Posts Tagged ‘Legal Thriller’

Sycamore Row by John Grisham

July 25, 2014

Sycamore RowJohn Grisham is in familiar territory back home in Mississippi with a fascinating legal battle. Eccentric and wealthy, Seth Hubbard despises most of his family and is estranged from everyone except his brother, Ancil… who has disappeared. No one knows if Ancil is still alive. However, Seth is dying of lung cancer and he decides to commit suicide. Before dying he creates a new handwritten will and sends it to Jake Brigance asking Jake to be his lawyer and execute his wishes.

Jake is famous in Clanton for defending a black man and getting him acquitted with an all-white jury. He is just bored enough to be fascinated by his new assignment. But the will is about to open ‘ a can of worms’. Seth has left nothing to his two children, Ramona and Herschel, but instead has left 95% to his housekeeper, Lettie Lang. Since a more formal will was filed several years before, this new will opens a huge court battle. Jake hopes he is ready for this adventure.

Ramona and Herschel’s lawyers are prepared to do anything to make the handwritten will ‘null & void’, and I mean anything! Jake will need all his skills to have Lettie inherit Hubbard’s fortune.

I can promise you one thing–if you hated lawyers before reading this book, you will detest them even more afterwards. John Grisham is one of my favorite authors and this is one of his best books!

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The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly

June 27, 2014

The Gods of GuiltFans of Michael Connelly will not be disappointed. For me, he usually hits it out of the ballpark. Mickey Haller, lawyer, is passing through one of his down periods. Because of the accidental death of two of his daughter’s friends, he is alienated from his daughter and his business is not exactly booming. Then he gets the text “ASAP-187” – the state code for a murder case. The accused murder client is one Andre La Cosse and he had been recommended to Mickey by someone named Giselle Dallinger. There are two problems with this recommendation: one, Giselle Dallinger is not the name that Mickey knew her by and secondly, Giselle is the murder victim.

When Mickey knew Giselle, her real name was Gloria Dayton, a high priced call girl, who Mickey had tried to save and put on the straight and narrow. Apparently it didn’t work and now she is dead. La Cosse knew the victim and actually worked a website for her services, but he swears he didn’t kill her. Haller decides to take the case and as he starts to dig into the circumstances, he is faced with the fact that the actual murderer could be a major drug dealer, a convict that Giselle (Gloria) had testified against — one dangerous convict Hector Arrande Moya.

The pace, the plot, and the main characters are pure Connelly. He has built his reputation on his two main characters, Harry Bosch, LAPD Homicide detective and his half-brother Mickey Haller, lawyer extraordinaire  and main character in the earlier book, The Lincoln Lawyer (see review). In The Gods of Guilt neither Connelly nor Mickey Haller will disappoint you here. So who are the “The Gods of Guilt?” For that, you have to read the book!

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The Racketeer by John Grisham

January 28, 2014

We meet our protagonist, Malcolm Bannister, in a minimum security Federal prison in Virginia. He has served five years of a 10 year sentence. We don’t really know exactly what got him to his present home but we do know most of his family have deserted him.  Malcolm is a lawyer…a disbarred lawyer. His son will be a teenager when he next sees him and his wife has re-married. His father, Henry ,a retired Highway policeman, visits him once a week. He is not sure how Malcolm ended up in prison but he does maintain his contact with his son. Malcolm was apparently caught up in an illegal operation of his small three-man law firm but he truly did not know any of the circumstances of the operation.
Soon everything is about to change.  A judge, the Honorable Raymond Fawcett is found murdered in a remote cabin. Also murdered is his secretary, Naomi Clary.  And a well secured safe is found open and empty !  It also appears that Malcolm may know something of the circumstances of the murders. He actually may know who the murderer is…..and for providing this information to the government he expects a full pardon and placement in our witness protection program with a complete new identity.
Quinn Rucker was in prison with Malcolm and Malcolm being the prisoner’s go-to guy for legal advice has told a lot to Malcolm. Malcolm now has to have an appearance change and must be put in “witness protection.”  But all does not go well, as somehow Rucker has learned of Malcolm’s perfidy. And so the adventure shifts into high gear as Malcolm must stay one step of his pursuers and yet be ready to testify at Rucker’s trial.
The pace is all John Grisham and fans will appreciate the many twists and turns in the story.

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The Litigators by John Grisham

January 10, 2013

The LitigatorsAs a John Grisham fan, I was surprised to hear criticism of his latest book. However, as I got deeper into the story, I am starting to understand. This story has a lot more humor in it than many of his previous books. …..and that is good not bad!

