaps more to the point, does she really want that to happen?
Chapters about the trial are interspersed with flashbacks to the friends' days as carefree students whose most pressing life question is, "Will that be on the test?" Gradually, readers get a fairly in-depth look at their individual personalities and rather complex interactions. Lilly and the off-kilter Julian, for instance, apparently are an item; Lilly is aloof and fond of bragging about her high IQ. Meredith, the only one who doesn't come from a monied background, seems stuck in inferiority complex mode - likely contributing to the off, on, off, on ad nauseam relationship she's had with Jonathan lo these many years.
Although I never really warmed up to any of the characters, they're certainly interesting. The plot, too, is well crafted and intriguing; the courtroom preparation and procedures in particular really held my attention (but then it's rare for me to read a book with a legal or medical focus that I don't love). For whatever reason, I wasn't thrilled with the ending - not the verdict, which I won't reveal, but the actual last page (nope, won't discuss that here, either).
Then, when I read the author's notes at the end - the part where she explains why she wrote this book under the pseudonym Julie Apple - I realized that if I'd known that ahead of time, it probably would have greatly influenced my take on the book - and I'm not at all sure in a good way. The author does suggest reading another of her books, Fractured, hinting that it will shed some light on this one.
At any rate, I give this book as it stands 4 stars and, as I said before, I enjoyed it. If you want to see the author's explanation of how it came about, you don't have to wait to the end; turns out it's in the "From the Author" on the book's page at Amazon.com. And if you want to read that other book first, that's your choice as well. As for me, I'm going back to trying to make a dent in my stack of to-read books, for now simply saying many thanks to the author and publisher, via NetGalley, for allowing me to read an advance copy of this one in exchange for an honest review.
The Murder Game by Catherine McKenzie writing as Julie Apple (Amazon Digital Services LLC, November 2016); 303 pp.