The Holdout


Graham Moore


Mystery / Thriller


Date Reviewed:

August 12, 2021

his book is a mystery novel about a jury that decided to not convict a black man, Bobby Nock, who has been accused of murdering one of his high school students - and not just any student, but Jessica Silver, the only daughter of billionaire real estate developer Lou Silver. Sitting on that jury is Maya Seale. She is a young idealistic woman when she is selected for jury duty at the murder trial. After the evidence is presented, and the prosecution and defense rest, the jurors are sequestered and told to reach a verdict. On the initial vote, there are eleven votes to convict. Maya is the only holdout, she doesn't believe that the prosecution has made a strong enough case. The defense attorney has cast enough doubt on seemingly damning evidence - the blood in the trunk, the text messages, the lies that Bobby Nock told when first questioned by the police. After all, the body of Jessica was never found, so Maya reasons that she can't convict a man based on such dubious evidence.

After long wrangling, Maya convinces the other jurors to change their vote, and to the disbelief of the nation, Bobby Nock is pronounced not-guilty. There are bitter repercussions in the media.

Now it is ten years later. Rick, the juror who was most adamant that Bobby Nock was guilty, has called all the jurors back together in a made-for-TV event, at which he promises to reveal, on live television, astonishing new information that will change how everyone thinks about the case. Most of the jurors reluctantly arrive at the same hotel where they were sequestered ten years ago during their long weeks of arguing for a unanimous vote. There is an awkward mixing event in the hotel on the night before the broadcast. No one knows what Rick's new evidence might be. But before the night is over, Rick is dead and Maya is accused of murdering him.

The Holdout is told in two timelines. One timeline reveals details about what happened during the trail, and during the period of deliberation. We learn about the different jurors, and what we learn casts some in a suspicious light. The second timeline is "now", where Maya is frantically trying to determine who killed Rick, and why.

The Holdout offers surprises a-plenty. Although I did correctly guess what had happened to Jessica Silver, there were plenty of other plot developments that I did not see coming. Each reveal of new information gives the reader a different idea of what might have happened. It seemed to me that Moore must be a lawyer in real life, because the novel seemed to contain such authenticate courtroom details. The afterward says that Moore got the idea of writing this novel when he actually served on a jury of a murder trial years ago. The experience must have really stayed with him, because The Holdout possesses such a sense of verisimilitude. (Moore writes that in his actual role as a juror, he voted to convict, so the opposite of how he has Maya vote in his novel.)

During the novel, some of the characters express frustration that in "real life", unlike in mystery novels or detective shows, you never truly know whether a defendant is guilty or innocent. There is always an ironclad clue, or a confession in the mysteries, but these things rarely occur in actuality. I thought Moore was setting the reader up for an ambiguous ending. But I am happy to say that all the mysteries are resolved. I found this to be a well written novel, with plenty of plot twists, and some interesting characters. (I liked Maya, I did not like Rick). I see Moore also won a lot of praise for his first novel, The Last Days of Night. Based upon The Holdout, I ought to check out that book as well.