“The Holdout” by Graham Moore

Genre:  Mystery & ThrillersThe Holdout
Publisher:  Random House
Pub. Date:  Feb. 18, 2020

Let me start off by saying I was surprised that I was disappointed in this book. Not because other reviewers gave “Holdout” five stars. (I don’t actually read other reviews on a book until I have finished my own to ensure that I am not influenced. But, I do check out the stars).  The discrepancy between my review and others did not surprise me, because I often disagree with my peers.  I was surprised to be disappointed because the last two books that I read and reviewed by Moore were both superior historical fiction courtroom dramas and historical fiction is my favorite genre.   In “Last Days of Night,” George Westinghouse takes on Thomas Edison in the battle over the light bulb patent.  And, in “The Imitation Game” Alan Turing, the famous mathematician who cracked Nazi codes goes on trial because of his homosexuality, which sadly was against the law during those years.  The focuses on both these books were on the long-forgotten, fascinating historical facts, not really the trials. And both novels blew me away.  Since “Holdout” is a courtroom drama only; I guess for me, it was doomed to be a less stellar of a read than the author’s earlier books.

In this book, a young woman is on a jury for a murder trial.  A black man is accused of killing his white teenage student.  Our protagonist manages to convince the others to acquit the defendant, who were not as positive as she was on his innocence.   Since the jurors are sequestered they have no idea how much hard evidence there is against the defendant.  Once home, the jurors’ lives are forever changed since there is an outcry of fury since it seemed obvious to the world that they freed a guilty man. Up until here, I am okay with the plot.  Now fast forward ten years.   There is a reunion where one male juror has the others get together since he supposedly has new evidence on the decade-old crime.  First issues, why in the world would they want to relive this episode since the trial’s aftermath just about ruined their lives.  In the present, during the reunion this male juror is murdered (no spoiler here).  The prime suspect is our female protagonist.  Oh please.  She is now a defense lawyer herself and does a lot of her own research. Second, oh please.  Is this me or is this a cheesy plot?

I have other issues with the novel.  The male juror’s death is central to the story, yet it doesn’t happen till near the end of the tale.  Plus, after his death, the other jurors come to a very hard-to-believe solution on how to handle explaining his death to the authorities.  If I say more it will be a spoiler. On the other hand, there are lots of good twists at the end of the book, which did bring my attention back to the tale, but it is too little too late. It is hard for me to understand how the author who wrote “Night” and “Game” is the same person who penned “Holdout.” Maybe, my disappointment is on me.  Still, how can a decent legal thriller possibly compete with the true-life courtroom dramas regarding famous and brilliant men that changed history? Simply no competition.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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6 thoughts on ““The Holdout” by Graham Moore

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