One can’t help but chuckle at the law firm of Finley & Figg. They are the epitome of the storefront, ambulance chasing, divorces and DUI small time lawyers. They have never been very successful and they are just about able to pay their bills each month. Besides the two of them, they have a ‘do everything’ secretary, Rochelle Gibson. Actually there is a cautious ‘detente’ amongst all the players until two things happen that may change the lives of all of them. First of all, Wally Figg finds out about what may become a major class action lawsuit over a drug call Krayoxx. The drug allegedly helps to lower cholesterol but may in fact being causing people to die from heart attacks. And the second event is the landing of one, David Zinc on their doorstep. Zinc has been a successful associate of a big downtown law firm, when he has a complete meltdown. He is sick and tired of the corporate life and decides to ‘dropout’. He spends a day at Abner’s bar getting wasted and when he decides to leave, he doesn’t know where to go…going home and explaining this to his wife doesn’t seem like the thing to do. When he finally gets into a taxi, he notices a billboard sign for the law firm of Finley & Figg and he tells the driver that that is his destination. And now all the elements of Grisham’s latest book are in play. How will the law firm of Finley & Figg and their new associate handle the growing class action suit against Varrick, the manufacturer of Krayoxx? How many victims can they sign up to represent and can they be successful? None of them has actually tried a case before a judge!
Please enjoy Grisham’s latest legal saga with a generous dose of humor.

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Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2012: Melissa O.’s Picks

December 27, 2012

I am what you would call an eclectic reader. I love mystery, science fiction, thrillers, inspirational, and I am an avid nonfiction reader. I also love young adult and even juvenile fiction. So you see my difficulty in describing my reading interests. The good news is this makes it easy for me to make reading suggestions! Here are five of my favorite older books I read or re-read this year. (Yes, I am a re-reader!)  — Melissa O.

Skull Duggery by Aaron Elkins
Gideon Oliver is a forensic anthropologist (think old bones instead of recent murders). When Gideon joins his wife on a trip to Mexico he finds himself reluctantly pulled into yet another murder mystery. And it turns out someone will kill to keep it unsolved! Elkins manages to bring just the right amount of humor into his books, and you get the added bonus of traveling the world with the bone detective as he gets roped into, or manages to trip into, another unsolved crime.

A Spell For Chameleon by Piers Anthony
I discovered this book in high school and it remains my favorite humorous fantasy series. We meet Bink, the only citizen of Xanth with no magic, a tragedy for which he will be exiled. So he sets out to find his magic and just might win the girl of his dreams in the process. This is the first of the Xanth novels and I reread it this year to remind myself why I love these books so much. If you are a fan of puns you will die laughing!

Taliesin by Stephen R. Lawhead
This is the first in the Pendragon Cycle and sets the stage for the next four books. Lawhead expands on the usual Arthurian legends by weaving the mythic city of Atlantis into the tale. Lawhead also skillfully weaves a more prominent Christian message into the novels, but in a way that will not put-off non-Christians. In addition to Taliesin we meet Charis, a bull dancer, and watch their lives come together in one of the greatest love stories I have read recently.

The Sacrifice by Robert Whitlow
When you read Whitlow’s inspirational legal thrillers you can tell he is writing from experience. A practicing attorney for decades, his books are gripping and believable. We also get the added bonus that Whitlow is a local author and sets many of his books, including this one, in North Carolina. Scott Ellis is an attorney who finds himself advising a mock trial team at a high school. Add in a school shooting and you won’t be able to put this book down.

The Loch by Steve Alten
Alten takes the legend of the Loch Ness Monster and twists it on its head while including the right amount of science to keep my inner biologist happy. Zach Wallace returns to Scotland when his estranged father is accused of murder. Unfortunately, Angus’s sole defense is that “something” in the Loch killed his business partner. Zach must solve the mystery even as more bodies continue to pile up. Much sleep was sacrificed as I was sucked into this story!

Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2012: Pam W.’s Picks

December 17, 2012

I like to read from just about every section of the library, although I am especially partial to mysteries. I also tend to re-read books that I have enjoyed a lot. This list covers a little of everything and includes books I discovered for the first time this year as well as a few favorites I read for the second (or third) time. — Pam W.

