Published: 2nd July 2018
Started reading: 11 July
Finished reading: 15 July
Martha Blackwater and her sister Rebecca were best friends. They shared everything with each other and had a perfect sibling relationship. But now, Rebecca is on trial accused of the murder of Martha’s eight-week old daughter, Layla.
Martha does not know what to think. She wants justice for Layla, but does she want to see her sister convicted. Could Rebecca really be capable of murdering her own niece? It is the ultimate dilemma.
Told from many different perspectives, the trial brings home truths and uncovers secrets, leading an increasingly conflicted Martha to ask more and more questions to get to the truth. Did Rebecca kill Layla? Was it a tragic accident? Or was it somebody else?
The first book I bought on my Kindle was Gillian McAllister’s debut novel, Everything But The Truth. It was an excellent five-star read which automatically made her one of my favourite authors.
I have now finished her third book, and my view has not changed. This is a gripping, absorbing, and memorable story – not to mention thought-provoking. It was actually so thought-provoking that this book was often on my mind even when I wasn’t reading!
The biggest strength of No Further Questions is in the narrative, and the various perspectives we see throughout the progress of the trial. The writing is terrific – you are made to feel not just Martha’s pain – but also the scale of the dilemma she feels and how torn she is, feeling pressure to select sides between the prosecution and the defence.
As a narrator, I found Martha very engaging, almost as though she is actively communicating the reader. She is a complex character, and the writing really gives a sense of just how many thoughts are running through her mind. This made it really easy for me to connect and empathise with her.
I did not feel quite the same way towards Becky, but at the same time she is a very well-drawn and relatable character. She feels very real, and that is largely down to her flaws, but all the time, the reader is being asked one question that underpins everything: Is she capable of murder?
I love the way that all the events described in the trial are relived from the point of view of the witnesses. It helps give them an identity and a roundness, and also made sure that there were not too many passages confined to the courtroom, which would have made it less interesting. I also liked the little bits that were told from the perspective of the judge.
The writing style is extremely good. The pace might be a little slow and perhaps even repetitive for some (and I must admit I felt some sections went on for longer than necessary), but for me this book feels like a really detailed case study, and as a reader I felt like I lived every moment of it. The attention to detail is impeccable.
As ever with Gillian McAllister, she captures the subject matter perfectly and with compassion, giving her characters an honest and genuine voice. There are a lot of great lines about the nature of a trial; the theatrical delivery of the barristers; how seemingly normal everyday things are presented as evidence either for or against Rebecca. The similes and metaphors are amazing, too.
So I mostly have very good things to say about this book. However, I found the final twist at the end to be a little underwhelming and a tad predictable. I also feel that although Martha’s conflicted state of mind is the driving force behind this book, some bits that were not directly related to the trial could have been written in a more concise way.
But overall, this is a fantastic blend of domestic thriller and courtroom drama. The multiple perspectives, the detail, the writing style that leaves the reader hanging on almost every word. The ending could have been more of a surprise, but as Martha notes at one point during the book, it is a compelling case.
The book centres around the death of an eight-week old baby, so if this is likely to cause a negative reaction, it might be best to skip this book.
There are also references to alcoholism.
No Further Questions is a gripping, thoughtful, and very well executed book which challenges the reader on many different levels. If you like gently paced, compelling legal/mystery books, then I highly recommend it!
Gillian McAllister shows again here that she is a wonderful author, and in every sense the modern thriller writer. I award this book a rating of 4.5 stars.
Happy reading 🙂