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The Body in Question: A Novel by Jill Ciment

The Body in Question: A Novel

by Jill Ciment

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898212,081 (3.68)9
The place: central Florida. The situation: a sensational murder trial involving a rich, white teenage girl--a twin--on trial for the horrific murder of her toddler brother, and the sequestered jury deciding her fate. . Two of the jurors sequestered (she, Juror C-2; he, F-17), holed up at the Econo-Lodge off I-75. As the shocking and numbing details of the crime and its surrounding facts are revealed during a string of days and seemingly endless court hours, the nights, playing out in a series of court-financed meals Hannah and Graham fall into a furtive affair, keeping their oath, as jurors, never to discuss the trial. During deliberations the lovers learn they are on opposing sides of the case and realize that their fellow jurors are wise to their affair. After the trial's end, as Hannah returns home to her much older, now, suddenly, frail husband (they married when she was 24; he, 58) an exploding media fury involving the case catches them all up in a frenzy of public outrage at a jury that seems to have convicted the wrong twin, and a judge who has received an anonymous handwritten letter about a series of sexual encounters ("I feel it is my duty as a juror and a citizen to report that two of my fellow jurors had sexual contact on more than seven occasions during our nights at the motel..."), calling into question their respective verdicts, and announcing she is releasing the jurors' names to the media. Hannah's "one last dalliance before she is too old" takes on profoundly personal and moral consequences, as the novel moves to its affecting, powerful and surprising conclusion.… (more)



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The author juggles multiple storylines in this short book of less 200 pages. The crime, the trial, the autistic defendant, the jury, the affair, the older spouse, the sudden death. The writing is good, but I would have been happy following one well developed storyline. ( )
  MM_Jones | Jan 15, 2020 |
“The Body in Question” (BQ) by Jill Ciment is a 174 page yawner. While the prose is excellent, the characters are dull and unlikeable. Nobody you’d want to bring home for dinner. The most interesting thing about this book might be some of the misleading plot descriptions, or its placement on a 2019 list of “notables”, a word I use synonymously with “uninteresting”.
Despite some stretchy blurbs, this is not crime fiction. It’s not about the crime, nor the 2 year old victim (burned to death), nor the killer (whoever that is). We get to read snatches of the trial (hey, this is 174 pages, almost everything is snatches) and those seemed rather boring. But wait, there’s still the affair.

Anybody who spent more that 30 seconds researching this book knows that two of the jurors begin a love affair, and perhaps that is the part you are eagerly awaiting. Forget it – the “affair” has all the sizzle of a scoreless basketball game.

Well, don’t despair, we’re only up to page 112, there’s still 62 pages to go. Now we begin Part Two. Perhaps some of the strangest material I’ve encountered in the concluding pages of a murder trial cum love affair novel; it’s largely about….hospice. Now I’ve encountered hospice three times in my life (so far). I have the greatest respect for the organization, staff and volunteers. Hospice workers must be about the closest thing to angels most of us will ever experience. I just question whether hospice fits in this book. The detail is not pleasant. Maybe I’ll just leave it at that.

OK, but how does all of the above jive with a 4+ reader rating averaged over roughly 100 Amazon reviewers? Good question. Personally, I suspect some big time halo effect because some readers have confused BQ with LITERARY fiction. Maybe its been labeled that way by some critical reviewers. Afterall, who else but a publicist hoping to get some of that sizzley LITERARY label would toss out a phrase such as “more Soviet than Le Corbusier” when describing a courthouse near Ocala, Fl., or “voir dire” (multiple times), or – well, you get the picture. ( )
  maneekuhi | Jan 3, 2020 |
This is a short novel with a lot going on. Juror C-2 is in her fifties, she married an older man, a famous journalist, when she was a young photographer and now she's his caretaker, helping him as his health fades. She could get out of jury duty by mentioning his dependence on her, but selfishly, she wants the break.

She and Juror F-17 joke around a bit, but by the time they are assigned to a high profile murder case, and sequestered at a motel, they are involved. And this affair does affect Juror C-2's ability to pay attention as the trial of a teenager charged with having set her baby brother on fire takes place in front of her.

Jill Ciment's novel looks at the other jurors, the burgeoning relationship between C-2 and F-17 and their efforts to hide it from their fellow jurors and the officers there to supervise them, and the complexities of an outwardly open-and-shut murder case. This isn't a book that wastes time and Ciment balances the truly horrific, but not entirely ironclad case being presented at the trial with the boredom of a small group of people trapped together who don't necessarily like each other much and the excitement of the two people having a clandestine affair. C-2 isn't looking for a relationship, viewing her actions as a sort of last chance to have a fling before she's too old, and she anticipates that her husband will live long enough to make a new relationship after his death unlikely. It was interesting to see the inevitable outcome of a May-December marriage and I appreciated how Ciment kept C-2 from being entirely sympathetic. This is a novel that doesn't manage to maintain the momentum in the final chapters. The aftermath of the trial was so interesting, with a look at how the trial looked outside of the jury box, and how what the jury had to work with was different from how the case was portrayed in the media, but the novel lost some of it's narrative tension once C-2 was back home. ( )
  RidgewayGirl | Dec 19, 2019 |
The Body in Question by Jill Ciment
You are a photographer in your fifties, married for decades to a journalist 33 years your senior, now in his mid-eighties and in poor health. You are called for jury duty in central Florida, in a state where only six jurors are required for a murder trial. During your sequestration, you and another juror begin an affair. The murder suspect is one of two identical twins girls adopted at age four from a Russian orphanage, and the accusation is that one of them killed her infant brother in his crib by setting his diaper alight while he was asleep, although it’s her twin’s diary that contains incriminating evidence. This is the genius plot devised by an author whose skills at balancing the two elements are so potent that all outcomes are unpredictable and frightening. Told from the point of view of the photographer Juror C-2, her observations, her framing of the visual aspects of the defendant and her family in the courtroom, and her guilty knowledge that her affair with Juror F-17 will have an outcome on the verdict, all have a powerful hold on the reader. And to top it all off, the cover sketches of a series of eyes is a perfect accompaniment to the spell cast. This novel almost demands theatrical treatment.

Quote: "You know you're old when you look and feel like the morning after but there was no night before." ( )
  froxgirl | Dec 14, 2019 |
Stylistically interesting, spare prose. Focused but limited view of C2 and F17, the two jurors who become involved during a murder trial. What resonated with me was how their affair could not be contained to a dalliance to ease the boredom of being sequestered. They wrongly assumed that no one suspected which was clearly magical thinking. I found this a compulsively readable book which gave me lots to think about. I have read Ciment before and enjoy her wide imagination. ( )
1 vote ccayne | Sep 23, 2019 |
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