The Last Child by John Hart
Johnny Merrimon was only 13 when his twin sister went missing. He has never given up the belief that she was alive somewhere but no one seems to be looking for her anymore, so Johnny decides to find her himself. What Johnny doesn’t know is that the officer in charge of the investigation has also never given up on Alyssa. He is keeping an eye on Johnny as well to make sure nothing happens to him. When another child disappears, Johnny and Detective Clyde Hunt find themselves mixed up with the worst elements of their town. This was an absolutely riveting book and the best one by Hart so far.

Magic Time by Doug Marlette
Marlette tells two stories in this book, one set in the racially charged days of 1964, and one set in the present day. Carter Ransom has gone back to his hometown in Mississippi after suffering a break down, only to find an event from his past has come back to haunt him. In 1964 several civil rights workers were killed in when a church was burned down. Carter’s girlfriend at the time was one of those killed. To complicate matters, Carter’s father was the presiding judge in the trial of the man accused of this crime. The trial took place in the 1980’s and the man was not convicted, but the trial is now being reexamined. Bringing up the past is painful, and possible dangerous, for everyone who was involved.

When I Married My Mother: A Daughter’s Search for What Really Matters-and How She Found It Caring for Mama Jo by Jo Maeder
Jo Maeder had lived in New York City for years when she found out that her mother was ill. The two had not been in contact for a number of years and Maeder was appalled when she found out the horrible living conditions her mother had been reduced to. Her mother was suffering from dementia and had been hoarding so much stuff you could barely walk in her house. Maeder did not know how they would get along living together, she only knew that she had to take care of her, so she left her job and moved in with her mother down south in the Bible belt. Her “marriage” to her mother truly changed her life. Maeder’s story is not new, but her story is told with humor and true compassion. I found it very compelling and not depressing at all.

Faithful Place by Tana French
French’s series about the Dublin murder squad is different than many mystery series’. Instead of following one detective through a number of different investigations, French switches focus in each book. Faithful Place, the third book in the series, is my favorite. It follows Detective Frank Mackey as he investigates a body found in an old building in the neighborhood he grew up in. When he was a young man, his girlfriend disappeared on the night they were going to run away together and Frank always thought she left without him. Now, he finds out she was murdered, and he is determined to find out who did it. This is fascinating look at family dynamics and loyalties.

An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor
Fans of All Creatures Great and Small or Maeve Binchy’s books will love this book set in Northern Ireland in the 1960’s. Barry Laverty has just finished medical school and has taken a job in the small town of Ballybucklebo, which is so small it barely shows up on the maps. He is not sure what to make of his new boss, who seems very gruff and old fashioned. He also finds the locals eccentric and difficult to understand. Gradually, Barry starts to fit in and learn how closely everyone in the town cares for one another. This is a heartwarming story told with lots of humor.

Best New Books of 2012: Heidi B.’s Picks

December 11, 2012

I read lots of best sellers, suspense/thrillers, biographies, and women’s fiction. My picks for 5 of the best new books this year kept me turning their pages, and I hope they’ll do the same for you.  — Heidi B.

Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay
Ray is a gentle paranoid schizophrenic obsessed with conspiracies and maps, obsessed with the computer program Whirl360 (think: Google Earth) that allows him to traverse the cities of the world. But what is that image in the window of a New York apartment building that he sees? It sure looks like a woman being smothered by a plastic bag over her head… Ray and his caretaker brother Thomas are thrown head-first in to a web of crimes and murders that leave the reader on the edge of the seat.

The Good Father by Diane Chamberlain
Travis Brown is single parent struggling in a bad economy to make end’s meet and care for his daughter baby daughter, Bella. He is offered what sounds like a great job in Raleigh, only to discover that the job actually is the offer to commit a crime, with the offer of a lot of money.  How far will Travis go to keep his daughter? Chamberlain is a master storyteller  who combines the elements of family issues and suspense in this highly readable, tug-at-the-heartstrings novel set in North Carolina.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Five years of marriage is turned upside down when Nick’s wife Amy vanishes from home. This dark, character-driven novel is told from the point of view of Nick and Amy, a young couple who are both untrustworthy and full of their own secrets. Did Nick kill Amy? The police think so, as the damning evidence mounts against him in this roller-coaster ride of a story. This is a dark, rich thriller, with a complicated plot full of twists and turns. Anyone who enjoys a story full of head games will enjoy this one.

Defending Jacob by William Landay
How far will you go to protect your child? Andy Barber is an assistant district attorney with twenty years on the job in a rural Massachusetts county.  Then the unthinkable happens; his teen son Jacob is accused of murdering a classmate and charged with the crime. Landay’s plot line and twists and turns harken back to the early writings of John Grisham. I tell everyone to whom I recommend this book, “I’ll give you $10 if you can guess the ending.” So far, no one has collected.

