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The Holdout by Graham Moore
Legal thriller

The Holdout

by Graham Moore

Excellent choice

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Quick take

For the Serial fans: An infamous jury is stuck with another murky murder ten years after their controversial verdict.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SlowRead

    Slow build

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NonLinear

    Nonlinear timeline

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Whodunit

    Whodunit

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Unlikeable

    Unlikeable narrator

Synopsis

It’s the most sensational case of the decade. Fifteen-year-old Jessica Silver, heiress to a billion-dollar real estate fortune, vanishes on her way home from school, and her teacher, Bobby Nock, is the prime suspect. The subsequent trial taps straight into America’s most pressing preoccupations: sex, law enforcement, and the lurid sins of the rich and famous. It’s an open-and-shut case for the prosecution, and a quick conviction seems all but guaranteed—until Maya Seale, a young woman on the jury, convinced of Nock’s innocence, persuades the rest of the jurors to return the verdict of not guilty, a controversial decision that will change all their lives forever.

Flash forward ten years. A true-crime docuseries reassembles the jury, with particular focus on Maya, now a defense attorney herself. When one of the jurors is found dead in Maya’s hotel room, all evidence points to her as the killer. Now, she must prove her own innocence—by getting to the bottom of a case that is far from closed.

As the present-day murder investigation weaves together with the story of what really happened during their deliberation, told by each of the jurors in turn, the secrets they have all been keeping threaten to come out—with drastic consequences for all involved.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The Holdout.
The Holdout

Chapter 1

Ten Years in L.A.
Now

Maya Seale removed two photographs from her briefcase. She held them face-in against her skirt. This thing was all going to come down to timing.

"Ms. Seale?” came the judge’s voice, impatient. “We’re waiting.”

Belen Vasquez, Maya’s client, had suffered terrible abuse at the hands of her husband, Elian. There were extensive ER records to prove it. One morning a few months back, Belen had snapped. She’d stabbed her husband while he was sleeping and then cut off his head with a pair of garden shears. Then she’d driven around for an entire day in her green Hyundai Elantra with the severed head mounted on the dash. Either nobody noticed or nobody wanted to get involved. Eventually, a cop had pulled her over for running a light and she’d managed to stuff the head in the glove compartment.

The good news, from Maya’s perspective, was that the prosecution had only one piece of solid physical evidence to use against Belen. The bad news was that the evidence was a head.

“I’m ready, Your Honor.” Maya placed a reassuring hand on her client’s shoulder. Then she walked slowly to the witness box, where Officer Jason Shaw sat waiting, his Distinguished Service Medal displayed prominently on the lapel of his blue LAPD uniform.

“Officer Shaw,” she said, “what happened when you pulled over Mrs. Vasquez’s car?”

“Well, ma’am, like I was saying, my partner remained behind Mrs. Vasquez’s vehicle while I approached her window.”

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Why I love it

I consider myself a fairly voracious reader, particularly when it comes to thrillers, which I devour from the safety of our living room fireplace. Usually, I gravitate towards the, well, gory, where the heart-racing action is at the center of the novel (think The Woman in the Window). But in Graham Moore’s The Holdout, the action builds in a way that feels unconventional to thrillers—and it’s still every bit as gripping.

Ten years after their notorious decision to let a man accused of murdering his fifteen-year-old student free, a woman named Maya and the other nine members of the jury reunite to record a murder podcast. One juror, who’s remained obsessed with the trial—none of them, as it turns out, have been fully able to leave it behind—claims he has evidence that may flip their “Not Guilty” verdict. But then, the night before the recording, he’s murdered in Maya’s hotel room, and she suddenly finds herself the accused. 

Set against the backdrop of Los Angeles, the book reads like a contemporary take on Twelve Angry Men as Maya sets out to find the killer and their motivation (she even compares herself to Henry Fonda), with significantly more drama and twists. And, as someone who has read her fair share of thrillers, I can genuinely tell you this is the highest praise: I did not see the ending coming.

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Member ratings (14,948)

  • Kaeli H.

    West Springfield, MA

    Murder • thriller • deception • in the shadows • page-turner • slow build • who done it ? • reliable narrator (boo) • large cast of characters • Christie-esque • minimal cliff hanger • tied up ending

  • Amanda S.

    Cedar Grove, WI

    I really enjoyed this novel. It was a little slow paced for me, but still held my interest. I was able to mostly guess what happened before being told, but still enjoyed the way it played out.⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Courtney B.

    Gouverneur, NY

    If you’re looking for a reason to fear jury duty, I’d encourage you to read The Holdout. It’s practically a case study in “worst case scenarios as a juror.” Let me start by saying I ADORED this book

  • Katherine W.

    Richmond, VA

    This is a book that will keep you turning page after page well after you set a bedtime. There is no stopping once you’ve started! There’s nothing better than an unexpected twist and a “happy” ending!

  • Chelsea R.

    Bridgman, MI

    I couldn’t wait to read this book, and it did not disappoint. The way it’s told through each juror’s perspective makes for many unexpected revelations. Go read this immediately — you wont regret it!

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