Staff Review: The Body in Question
Courtroom dramas almost always focus exclusively on the plaintiff and defendant at the heart of a trial. After all, that’s where some of the most compelling storytelling tends to reside. The Body in Question, however, switches things up by following a six-person jury assigned to a murder trial in central Florida, where a teenage girl is accused of setting her infant brother on fire.
The novel’s protagonist is C-2, a 52 year-old photographer who is at a mental crossroads in her marriage and career. Burnt out from acting as the primary caregiver to her 86 year-old husband, C-2 secretly relishes the idea of being part of the jury, figuring the weeks of sequestration that come with the trial will give her a much-needed break. During sequestration, C-2 becomes attracted to F-17, a stoic, intelligent anatomy professor slightly younger than her. C-2 desires to have one last fling “before she gets too old,” and initiates a carnal affair with F-17, which they attempt to hide from the court and the other jurors. But C-2 quickly starts to second-guess the affair, wondering if it will skew her and F-17’s impartiality and how it will affect her life after the trial.
I flew through reading The Body in Question, not only because it’s short at just 174 pages, but because it is so incredibly well-written and captivating. The degree to which author Jill Ciment has developed her characters with such lifelike motivations, hesitations, fears, desires and histories is extraordinary, and the ethical questions the book raises are also worth noting. I also loved the way in which she referred to her characters by their juror numbers and other nicknames, as opposed to their actual names. This book would be perfect for a book club to read and discuss, or for any lover of contemporary fiction.