THE HOLDOUT by Graham Moore

The Holdout by Graham Moore is a legal thriller that goes back and forth in time between the past – ten years earlier, when a sequestered jury acquitted a teacher accused of killing his student with whom he was allegedly having a relationship, and ten years later, when the jury has reconvened on the anniversary of the trial to film a special. Maya, one of the jury members, was the sole holdout, and she eventually convinced the rest of the jury to change their verdicts to not guilty, a verdict that was questioned by everyone who had watched the trial on television. When Maya returns to her hotel room on the night of the reunion to find one of her fellow jurors dead, all eyes are on her.

Why I picked it up: The Holdout isn’t my genre – legal thriller – but it was well-received and was my book club’s May pick.

The Holdout looks back on why each member of the jury eventually chose to acquit the defendant, and how Rick, the juror found dead in the “now” section, became obsessed after the trial with finding out the truth. But who would have wanted him dead?

The Holdout has a lot going for it – jury dynamics are fascinating, and there are a number of plot twists throughout that I didn’t see coming. It turned out to be a well-timed read as well, given its treatment of race and the criminal justice system. It’s a relatively quick read, too. But The Holdout just didn’t do much for me. I don’t love thrillers and I particularly don’t love courtroom books. (There’s a reason I left the law.) There are some pretty unrealistic elements to the story, one of them being Maya’s own behavior after she was accused of the murder, and I found myself sighing at several points over how unlikely they were. And most of all, it has been almost a week since I finished The Holdout and I’ve barely thought about it since our book club discussion – never a good sign.

If you like thrillers and are looking for a beach read this summer, The Holdout might fit the bill. Otherwise, I’d pass.

The Holdout was Book #24 of 2020.


  • Sheila Pont
    June 11, 2020 - 9:28 am | Permalink

    I listened to this book while on vacation (remember vacations??) It was a great listen as I was power walking and hanging out at the beach. Although I have to say, I love trial thrillers! Getting ready to start “The Body in Question” right now.

    • gayle
      June 11, 2020 - 2:34 pm | Permalink

      The Body In Question is a very different book – I liked it a lot more than this one. Curious to hear what you think of it!

      Vacation – what’s that?

  • Laura Newton
    June 11, 2020 - 10:25 am | Permalink

    I read this as well, and recently during another podcast, someone mentioned it and I thought, “I read that. Who was the murderer?” And the fact that it took me at least five minutes to remember, and the fact that I realized I hadn’t thought about it since I finished it led me to the same conclusion you had. It was fine. Not great, completely forgettable. If you want a better courtroom drama, I would suggest Miracle Creek by Angie Kim.

    • gayle
      June 11, 2020 - 2:33 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, it was good enough entertainment while reading it, but it was unrealistic and forgettable. (Tho I do remember who the murderer was.)

  • June 13, 2020 - 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Yeah this one was a good enough page-turner for me … I liked the beginning with Maya and her life … but near the end it gets pretty crazy with twists and implausible. I agree I enjoyed it when I read it but haven’t thought about it much since. It couldve been better … but it sort of went off the rails.

  • June 15, 2020 - 2:15 pm | Permalink

    You’ve got me rethinking this one on my TBR. Sarah loved it, but neither you or Susan did. I have enough tepid reading this year, I need to winnow down to really great options!

    • gayle
      June 17, 2020 - 12:05 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, it really didn’t do much for me.

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