This is a truly gripping and satisfying legal thriller. It begins ten years after the end of a sensational murder trial in Los Angeles, when Jessica Silver, the fifteen-year-old daughter of a local billionaire, goes missing. Although her body is never found, her school teacher, Bobby Nock, is charged with her murder. Nock is black, Jessica white, and there is huge press and public interest in the trial, with a guilty verdict widely expected. The trial is shambolic, but, after being sequestered in a hotel for five weary months, the jury is anxious to convict the defendant, so they can get back home to their families. Just one juror holds out for an acquittal – Maya Searle. After days of argument she prevails, and Bobby Nock is acquitted. Public and media opinion is outraged, and the jurors are named and shamed in the press. Their lives are never the same.
A decade after the trial, a true crime production company is asked by Netflix to make a documentary reinvestigating the case. They assemble the original jurors in the same hotel in which they spent the trial. One of them, Rick Leonard, has told the producers he has found dramatic and irrefutable new evidence of Bobby Nick’s guilt, but before he can reveal his poof, he is found dead in Maya Searle’s hotel room. Maya, the original holdout and now a successful lawyer, quickly becomes the chief suspect.
So, a double murder mystery, and enormously gripping it is. As well as being a great story, The Holdout poses strong moral questions about the legal system: the way the odds of justice are heavily stacked against black defendants; the flaws of the jury system; and how a verdict, whether guilty or not guilty, is not necessarily a reflection of the truth. It would make a great film, and since the author is the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of The Imitation Game, I’m sure it soon will!