Legal

Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction – 2019

 

The Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction was established to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” written by former Alabama law student, Harper Lee. For the past several years, the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal have partnered to award the prize to a published work of fiction from the previous year that best demonstrates “the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change.”

Congratulations to the finalists and winner (noted in red) for the 2019 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction:

 

“The Boat People” by Sharon Bala


“Class Action” by Steven B. Frank


“The Widows of Malabar Hill” by Sujata Massey
 

 As in the past, readers had a chance to participate in choosing the winner. Voting closed at 11:59 p.m. CT on Sunday, June 30. The award ceremony took place in late August during the Library of Congress National Book Festival.

 

Previous winners:

 

2011 – John Grisham, “The Confession”

 

2012 – Michael Connelly, “The Fifth Witness”

 

2013 – Paul Goldstein, “Havana Requiem”

 

2014 – John Grisham, “Sycamore Row”

 

2015 – Deborah Johnson, “The Secret of Magic”  

 

2016 – Attica Locke, “Pleasantville”

 

2017 – James Grippando, “Gone Again”

 

2018 – C.E. Tobisman, “Proof.”

 

 

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“Defending Jacob” by William Landay

 

 

“Defending Jacob,” features Andrew Barber as an Assistant DA, with a 22 year stint as part of the District Attorney’s office. A few days after his son’s classmate is stabbed to death, Barber is barred from the case and given a leave of absence from work.
 

His son is accused of the terrible crime, but Barber knows in his bones that Jacob could not have done it. When a devastating secret is uncovered during the investigation into the boy’s death, we realize that Barber may be alone in that belief. Despite incredible pressure from everyone he knows, as well as additional evidence to the contrary, he never stops declaring his son’s innocence.
 

“Defending Jacob” explores family relationships as they evolve in the aftermath of horrific events. This absorbing psychological courtroom drama deftly captures the doubts and the pointing fingers as members of the community seek to find answers for this senseless stabbing/killing. What parenting lack created this apparently crazed teenager living amongst them? Or was it a flaw in the child himself? If ‘x’ can kill, how certain can we be that someone else might not be capable of the same act? “Defending Jacob” was published in 2012, but the story could be ripped from the headlines today.
 

Landay, a former DA himself, posits a few theories to explain the multi-faceted plot lines and has several characters explore the possibility of a murder gene – that murder can be committed because of a hereditary predisposition. Modern psychological profiling indicates that the level of violence in our backgrounds most likely informs our future actions, but is there an actual gene? And, in my opinion, most disturbing of all: Does law enforcement really pick a suspect and then go after evidence to support that theory, no matter how far a stretch from the truth?
 

The ending left me stunned, contemplating which character was, in the end, most damaged. I may never resolve that in my mind. This was a riveting read from start to finish and beyond.
 

“Defending Jacob” won the Strand Critics Award, and a movie based on the book may be released this year.  Please visit www.williamlanday.com for information about Landay’s other books.

 

*Note: contains sporadic swearing/coarse language.

 

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Top Eleven Reviews – 2017

 

Book Cover - What She Knew

Tons of great books, soooo many talented authors, and oodles of dedicated booklovers, all combined to make 2017 a great year of reading entertainment. Whether discovering a new author, or returning to a tried and true favorite, the NBR community interest was over 30% greater than the previous most popular year.

 

Although not included in the 'Top Eleven Reviews – 2017' book list, the 2017 author profiles (Edith Maxwell, Liz Mugavero, Barbara Ross, Lynn C. Willis) were extremely popular and we’ll have more during 2018. Click on their names – links to books included.

 

Why Top Eleven? There is a debut magazine in the list, very well received by the NBR audience.  🙂

 

Listed in alphabetical order by author (except for the magazine and the ‘Killer Thrillers’), click on the links to read the reviews for the first time, or to enjoy them again.

 

“Black Cat Mystery Magazine” debut issue short mystery fiction   https://bit.ly/2yrYX5F

 

“Killer Thrillers for the Beach”  (seven thriller authors, ten titles)     https://bit.ly/2hNTJJX

 

“Cat About Town” by Cate Conte    https://bit.ly/2ilMj0K

 

“Grilled for Murder” by Maddie Day   https://bit.ly/2oKW36H

 

“The 7th Canon” by Robert Dugoni    https://bit.ly/2hCYpT0

 

“I like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around” by Ann Garvin   https://bit.ly/2uhL8V5

 

“A Good Day to Buy” by Sherry Harris   https://bit.ly/2gNFTYb

 

“Dry Bones” by Craig Johnson    https://bit.ly/2kVtKgu

 

“What She Knew” by Gilly Macmillan    https://bit.ly/2jcgbvS

 

“Custom Baked Murder” by Liz Mugavero    https://bit.ly/2lqSf8C

 

“Relic” by Fiona Quinn   https://bit.ly/2q7m1yH

 

Many thanks everyone! May 2018 bring you lots of love and laughter, along with some thumpin’ great new reads.  🙂

 

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Killer Thrillers for the Beach

 

There are two kinds of Beach Reads:

 

  • Action-packed adventure/thrillers that rev up your blood pressure and provide stay-awake reading (killer thrillers)
  • Completely relaxing, low-key, fun mystery books that tweak your brain cells, but allow you to nod off on time


None of the killer thriller titles below are relaxing or low-key. I defy you to nod off while reading any of them. Charge your e-reader, ‘cause you won’t want to take a break – except maybe to eat. Or, you might want to eat while reading.   🙂

Warning: most deal with adult topics and/or contain sporadic adult language.

