Grisham, John. Sycamore Row.

NY: Doubleday, 2013.

Many of Grisham’s non-courtroom-oriented stories are lightweight and rather fluffy, but he’s also capable of solid writing, tense plotting, and very well-drawn characters. This one, happily, is one of those. It’s also a semi-sequel to his very first book, A Time to Kill, set in small-town northern Mississippi, an area the author knows well. It’s 1988, only a few years after the sensational trial detailed in the earlier book, in which defense attorney Jake Brigance had his house burned down and his dog killed by the KKK for defending a black man who had killed a white man in revenge.



Connelly, Michael. Two Kinds of Truth.

NY: Little, Brown, 2017.

Harry Bosch, longtime star of homicide for the LAPD, may be retired now but he hasn’t quit. He did the private eye thing for a little while, then found a home as an unpaid volunteer detective for the tiny San Fernando PD out in the Valley. He’s pursuing cold cases (using a cell in the old, now unused jail as an office), helping out with new cases that come up, and also mentoring their young and relatively inexperienced detectives. But then his ex-partner from shortly before he retired turns up, accompanied by a Deputy DA.


Published in: on 25 March 2018 at 5:14 am  Leave a Comment  
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Grisham, John. Rogue Lawyer.

NY: Doubleday, 2015.

Grisham’s books have always been kind of hit-or-miss in my opinion, but this one isn’t bad. Sebastian Rudd is a well-known “street lawyer” in his part of the state, taking on those accused of horrific crimes the more white-shoe attorneys won’t touch. In fact, the story opens with the trial of a defendant so loathed in his small redneck town, Rudd has to have a police escort to get to the courthouse without being stoned by the mob. (His office was firebombed a couple of years before, so now he mostly works out of his chauffeured SUV.)


Published in: on 8 September 2016 at 4:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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Auchincloss, Louis. Diary of a Yuppie.

Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986.

Robert Service is a thirty-two-year-old New York attorney, a specialist in corporate takeovers, who, after eight years as an associate in his large firm, has been promised a partnership at the beginning of the year — but does he really want it? Service analyzes absolutely everything around him and a close analysis of the leadership of his firm leads him to conclude that it’s a slowly sinking ship.


Published in: on 19 June 2016 at 1:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Connelly, Michael. The Crossing.

NY: Little, Brown, 2015.

Harry Bosch was a cop in the LAPD for more for thirty years and a homicide detective for two decades, practically a legend in the Department. He extended his stay as long as possible, but now he’s finally retired for good. His daughter is going off to college in the fall and Harry figures he’ll spend some time restoring an old Harley. But then Mickey Haller calls, his half-brother and a noted defense attorney.


Published in: on 26 May 2016 at 3:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Margolin, Phillip. After Dark.

NY: Bantam, 1996.

Margolin is one of those authors who seems always to have a couple of recent volumes on the bookstore rack, but who otherwise flies under the radar in terms of awards or featured reviews. He’s been a criminal defense attorney for several decades, so it’s no surprise that he specializes in legal thrillers, or that he sets most of them in his home territory of Oregon.


Published in: on 4 February 2016 at 5:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Grisham, John. The Runaway Jury.

NY: Doubleday, 1996.

I’ve been reading Grisham off and on for some time, but I haven’t been systematic about it and I don’t sit and wait for his latest. I just read the jacket copy and pick up whatever looks like an entertaining read at the moment. This one, which kept me focused all the way through, is perhaps the best of his I’ve come across.


Published in: on 30 January 2016 at 2:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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Roffe, David. Decoding Domesday.

Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 2007.

As both an historian and an archivist, I’ve long been fascinated by Domesday Book, the oldest surviving government-produced document in the English-speaking world, ordered by the Conqueror and completed about 1087 — a surprisingly short time. It was part-census, part-inquest, compiled to establish a base for taxation and to record the pre- and post-Conquest control of the land in detail.


Published in: on 6 January 2016 at 4:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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Block, Lawrence. Defender of the Innocent: The Casebook of Martin Ehrengraf.

Burton, MI: Subterranean Press, 2014.

Block has been writing — and publishing — fiction for an amazing number of decades, most of it crime-related, though he attempted many other forms when he was starting out. In the late 1970s, he began a series of short stories, all but one of which appeared in Ellery Queen, featuring a defense attorney who worked on contingency: If he didn’t get you off, you didn’t pay.


Published in: on 10 September 2015 at 7:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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Sawyer, Robert. Illegal Alien.

NY: Ace, 1997.

I’ve read most of Sawyer’s novels over the years and the one thing they all have in common is, they’re just so . . . Canadian. Sometimes almost to the point of cliché, in his portrayal of both nice Canadians and untrustworthy Americans.