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.”

 

 

New York Times Notable Non-fiction – 2018

 

The New York Times Notable Non-fiction of 2018 list consists of books selected by the editors of the NYT Book Review. It contains a mix of biographies, insights into historical American subjects, along with books that deal with contemporary societal issues. Here are ten of the NYT Notable Non-fiction Book Review editors’ selections for 2018. Click on the book titles to read the reviews.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arthur Ashe: A Life”  by Raymond Arsenault.  

 

 

“Boom Town: The Fantastical Saga of Oklahoma City” by Sam Anderson

 

American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey Into the Business of Punishment”  by Shane Bauer

 

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup”  by John Carreyrou

 

Ali: A Life”  by Jonathan Eig

 

American Dialogue: The Founders and Us”  by Joseph J. Ellis

 

Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America”  by Eliza Griswold

 

Brothers of the Gun: A Memoir of the Syrian War”  by Marwan Hisham and Molly Crabapple

 

“American Eden: David Hosack, Botany and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic” by Victoria Johnson

 

Churchill: Walking With Destiny” by Andrew Roberts

 

Calypso”  by David Sedaris                                   

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

“Ransom River” by Meg Gardiner

 

Book Cover - Ransom River

In Meg Gardiner’s “Ransom River,” lawyer Rory Mackenzie reluctantly returns home to Ransom River, California, after funding for the charity for which she worked, dries up. There was no place else to go, but her memories of the people in the place she grew up still haunt her. And she immediately gets called to jury duty on a high profile case. Not a great start to her homecoming.

 

She is chosen as juror #7 and settles in for the duration, notebook in hand. From Rory’s point of view, the capital murder case looks like an easy win for the prosecution, given the obvious false testimony of the two police officers on trial for killing a teenaged burglar. (The officers were having an affair, the teenager broke into the house on a dare, and everything went south.) The jury is watching a crucial piece of evidence, a video of the shooting itself, when two men storm the courtroom and take everyone hostage. Shotguns are very convincing persuaders as the jurors and spectators are threatened into following orders, and the casualties mount.

 

The action rapidly unfolds and the hostages are rescued, but the question remains, what did the kidnappers want? Rory had tried to signal for help from the courtroom windows and becomes a suspect for her troubles. The cops have her in their sights, needing someone to pin the courtroom debacle on. Her skanky relatives show up, and add to her misery, feigning interest in her well being, but looking as if they want to cash in on her sudden fame. The dead teenager’s father, a local crime boss, thinks she knows more than she’s telling.

 

But, Rory doesn’t know what she knows, except that the past is encroaching on the present in ways that terrify her. Seth, her old boyfriend (childhood friend and a former cop) gets involved and he’s about the only hope she has for getting at the truth. Gardiner has created another strong, yet vulnerable, young woman in Rory Mackenzie – worthy of her own series of books, although “Ransom River” is a stand-alone – and Seth is a convincing complement to her.

 

 

There are a number of twists and jaw-dropping surprises in “Ransom River,” and several well-written, deliciously slithery characters. Old friends may not actually be friends and help comes from unexpected places.

 

If I mention which people truly gave me the creeps and made me wonder if I really wanted to read into the night – that would be telling. I quashed the creepy feeling and kept going. Gardiner has a knack for writing ‘stay-awake-reading’ and I did need to find out how Rory got out of each of her dangerous situations. The reason behind the courtroom drama is much more complex than it first appears, and the ensuing action is non-stop in this intense thriller, as greed rules the day.

 

I must say that Meg Gardiner’s “Ransom River” has an ending that will blow your mind. Hopeful and a little scary at the same time.

 

Read my review of Ms. Gardiner's "The Memory Collector," here.

Please visit www.meggardiner.com for more information about her recent book releases, awards and appearances.

 

 

 

 

“The Conviction” by Robert Dugoni

 

Book Cover - CONVICTION

 

Top Seattle attorney, David Sloane, may be at home in the courtroom and able to outsmart his opponents, but he is out of his element when dealing with his troubled stepson.

