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An emotional, courtroom drama that will keep you up at night to finish it.
Layla was just 8 weeks old when she was discovered dead. Her aunt, who had assumed the role of her nanny only days before is on trial for her murder.
This book starts out with what would appear to be a very sad, but straight forward case involving two sisters. But slowly begins to gain pace and momentum as neighbours, friends and the rescue crew are cross examined.
Sadly, for me, I guessed very early on what the real story was. But that didn’t take away from me the enjoyment of reading this book nor weaken the truly saddening accounts of Layla’s short life.
I gave this book 3.5 stars, not because I didn’t think it was great but rather I would’ve preferred more cross examination (I felt the courtroom chapters were too short). I appreciate that Gillian probably had to cut or alter a lot of the narrative to suit her plot. But I think if you’re going to do a courtroom drama then why not go the whole hog and bring in elements of the law, demonstrate how hard the prosecutors have to work and word to secure the jury’s vote.
All in all a great, haunting read that you can’t help but be drawn into reading to the very end.
The first book I bought on my Kindle was Gillian McAllister’s debut novel, Everything But The Truth. It was an excellent five-star read which automatically made her one of my favourite authors.
I have now finished her third book, and my view has not changed. This is a gripping, absorbing, and memorable story – not to mention thought-provoking. It was actually so thought-provoking that this book was often on my mind even when I wasn’t reading!
The biggest strength of No Further Questions is in the narrative, and the various perspectives we see throughout the progress of the trial. The writing is terrific – you are made to feel not just Martha’s pain – but also the scale of the dilemma she feels and how torn she is, feeling pressure to select sides between the prosecution and the defence.
As a narrator, I found Martha very engaging, almost as though she is actively communicating the reader. She is a complex character, and the writing really gives a sense of just how many thoughts are running through her mind. This made it really easy for me to connect and empathise with her.
I did not feel quite the same way towards Becky, but at the same time she is a very well-drawn and relatable character. She feels very real, and that is largely down to her flaws, but all the time, the reader is being asked one question that underpins everything: Is she capable of murder?
I love the way that all the events described in the trial are relived from the point of view of the witnesses. It helps give them an identity and a roundness, and also made sure that there were not too many passages confined to the courtroom, which would have made it less interesting. I also liked the little bits that were told from the perspective of the judge.
The writing style is extremely good. The pace might be a little slow and perhaps even repetitive for some (and I must admit I felt some sections went on for longer than necessary), but for me this book feels like a really detailed case study, and as a reader I felt like I lived every moment of it. The attention to detail is impeccable.
As ever with Gillian McAllister, she captures the subject matter perfectly and with compassion, giving her characters an honest and genuine voice. There are a lot of great lines about the nature of a trial; the theatrical delivery of the barristers; how seemingly normal everyday things are presented as evidence either for or against Rebecca. The similes and metaphors are amazing, too.
So I mostly have very good things to say about this book. However, I found the final twist at the end to be a little underwhelming and a tad predictable. I also feel that although Martha’s conflicted state of mind is the driving force behind this book, some bits that were not directly related to the trial could have been written in a more concise way.
But overall, this is a fantastic blend of domestic thriller and courtroom drama. The multiple perspectives, the detail, the writing style that leaves the reader hanging on almost every word. The ending could have been more of a surprise, but as Martha notes at one point during the book, it is a compelling case.
The synopsis for No Further Questions is perfect, it has the right amount of tension and intrigue to make me want to pick and read. In fact it did such a good job that not only did I originally request it via NetGalley, but I also bought the ebook from Amazon, then forgetting that I already had it, I also bought a paperback copy from the supermarket when I went shopping 🙂 I am gutted this has been on my TBR for this long as it is a cracking read.
It is a mix of courtroom drama and revisited memories that kept me eagerly turning the pages. To be honest, if work wasn’t essential I would have read this in one sitting.
So where to start? Okay, the sisters, Martha and Becky, both married, both have a child, and both sisters are very different from each other. One of the sisters needs help as she tries to run her business and look after her 8 week old, in steps the other sister and they work out a plan that in theory will fit them both. Being sisters this seems to be the ideal choice.
Now to the parents of the sisters, how the mind boggles with this aspect. Wanting to be supportive of both daughters and yet one is in the dock being accused of murdering the daughter of the other sister… Was the sister guilty, she professes her innocence, was it an accident or murder?
The story is told in thought-provoking daily chapters from the perspective of the sisters and some of the other characters. There are subchapters as well that give details from those involved each day, including those that have been called to give evidence.