Elizabeth the Queen: the Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedell Smith
One of the best biographies I have read – ever – of anyone. This exhaustively researched biography reads like a novel and is based on hundreds of interviews to tell the story of the woman who has ruled Britannica for 60 years. Bedell Smith has chronicled other royals as well as the Kennedys and has a knack for retelling stories that really give reader insight into the personality of the Queen. A must for any Anglophile! Grab a cup of tea and a scone and dig into this lengthy book.

Ordinary Heroes by Scott Turow

June 28, 2012

After his father died, Stewart Dubinsky found a batch of papers that related to things about his father that Stewart had never known. So Stewart sets out to find out his father’s story in an effort to know him better. This premise sounds so familiar you might think that the book would be boring or formulaic, but that is far from the truth. The secret that Stewart’s father, David, was hiding is that he was court martialed and sentenced to prison in 1945 after serving in Europe for more than a year. Stewart is so shocked by this revelation that he is determined to find the whole story.

David was a lawyer serving in the Army’s judge advocate general office during the army’s march across Europe after D-Day. He spent most of his time prosecuting or defending soldiers accused of crimes against French citizens; but in 1944 he was assigned to the case of Robert Martin, an OSS officer who had either become a spy or gone rogue. When David met Martin he became involved in one of Martin’s covert operations. He also became involved with Martin’s companion Gita, a woman who may or may not have still been Martin’s lover. Shortly after that, Martin and Gita both disappeared.

After the German surrender, Martin was finally recaptured and David was sent to bring him to trial. Instead, Martin disappeared again David was accused of letting Martin go. Shortly after his conviction, though, David is released without serving any time. Why would they suddenly drop all charges? This is the mystery Stewart is searching for the answer to, as well as the question of whether his father released the man he spent so much time searching for and if so, why.

The story of Stewart’s father’s service in WWII is a fascinating one. He becomes involved in the Battle of the Bulge and other fighting simply because he is in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is privy to some of the secrets of OSS and not to others. Turow’s novel is very different from his usual courtroom thrillers, but it is just as compelling. Even more interesting to me is the fact that many episodes of the book were based on stories Turow heard from his own father, who served as a medic in WWII.

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The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

January 9, 2012

Aficionados of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo tend to know that the original title means “Men who hate women.” A New York Times reviewer called the original name of the book “unsexy,” but this just shows insensitivity on the part of the reviewer, as it is in fact a harrowing title. Michael Connelly’s The Lincoln Lawyer is a novel about this very topic, and to read it as entertainment is impossible – it is just too gruesome for that.

Michael Haller is a defense lawyer living and working in Los Angeles, operating out of the backseat of his Lincoln Town Car. He is not without compassion and he has a conscience, but over the years he has become a cynic. He sees the legal system for what it is – imperfect but necessary – and he’s not perfect himself. He bribes bondsmen and manipulates cases for his own reasons. There is nothing about the law that he cherishes anymore – the law is not about justice and truth, it is about “negotiation, amelioration, manipulation.” The guilty may not be guilty, and the not guilty are rarely innocent.

Haller tends to think that no one is innocent – everyone is guilty of something – and he wonders if he could even recognize an innocent man if such a thing would actually appear. And then it does. When the lawyer is trying to save this person, “the machine” – the California legal system – is revealed, and so is the kind of people that the system has to handle every day: people who are liars, people who cheat and steal, people who are sociopaths and psychopaths, people who brutalize their fellow human beings and kill them – crime is actually so rampant that the Rose Bowl could be filled twice a year with potential clients. How could such a society possibly create a perfect legal system?

The plot of The Lincoln Lawyer twists and turns like a roller coaster, and the strength of the writing is actually what could be described as its weakness. Sometimes great authors want the reader to believe that the fictional, first-person singular narrator has somehow just sat down and written a masterpiece. This is an unlikely proposition, as it (not always, but) usually takes time and a lot of work to become a truly great author. The Lincoln Lawyer, on the other hand, is flawed but intense – as if an intelligent first-time writer, talking with feverish energy about his life, has written the story. In other words, The Lincoln Lawyer could very well have been written by someone like Michael Haller, the Lincoln lawyer. Intended or not on Connelly’s behalf, it is quite effective, and refreshing in a world filled with carefully crafted, cookie cutter novels.

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