(Listed in alphabetical order by author)

 

"The 7th Canon" by Robert Dugoni

Book Cover - The 7th Canon - Robert Dugoni

 

 

 

Standalone. Priest accused of terrible crimes.
Read review here.

 

 

 

"The Trapped Girl"  by Robert Dugoni

 

 

Engrossing entry in the Tracy Crosswhite series. Fascinating case. Twists and turns galore. Read my review here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

"The Fixer" by Joseph Finder

Book Cover - The Fixer

 

 

Set in Boston. What a premise!
Read review here.

 

 

 

 

"The Switch" by Joseph Finder

Book Cover - The Switch - Joseph Finder

 

 

Michael Tanner picks up the wrong laptop computer in the airport. After he finds out who the owner is, does he do the right thing? HA!!! Great story!

 

 

 

 

 

"Phantom Instinct"  by Meg Gardiner

Book Cover - Phantom Instinct - Meg Gardiner

 

Gardiner always delivers edgy, complex plots. The lead character should have her own series.
Read review here.

 

 

 

 

"UnSub"  by Meg Gardiner

Book Cover - UnSub - Meg Gardiner

 

 

Stay awake reading at its best. Serial killer topic. Keep the lights on!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"The Second Life of Nick Mason"  by Steve Hamilton

Book Cover - The Second Life of Nick Mason

 

 

Astonishing new series. Adult topics. Pages fly by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Orphan X"  by Gregg Hurwitz

Book Cover - Orphan X

 

 

 

Excellent read. Adult topics. Another page-turner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Signal"  by Patrick Lee

Book Cover - Signal

 

 

Where does the signal originate? Slam dunk great!
Read review here.

 

 

 

 

 

"The Heist"  by Daniel Silva

Book Cover - The Heist by Daniel Silva

 

 

Intriguing international art heist. Spies included.
Read review here.

 

 

 

 

 

If you have a favorite thriller not listed above, let us know in the comments below.  🙂  Happy reading the killer thrillers for the beach!

 

 

 

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“The 7th Canon” by Robert Dugoni

 

 

The 7th Canon of the American Bar Association code: “A lawyer should represent a client zealously within the bounds of the law.” Whenever that phrase is uttered in any media platform, it’s a dead giveaway that the case under consideration will be challenging. The defendant is in a lot of trouble and we, the audience, are in for a thrill ride.

 

Peter Donley, three years out of law school, is working for his Uncle Lou’s law firm in the Tenderloin section of San Francisco, not the best address in town. He is indebted to his uncle for helping him and his mother at a rough time in their lives and is grateful for the job, but a growing family dictates that it is time to move on. He has a plum offer and is about to give his uncle notice, when Lou is hospitalized with a heart attack.

 

Uncle Lou's biggest client is the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and when one of the priests is charged with the murder of a teenager in his care, as well as possible pornographic acts, Donley catches the case, since Lou will need time to recover. The assignment looks dicey, but Donley owes it to his uncle to follow the 7th canon.

 

Father Tom Martin, complete with shaved head, an earring, and a tattoo, is not the typical parish priest, but he’s just right for the boys’ shelter in the Tenderloin. He’s been the dedicated champion of this safe haven for street kids for years. The disconnect? The evidence points to the priest; there is blood everywhere and Tom had opportunity, if not motive. Thing is, he says he didn’t do it.

 

Fr. Tom is being railroaded, but why? And why is everyone in such a rush to file the motions and convict the guy?

 

Donley must deal with the murdered teen, elusive complicit witnesses, and the evidence found at the scene, all pushing him to his emotional limits. In the process, Donley’s personal demons are forced to the surface, and Dugoni delivers another complex central character. An ambitious DA, the Chief Prosecutor, the former Governor of California, and a cop gunning for revenge, are among the tightly drawn supporting cast. There are lots of secrets with people very interested in hiding them, and we are reminded that evil often wears a suit and tie.

 

This book (a dozen versions ago) was written before the critically acclaimed David Sloane series, but placed in a drawer in favor of other novels that were published at the time. “The 7th Canon” is a standalone novel, but fans of Dugoni since the beginning will recognize certain similarities between the Sloane/Jenkins team and the Donley/Ross team. It’s great fun to see the differences in personalities, and how they approach the cases, as well as the impact that their backgrounds have on their behavior and life choices. Fun fact: “The 7th Canon” is set in the late 1980s, so no emails or cellphones figure into the plot.