It was so easy to get into this story and the further I read the more engrossed I got. I was never sure if the sister was guilty, part of me wanted her to be innocent, but there was also a seed of doubt that hovered in the background. Then further in I started to get this horrible nagging feeling, a “What if” moment. It was a feeling I hoped I was wrong about, but by the end of the story, I was right. Now this really didn’t matter, yes I worked it out, but it was all about the story getting me to that point. Even when the truth was revealed I was still shocked as I was so caught up with the story on such an emotional level, I really did not want to be right.
This is a wonderfully gripping story that explored many emotions and dilemmas for the main characters. A story of a family that are dealing with a tragic loss and could be potentially ripped even further apart. This is a tense, powerful, heartbreaking and thought-provoking read that I would definitely recommend.
I was a big fan of Gillian McAllister’s first two novels, Everything but the Truth and Anything You Do Say so I was looking forward to starting her third. No Further Questions is an intense courtroom drama that peels back the layers of a shocking, tragic event, and it has a devastating twist. I was utterly gripped from the first page. Gillian’s books keep getting better and better.
We are introduced to Becky and Martha who are sisters. Martha is a compassionate individual and has recently set up her own charity, based in Kos, Greece to help refugees. After having her daughter, Layla, Martha asks Becky to look after her so she can carry on her important work, and after leaving the country, things soon begin to take its toll on Becky. And it isn't long before Martha has to rush back to the UK after her daughter is found dead; Becky is on trial for her murder. Martha can’t bring herself to think of the possibility that Martha killed Layla. But as the evidence is stripped away, she realises that she may soon have to accept this as reality.
Gillian McAllister writes her characters so well. Although I could see why Martha wanted to go to Kos and help the refuges, I was shocked that she chose to leave her newly born daughter behind in the UK, and I felt for Becky who already has a young son, Xander to look after. There are lots of emotions that run through this book, and this comes across so well in Gillian’s writing. We are taken into the heart of the action. The case of Layla’s death has already been brought to trial, and we see all the intensity of preceding events unfold, as it is re-lived through the minds of people directly involved in the crime and the witnesses. I could never quite be sure how everything was going to come together at the end. Would Becky be found guilty? This was the question that kept me turning the pages.
The drama in the courtroom comes across very well on the page. I loved that we got to see past events through the minds of different witnesses, who all add something new to the case, and they did get me thinking as I tried to examine the evidence that Gillian put forward as well. This is what made this book so absorbing. What I thought was also interesting, was that parts of the book are told from the viewpoint of the judge. Often, when a trial is taking place, I don’t think of the judge who has to pass sentence, I only really think about the people involved in the case, the police and witnesses, and the jury who have to come to a decision. So it was fascinating to see the case from his perspective as well.
If you enjoy reading novels that will make you think, then I definitely recommend this book. It is a powerful and emotive read that I think will stay with me and in the minds of many readers for a while.
It’s a cracking read, you become totally immersed in the characters. Did she do it? Did her ex-husband do it? The evidence shows it was murder, but other evidence suggests it wasn’t. Who is the guilty party. Or is there a guilty party?
This is so cleverly constructed. Did Becky kill her niece, Layla? It seems to be the case. But her sister, Martha, and Layla’s mum, struggles to believe it. As each witness gives their testimony she veers from believing to unbelieving. Guilty to innocent. And the reader is taken on this same emotional rollercoaster not knowing what to believe. And then the final denouement is delivered so quietly and softly. Wow!
No Further Questions is the third book by Gillian McAllister and in my (very humble!) opinion it’s her best book so far! Her in depth research and experience as a lawyer means that there is a realism throughout her narrative of such an exceptionally high standard that I am always immediately transported into her fictional world. This is a rather distressing story at times and I did find myself having to put it down on a couple of occasions when emotions threatened to get the better of me but the dynamics between her characters dragged me back in again as soon as they could. Apart from that, this was a book I couldn’t bear to part with until the very last page so make sure you have plenty of time set aside when you do pick it up.
What I took to straight away here was the stylish way in which the narrative unfolded. The story was told alternately by sisters Becky and Martha as the background to the court case they are part of comes to life. But interspersed between their accounts, we meet the witnesses who are involved in giving their evidence. The way they are introduced works well and breaks up the difficult and often intense relationship between the sisters.
Reading No Further Questions was like being on an emotional rollercoaster. I became totally invested in the lives of both sisters, feeling a sense of the inevitable that whatever had happened to baby Layla meant that their relationship was never going to be the same again, no matter what the outcome of the court case. And when the truth is unraveled in all of its heartbreaking detail, I cried my eyes out. Please be warned again that there are scenes in this book that are very difficult to read at times but what a stunning piece of writing this is to be able to inspire such emotions in its readers. Gillian McAllister is a very talented lady and one of my favourite authors. All of her books are highly recommended by me!
