The Body in Question by Jill Ciment

The Body in Question

Jill Ciment

During a shocking murder trial, two jurors fall into a furtive affair, keeping their oath never to discuss the trial. But their affair takes on profoundly personal and moral consequences.

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From the author of Heroic Measures (“Smart and funny and completely surprising . . . I loved every page” —Ann Patchett), Act of God (“A feat of literary magic”—Booklist) and, with Amy Hempel, The Hand That Feeds You (“An unnerving, elegant page-turner” —Vanity Fair), a spare, masterful novel.

The place: central Florida. The situation: a sensational murder trial, set in a courthouse more Soviet than Le Corbusier; a rich, white teenage girl—a twin—on trial for murdering her toddler brother.

Two of the jurors: Hannah, a married fifty-two-year-old former Rolling Stone and Interview Magazine photographer of rock stars and socialites (she began to photograph animals when she realized she saw people “as a species”), and Graham, a forty-one-year-old anatomy professor. Both are sequestered (she, juror C-2; he, F-17) along with the other jurors at the Econo Lodge off I-75. As the shocking and numbing details of the crime are revealed during a string of days and courtroom hours, and the nights play out in a series of court-financed meals at Outback Steak House (the state isn’t paying for their drinks) and Red Lobster, Hannah and Graham fall into a furtive affair, keeping their oath as jurors never to discuss the trial. During deliberations the lovers learn that they are on opposing sides of the case. Suddenly they look at one another through an altogether different lens, as things become more complicated . . .

After the verdict, Hannah returns home to her much older husband, but the case ignites once again and Hannah’s “one last dalliance before she is too old” takes on profoundly personal and moral consequences as The Body in Question moves to its affecting, powerful, and surprising conclusion.


Advance Galley Reviews

4 ?? This was a great read. A short but highly engaging book in which both the courtroom drama and the relationship drama was equally fascinating. Recommend.

Ciment’s The Body in Question is a fascinating exploration of murder, infidelity, and the concept of justice. It’s a rare book that has both literary chops with strong writing and a strong, sensational plot. The action of the book exists on two levels - the murder case in which teenager Ansa is accused of murdering her toddler brother and the illicit affair happening between two jurors at opposite ends of the case.

A man and a woman start an affair with each other while serving on the jury for a sensational murder trial. For most of the book they are known by their court aliases, C-2 and F-17, rather than their names. C-2 is married, though her husband is decades older than her and very sick. She justifies the affair as a "last dalliance" before she gets too old. However, it then begins to interfere with her ability to properly assess the evidence given in the trial. I thought this was a good, but not great, read. The writing style is very clinical and does not convey any emotion, which seems a strange choice for a story about two situations - a love affair and a murder trial - during which emotions run very high. The trial is a lot more interesting than the affair, but is never really brought into the foreground of the story. I also found the ending predictable. The book is well-written but cold.

How have I not read Jill Ciment before?! I loved this odd, quirky, utterly original story that took elements of books we see all the time (an affair, a trial, a horrific death) and blended them into something wholly new and fascinating. The writing style is perfect for the story, as is the tight editing - and I can't offer higher praise than that. Ciment does an incredible job presenting the intricacies of motivation, determination, responsibility and self-awareness, and using them to establish a plot that is tight, taut, and wholly engaging. She twines these themes over, under, and through the trial, the relationships, and the aftermath of it all in a way that generated suspense and tension even when there was little-to-no actual action. Her ability to pinpoint emotion, response, and rationalization and present them in clear, crisp, and - most importantly - concise language meant that not a word was wasted and every line pulled you toward the conclusions that wound up feeling inevitable even though I never saw many of them coming. It was a quick and marvelous read and I'm definitely going to look for more from her.

A teenage girl has been accused of murdering her toddler brother in a horrific way. The jury for her murder trial has been chosen and sequestered in an Econo Lodge. Jurist Hannah, known in much of the book as juror C-2, is a 52-year old married well-known photographer. She’s married to a much-older man, an 85-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner. She finds that she’s very attracted to one of the jurists, Graham (known as juror F-17), who is a 41-year-old anatomy professor. Hannah and Graham find ways to be alone, which is prohibited by the court, and they begin to have an affair. They don’t discuss the case when alone but find that the affair causes some distraction during the hearing of evidence. However, the effects of their affair are not seen only during the trial and deliberation but for long afterwards. This is an intelligent and compassionate look at two people drawn to each other during a time in their lives when they’re asked to weigh some heavy issues that will result in finding a young girl innocent or guilty of a horrendous crime. I found these characters to be true to life and believable. The author handles the plot with delicate finesse and never makes a misstep. The case at trial is a heart-breaking one and the jurors are not always given all of the facts, which is the way it often happens in trials. The story of Hannah and her elderly husband is a touching, faithful rendition of the effects of old age in a marriage. And the affair between Hannah and Graham is portrayed with a non-judgmental hand. I loved reading this book and thought it was very well written. Most highly recommended.

