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The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan

Title: The Murder Rule

A shadow of a girl against an orange background. The Murder Rule is in blue text. Dervla McTiernan is in yellow text.

Author: Dervla McTiernan

Genre: Crime Fiction

Publisher: HarperCollins Australia





Synopsis: No one is innocent in this story …

The unmissable new standalone from the no.1 bestseller of The Good Turn

First Rule: Make them like you.

Second Rule: Make them need you.

Third Rule: Make them pay.

They think I’m a young, idealistic law student, that I’m passionate about reforming a corrupt and brutal system.

They think I’m working hard to impress them.

They think I’m here to save an innocent man on death row.

They’re wrong. I’m going to bury him.


Hannah Rokeby is a law student and is determined to change the fate of one man, based on her mother’s diary. She’s spent her life taking care of her mother. Now she has a chance to make the man who has destroyed her mother’s life pay through working on the Innocence Project through a university in Virginia. But as she digs deeper into the case, she soon finds that everyone she knows and everything she is finding out is not quite as it seems – that everyone is capable of lying, and maybe the only people remotely telling the truth are those around her at the Innocence Project – and Hannah has underestimated everyone, including herself and her mother and what she knows. And she may discover something that will change everything she has ever known and done.

Dervla McTiernan’s first stand-alone looks at the way the justice system in America can often accuse and sentence the wrong people, ideas of revenge and justice, and the way some people manipulate those around them, even those they love, for a means to an end that may make no sense when things become clear. In this novel, it was hard at times to know who to believe or what to believe – because everyone had shades of grey and did questionable things, even if they believed they were doing them for the right reasons, as Hannah believed she was.

I liked the departure from the Cormac Reilly series. As much as I enjoy those books, it was interesting to see what else Dervla could come up with. I loved that she brought in characters with different motivations, who would do whatever they could to fit in whilst trying to achieve their goals – and the main crime or supposed crime had taken place in the past. It was the idea of trust and honesty and flouting the rules that were the focus. Where things couldn’t really be proven as illegal, but were perhaps, from what I could work out, just morally wrong. It’s one of those crime stories where you tug at one thread and eventually, everything unravels to the point of the truth being revealed – in this case, in ways that were hinted at but only became clear as Hannah was able to think through some details.

As a character, Hannah’s determination is admirable, even if she uses somewhat questionable means to achieve her goal – a goal, it seems, that might not be what it seems in the end, leading Hannah to question what she knows. Hannah knew how to prove her loyalty too, though, and this showed that she was not afraid to use what she knew against people to get what she wanted or needed throughout the novel, though she managed to do so without breaking the law in a very clever way, and the ending, whilst it wrapped a few things up, definitely felt like it had potential for many possibilities for readers to imagine for Hannah’s future. It was one of the unclear endings that worked well, I think, because there were many ways things could go, but we didn’t need to know exactly what happened in this instance. I think this was effective for this story, and usually I like to have some sort of rounded conclusion, where we know what the main fate of the characters will be, even if there are things we can imagine. I liked not knowing explicitly how Hannah sorted out her life – I like to imagine what she would have done, and that’s just as fun.

I’m looking forward to seeing what Dervla does next – whatever it is, I am sure it will be just as engaging as this one.

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