An unimaginable crime. An aunt stands accused of smothering her baby niece. Sisters torn apart by a single moment of violence.
Martha thought she knew her sister, Becky, better than anyone – they were once as close as two sister’s could possibly be. How could she be capable of such a heinous act? Becky swears she didn’t do it, and Martha want to believe her, but as the trial progresses, she starts to doubt her sister’s innocence.
From the first page this story grabbed hold of my emotions and gripped them tight right up until the last, unforgettable page. The author did an exceptional job of crafting complex, memorable, flawed characters who read like actual people. Their interactions, relationships, memories, reactions, and emotional responses, made them all the more real and relatable.
This novel was so much more than crime suspense. Yes, it had all the twists and turns, and an explosive, didn’t-see-it-coming, ending. But it was also a courtroom drama, the story of a family divided by tragedy, what it means to be a parent, and the sacrifices it takes to be one, dealing with sudden, unexpected loss, processing grief, the nature of forgiveness, as well as starting over. I can see this one appealing to a wider variety of audience than your usual crime read. It certainly evoked all the feels in me.
The writing was top-notch, easy-to-read, and follow, with short chapters, that flowed well. Calling a person to the stand, and then having a flashback chapter in their POV showing us what they’d witnessed, as opposed to back-and-forth dialogue in a courtroom setting, was utilised well, and had more of an emotional impact.
I felt the author handled a serious and heartbreaking topic – the loss of a baby to violence – with sensitivity and caution, but I must mention that there is still some disturbing content when the medical experts give evidence.
This is my first book by Gillian McAllister and it definitely won’t be my last. This is a story that touched my heart, and will stay with me for a long time.
"Nice and tight. Safe. There she wouldn't cry now... She was warm, and moving her little fists... Eventually, standing in the cool air coming in the window, she cooled, too...back in her Moses basket, completely, peacefully asleep." This is a court room drama following the suspicious death of eight week old Layla whilst in the sole care of her Aunt, Becky, who is charged with smothering her. The evidence certainly appears damning and Becky offers no defence other than she doesn't know what happened and did not kill Layla. I loved the logic and order of the chapters, the witness back stories and the different perspectives from Mum Martha, Father Scott, Aunt Becky and Uncle Marc. Understandably, Martha's views waivered between believing Becky to be innocent and believing her to be guilty. Martha and Scott, especially Martha, feel judged for having left Leyla for two nights. Becky struggled with Layla's constant crying. The idea of a family separated by the Criminal Justice System felt harsh, but the truth needed to be discovered and it was. I was a little disoppointed that I guessed who was responsible for Layla's death (I'm not revealing who, so I don't spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it) about half way through the book, because I like to guess but be wrong!. Perhaps I was lucky, because there were plenty of red herrings pointing to different characters. I couldn't read this without thinking of my two children, especially my youngest, who is now two years old. Trying to remember her at 8 weeks old, so vulnerable. A sad tale, but with some hope by the end. Gripping and tense, with many twists, if you like courtroom dramas, you will love this!
Gillian McAllister has become one of my go-to authors since I read her debut novel Everything But The Truth and with No Further Questions her place as one of my favourite authors has been firmly cemented. This book absolutely took me through the wringer and I was reduced to tears on more than one occasion.
A story of two sisters facing the ultimate test of their relationship. Becky is accused of smothering her 8 week old niece Layla who was in her care while both parents were away. There is far more to this story which we learn through flashbacks to "the night of". McAllister drip feeds us details from that fateful evening and I raced through the book. At one point I was convinced I had worked everything out but changed my mind several times.
The idea of the families involved being so fractured by Layla's death really got to me. These two sisters, bound together by love but torn apart by doubt, got under my skin and into my mind for days after I had finished.
Obviously No Further questions deals with the very emotive subject of the death of a baby which at times is a difficult read. The statements from the attending paramedic, A&E consultant and pathologist were the ones that broke my heart a little. I was also touched by the narrative from Martha (Layla's mother) about how hard she had found the early days of Layla's birth and how she felt about the bonding process. This struck such a chord with me.
Gillian McAllister just gets better and better with each book and I can't wait to see what's next from her!
This is a decent enough book, if a bit slow to get going. Gillian McAllister rarely disappoints.
BUT: This is McAllister's book The Good Sister with a different title. The Amazon blurb for No Further Questions consists of six short sentences, which bear little resemblance to the more detailed description of The Good Sister. It's therefore not immediately obvious that the two books are the same. I don't know if that's intentional or not, but my first attempt to warn people about this "didn't comply with guidelines". Make of that what you will, but more importantly, buy one or other of these books but not both!