 

Politics, sex, police procedure, religion, abuse, and the courtroom, make for a powerful combination, and Dugoni has woven a masterful tapestry of suspense.

 

“The 7th Canon” is a finalist in the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award Fiction Adult Thriller category.  Well deserved!

 

*Note: contains adult situations/themes and sporadic adult language.

 

Read my review of “In the Clearing” here.

 

Please visit www.robertdugoni.com for information about Dugoni’s appearances, his awards, and his other terrific books. Read ‘em all, folks.  🙂

 

 

 

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2017 ITW Thriller Writers Awards

 

ThrillerFest_2017

Thriller writers bring us thrills and chills, keep us awake long into the wee hours of the morning and leave us begging for more. You’re also likely to see many of them on top mystery writer lists all over the world. Once again, there are amazing finalists for the ITW Thriller Writers Awards. Take a look at the nominees and winners (indicated in red):

 

BEST HARDCOVER NOVEL

Megan Abbott – “You Will Know Me”
Reed Farrel Coleman – “Where It Hurts”
Noah Hawley – “Before the Fall”

Laura McHugh – “Arrowood”
Ben H. Winters – “Underground Airlines”

 


BEST FIRST NOVEL

Bob Bickford – “Deadly Kiss”
J.L. Delozier – “Type and Cross”
David McCaleb – “Recall”
Nicholas Petrie – “The Drifter”
E.Z. Rinsky – “Palindrome”

 

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL NOVEL

Robert Dugoni – “In the Clearing”
Anne Frasier – “The Body Reader”
Paul Kemprecos – “The Minoan Cipher”
Jonathan Maberry – “Kill Switch” 
Stephen Maher – “Salvage”

 

BEST E-BOOK ORIGINAL NOVEL

James Scott Bell – “Romeo’s Way”
Sean Black – “The Edge of Alone”
Sibel Hodge – “Untouchable”    
J.F. Penn – “Destroyer of Worlds”
Richard Thomas – “Breaker”

 

Please visit www.thrillerwriters.org for the nominees and winners in the YA and Short Story categories.

 

Congratulations to all the finalists and winners of the International Thriller Writer Awards! The 2017 winners were announced at the ThrillerFest XII banquet, held on July 15, 2017 in New York City.

 

 

 

 

 

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“Dry Bones” by Craig Johnson

 

book-cover-dry-bones
 

Jen, a T-Rex and the center of the controversy in “Dry Bones,” is the largest specimen of its type ever found and it shows up in Sheriff Walt Longmire’s county. Longmire deals with all kinds of victims, but a dinosaur? That’s a new kind of cold case.

 

A skeleton of this importance would be a windfall for the local museum, but first Longmire must figure out if the High Plains Dinosaur Museum has the right to claim Jen as its own. When the Cheyenne owner of the ranch where Jen was found turns up dead, things get complicated. It’s possible that the T-Rex belongs to the Cheyenne Nation…or the federal government…or the family of the guy who died.

 

Tribal rights, family inheritance, federal property or just a really nice set of bones to display? An acting Deputy Attorney is out to make a name for himself and seems to feel that photo ops are more important than catching the bad guys or finding kidnap victims. But, he’s not the only one with priorities a tad off center in "Dry Bones." More people are interested in who gets the dinosaur than the circumstances behind the death of Danny Lone Elk. 

 

With Jen crowding Walt’s holding cells while ownership is being determined, and the interested parties holding Walt’s office hostage, the Sheriff realizes that the only way he can get back to the business for which he was elected is to solve the mystery of Danny Lone Elk’s death and find the gal (also Jen) who discovered the T-Rex to begin with.

 

It’s a circus.

 

There are helicopter forays into the back country, harrowing visits to an old mine, entertaining interactions with ever wise-cracking Lucien, Henry Standing Bear saving the day as only he can, and more near misses for Walt than our hearts can stand. Did I mention bullets flying? And the terrifying prospect of Walt taking care of his grand-daughter? He’s not afraid of many bad guys, but the little one? Waaay too funny.

 

We are treated to Craig Johnson’s dry wit, in several LOL scenes, with Walt’s delivery always perfectly timed. A man of few words, but good ones.

 

In real life, that entire region of the country is an active dinosaur bone recovery area with several universities and museums conducting legitimate digs. People love a cool dinosaur, so finding the big ones can cement the reputation – and therefore the funding – of an institution for many years.

 

In “Dry Bones,” Johnson explores the ethics of taking artifacts away from the people upon whose land they were found. It’s not just dino bones that are being removed from their place of origin. World-wide, governments are seeking to recover long lost treasures robbed from centuries old graves, temples, and ruins. Find the treasures? Great. Remove them from the place of origin without permission or proper compensation? These days, that’s a long jail term in the making.

 

Read Craig Allen Johnson’s Author Profile here.

 

Read the review of “The Cold Dish” here.

 

Read the review of “Kindness Goes Unpunished” here.

 

Please visit www.craigallenjohnson.com for lots of information about Mr. Johnson and his work, his future appearances, and his online store.

 

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