If you’ve never read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie, hold off before reading The Holdout, by Graham Moore.
Ten years ago, Maya was the lone not guilty vote who eventually swayed the other jurors to acquit an accused child-murderer. Now, someone has targeted the members of the jury and seems dead-set on letting Maya take the fall for it. The story takes place during the trial and ten years after, a convention that downshifts but doesn’t overburden the pace of Moore’s novel, which explores the ironies of the legal justice system through the eyes of characters who feel authentic and well-researched. Moore takes some pains to obscure his personal politics to favor the points-of-views of his characters, and the overall effect spares us from the all too familiar suspicion that the author is merely using their characters as stand-ins to inflict readers with vitriole better reserved for social media posts. As a result, the story unfolds in fresh, unexpected directions. The Holdout explores truth as something mercurial, opaque, or unknowable–and the human impulse to invent certainty where none exists. But fear not, Moore has not written a French existential novel. In a self-aware irony, this legal thriller climaxes most… thrillingly.
So why not read The Holdout if you’ve never read Ackroyd? Or Murder on the Orient Express for that matter. Because inexplicably, Moore devotes a paragraph of a character’s inner monologue to a quick summation of spoilers for three Agatha Christie novels. (Seriously, Graham, what the fuck is up with that?) Where it’s a safe bet most readers will already be familiar with Murder on the Orient Express, (Raymond Chandler even throws a barb into its famous ending in his worthy essay, “The Simple Art of Murder”), The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is a deeper cut. And so, gentle reader, before digging into The Holdout, I encourage you to grab a copy of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Today. You’ll thank me.