For the majority of us, the legal world is shrouded in so much mystery and bureaucratic terms it might as well be made from a science-fiction novel. Nevertheless, like with many other aspects of our daily lives, we place our faith in it to a certain extent despite our lack of understanding.
Whether or not a country’s justice system is truly functional, I think most citizens will agree a good legal structure is extremely important in ensuring a society functions properly. After all, in theory it ought to serve as the basis from which all citizens can benefit from their guaranteed rights… even if it’s far from the truth in practice.
Thankfully, there are authors who are also well-versed in the legal realm, and many of them have given a rise in popularity to the legal thriller genre. Precisely-speaking, it focuses on fictional criminal cases and the justice system as a whole, with the primary characters being lawyers and their employees.
In this category we’re going to be looking at legal thrillers with various approaches and perspectives on the Law, or at least the ones I believe stand out from their peers and offer experiences which are equally insightful and entertaining.
“Price of Justice” by Robin James – Threatened by Pardons
Robin James has an excellent grasp on how to fuse together the worlds of thriller novels and the law, and the acclaim received by his Mara Brent Legal Thriller Series can only testify to as much. In the second book of the series, Price of Justice, Mara Brent is faced with an unusual scenario: violent convicts are suddenly going free in her small town and quaint town. More specifically, two vicious lunatics are suddenly released on bail, and Mara must race against the clock to stop their seemingly inevitably killing spree.
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“The Judge’s List” by John Grisham – Two Decades of Condemnation
John Grisham is a name needing no introduction for fans of legal thrillers, by numerous metrics being one of the most successful writers in the genre, an achievement he rightfully deserves. In The Judge’s List, the second book in The Whistler series, he blends his craft with murder mystery, sending investigator Lacy Stoltz on the trail of a serial killer, with her main suspect being a sitting judge.
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“Time of Justice” by Robin James – A Courtroom of Shadows
Robin James has put her own experience as an attorney to good use when she became an author, penning the Mara Brent Legal Thriller series, with the first entry published in 2020, titled Time of Justice. Introducing us to Mara, a prosecutor in a small town, the story follows her involvement in a reopened case, one which gives her the opportunity to put behind bars a real monster who once escaped justice. However, unexpected twists in the courtroom lead her to believe something far more sinister hides behind the scenes.
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“Misjudged” by James Chandler – The Truth Corrupted
James Chandler might have waited a long while before taking up the pen, but it was certainly a worthwhile wait for the readers when he published his first novel in November of 2020, titled Misjudged. It’s the first entry in the Sam Johnstone series, and introduces us to the titular war veteran as he takes up a new job as an attorney in a small Wyoming town. Not a moment too soon, a strange and complicated murder case finds its way into his lap.
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“The Holdout” by Graham Moore – The Unforgiven Juror
Graham Moore has injected into to his novels his own experience as an award-winning screenwriter, giving them a more eventful atmosphere and a quicker pace. In his most recent novel, The Holdout, he introduces us to Maya Seale, a young juror who convinces her peers as to the innocence of a suspect in a murder case. Now, ten years later, after a true-crime series reassembles the jurors, one of them is found dead in Maya’s hotel room, launching the ultimate search for truth as to what really happened the first time around.
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“The Night Fire” by Michael Connelly – The Investigator’s Flame
Michael Connelly may have traveled a long road with Harry Bosch, but he found a way to breathe a new life into him, partnering him up with detective Renee Ballard. In the second book in their series, titled The Night Fire, the duo sets out to solve a case which haunted Harry’s mentor for over twenty years until his death, the unsolved murder of a troubled young man.
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“Dark Sacred Night” by Michael Connelly – Fifteen Years of Darkness
Michael Connelly is rightfully known as a true modern master of murder mysteries and detective fiction, the Harry Bosch series being his most famous creation. In Dark Sacred Night, he brings together Bosch and detective Renee Ballard to create a new series which sees his characters working together. In their first outing, the try and put to rest an old unsolved case, the murder of a runaway in Hollywood, the 15-year-old Daisy Clayton.
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“Force of Nature” by Jane Harper – The Rashomon Effect
Jane Harper is certainly determined to leave her mark on the crime novel scene with the second book in her Aaron Falk series, titled Force of Nature. In this story, we follow Aaron, a Federal Police Agent, as he investigates the disappearance of a hiker who went on a retreat with four of her colleagues. Complications arise when each of those colleagues presents a different account of the events which transpired, forcing Aaron to dive himself into the isolated forest harbouring the darkness of Man.
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“Lies She Never Told Me” by John Ellsworth – Heritage of Deceit
John Ellsworth really has made the most of his career as a criminal lawyer, even finding a way to translate his experiences into novel-writing. Amongst many things he has been writing the Michael Gresham series, and in the first book titled Lies She Never Told Me we delve into the protagonist’s past and personal life, the heritage he hails from, and the time his dying grandmother asked him to kill a man at her behest.
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“The Late Show” by Michael Connelly – The Urban Demon Beneath Pitch Black Skies
Michael Connelly is an author who has gifted us with the creation of a few memorable characters, such as Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller, adding to the list the brand new Renee Ballard in The Late Show. What will undoubtedly become a series starts off with Ballard working the dreaded midnight shift for the LAPD, a bit of a black sheep in the department following a sexual harassment complaint against her supervisor. In one night two separate cases land on her lap: the agonizing bludgeoning of a prostitute and the shooting of a young woman in a nightclub. Never being one to back down, Renee keeps working the two cases on her own time and the deeper she digs, the more apparent it becomes that the two events may have been linked by a very surprising set of circumstances.
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“The Whistler” by John Grisham – Cut Through the Web of Lies
John Grisham has shown time and time again his proclivity for writing gripping legal thrillers, and he extends his streak as he takes us straight into the heart of a large conspiracy involving the coast mafia, an illegally-financed casino, and the most corrupt judge you could ever lay your eyes on.
In the midst of that boiling pot swims Lacy Stoltz, the lone investigator for the Florida Board of Judicial Conduct who is faced with the impossible task of bringing down an empire built on lies, greed and blood.
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