I liked this short novel ....which follows some jurors as they are sequestered for about 3 weeks for a murder trial. I thought the book had a bit of a 'clinical' feel as I read it, maybe because as the book covers the trial period the jurors are only identified by their jury number, i.e. C2 or F17....then after the trial is over & they are dismissed, they called by their names. I also felt a bit of a 'clinical' aspect in the later part in the discussion about death. Despite that 'clinical' feel, I really enjoyed the story...maybe that's why I enjoyed it.....it made you feel as if you were sequestered with the jury, following their predilections, following the mystery of the murder trial itself.....& then after the trial/verdict/sentencing.....& finally the events that follow as a result of the sequestration. I'm not sure I liked the ending, but maybe it fits with the 'odd' way I felt about the way I thought the book read? I would certainly read Jill Ciment again! It all worked for me! I did receive this e-ARC from Penguin's First-To-Read giveaway program, in exchange for reading it & offering my own fair & honest review.

A sensational murder trial would soon commence in Central Florida. A six-person jury would be selected. Potential jurors C-2 and F-17 flirt while waiting to be interviewed. The jury box chosen consists of five women and one man with one alternate, if needed. C-2 and F-17 are both chosen to serve on the jury. The trial, requiring sequestration, will last for approximately three weeks. Juror C-2 is a former portrait photographer for Rolling Stone Magazine. Uninterested in working in this capacity, she accepts an assignment as a photographer for a Pulitzer-winning journalist whom she later marries. Her husband is now eighty six years old, she is fifty two. "...for how much longer can he still navigate the days obstacles?" "If C-2 is sequestered, she will only have to take care of herself-a much needed respite justified by civil duty." Juror F-17 is a fortyish anatomy professor. His face is pitted with acne but he has striking blue eyes. Television reporters and crews magnifying the scope of the trial of rich teenager Anca, accused of killing her toddler brother. Senior citizens in Central Florida are bused in to occupy the back pews and view this engrossing celebrity trial. Why did Anca confess...did she commit the crime? Anca is an identical twin. From birth, Stephana appeared to be hearty while Anca was frail. Anca seemed mute, therefore, Stephana did all the talking for both of them. "The Body in Question" by Jill Ciment was a well constructed procedural that focused on a teen's guilt or innocence, a dalliance and its repercussions, and a tabloid-type frenzy created in the court of public opinion. A thoroughly enjoyable, thought provoking read I highly recommend. Thank you First to Read Program and Penguin Random House for the opportunity to read and review "The Body in Question".

Drawn in by the description of this book: two jurors having an affair amidst a shocking murder trial is like nothing I’ve read before! We follow the trial through the eyes of juror C-2, who seems forever distracted by her lover (juror F-17), who is described as having bad skin but beautiful feet (whatever floats your boat, C-2!). Her thoughts of their love making, her worries about other members of the jury finding out, and her preoccupation with what other jurors were up to (drawing doodles, falling asleep... etc etc) proved at times to be frustrating. It meant we missed some vital evidence, and only gained partial insight into the trial. As a legal geek this annoyed me ?? However I really liked the interesting style of writing, which felt very natural and engrossing, and I found myself completely invested in the story. What this book really draws attention to is the issue of what is selected for the jury to hear. Let’s be honest, with high profile cases, a lot of us will follow the news and feel we have a good idea of what our verdict would be. But what you hear as a jury member may not be the full story. It’s a curated story of what the prosecution and defence decide to share, what the judge decides is admissible evidence, and what ultimately can be proved as fact in favour of one or the other’s cases. This became really interesting in the post-trial section, where C-2 (now called Hannah) begins to read the press coverage. It is referred to as ‘the Justice’s blindfold’, which is literally so apt I was like ???????????? I would highly recommend this book! A ‘crime novel’ with a really compelling difference. 4?? Thank you Penguin First to Read for gifting me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 


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