This is the most novel by the writer Jill Ciment, who I read and reviewed earlier this summer for her novel Act of God. This novel is about a jury for a murder trial, but focuses instead of on the trial and its complications with an affair between woman married to a much older, famous photographer, and an anatomy professor who meet on the jury, share a spark, and begin their affair shielded by the kind of weird anonymity that jury duty brings. The opening half of the novel takes places beginning with the jury selection process and voir dire, and carries on through the delivery of the verdict. The case is a murder in which a girl of seventeen has been accused of murdering her toddler brother, and her defense involves the idea that she was coached and driven to the murder, or has been completely set up, by her twin sister. While this all is happening though, we are receiving our understanding of this case through the perspective of Juror C2 who begins her affair with the anatomy professor, and of course is quite distracted by the secrecy of the affair, the excitement of hiding a secret in plain sight while being sequestered in a hotel, and the general feeling of isolation and escape that being on a jury allows for to pay all that careful attention to the trial.
The second half of the novel comes after the verdict and shifts to the more fully realized world around the trial, the names of the jurors, the ways in which their lives have been affected and the fallout of the trial itself.
It’s a short and engaging book that is as funny as it is troubling. It’s also very very familiar to anyone who has ever had jury duty, even if not a long murder trial.