 

Sloane’s wife has died and he has relinquished custody of his stepson to Jake’s biological father who lives in California, a move that has confused and angered Jake. “The Conviction” opens with Jake’s future at stake after he has been arrested for public intoxication (for the second time) and property damage. The judge decides to give him one last chance to straighten himself out in rehab or else go to jail. She assigns responsibility for Jake’s attendance to Sloane and they head back to Seattle.

 

Rather than re-bonding with his stepfather, Jake remains sullen and resentful. He’s back in the house where he witnessed his mother being murdered and can’t get past his grief and rage. When Jake and David are invited to go on a camping trip with an old friend and detective, Tom Molia, and his son, T.J., it looks as if a week in the woods might be a great way to reconnect with this young stranger that David no longer understands.

 

But instead, Jake tries to buy beer and cigarettes with fake ID on the first day of the trip, and drags T.J. along with him. The storeowner confiscates the ID, but the boys return later and break in, taking liquor and a rifle along with the recovered ID. Of course, they get caught by the police soon after, but not before they get drunk and shoot up the woods close to town. Sounds like a mess, with T.J. a reluctant participant, driven by his need to be accepted.

 

The boys are tried, convicted and sentenced to time in a local juvenile detention center (Fresh Start) before their fathers even know they’re missing from their room. That’s only the beginning of the nightmare that ensues.

 

The fathers attempt to get Jake and T.J. retried and released, or at least moved to a facility closer to home, but are stymied by the cops and judge in this small California town that seem to skirt constitutional rights. Sloane and Molia suspect corruption, but with what motive, what payoff?

 

Dugoni delivers an alarming story of a juvenile legal system gone horribly wrong, with teenaged inmates working as virtual slaves in boot camps, rather than receiving the rehab and guidance advertised in the fancy brochures. He takes a look at teens who make poor choices despite the help available, and the serious consequences awaiting them. Dugoni never implies that Jake and T.J. should not be punished for their actions, merely that they be counseled on their rights and then sentenced appropriately.

 

At Fresh Start, Jake grows up quickly when he discovers that something more is going on at the camp beyond their re-education, and that knowledge could get him and T.J. killed before David can get them out. The parallel plotline of the fathers trying to free the boys, while working against the clock and being threatened themselves, is gripping.

 

“The Conviction” moves from legal suspense to thriller mode in this pulse-pounding, page-turning, sleep-robbing tale. I had several ‘gasp’ moments as Dugoni built tension and advanced the dramatic story.

 

There are no false notes. Jake’s ability to deal with whatever is thrown at him physically, is set up early on and the action involving the supporting characters is completely believable, given their backgrounds. Those supporting characters, whether adults who oppose (or side with) Sloane and Molia, or teens who battle (or help) Jake and T.J., are so clearly drawn that I kept casting them in a movie in my mind’s eye.

 

This is the fifth book in the David Sloane series and in my opinion, the best so far.

 

Read the review of "Wrongful Death" here. Go to www.robertdugoni.com for information about all of his projects and where you can catch his next terrific writing class.

 

 

“Guilt by Association” by Marcia Clark

 

Book Cover - Guilt by Association

Rachel Knight is an L.A. prosecutor in the Special Trials unit of the D.A.s office. She handles hi-pressure, complex, high-profile situations, a job that never seems to have down time. She’s top in her unit, winning tough cases because of her ability to outsmart the defense attorneys and to see that justice is done. She’s a workaholic and she loves every minute.

 

When one of her closest colleagues, Jake Pahlmeyer, is found dead in a rat-hole of a motel, next to a teen whose nude photo Jake had in his pocket, Knight is profoundly shaken. She doesn’t believe any of the rumors flying around and seeks to find a reasonable explanation for Jake’s presence at the grim crime scene. She has little support – she’s even told to stay out of the inquiry more than once. But, of course, she can’t.

 

Jake’s cases are divided up and Knight is given one of his toughest – the rape of the daughter of a politically connected doctor. The doctor points the finger at a gang member the daughter was tutoring, but Knight, ever the skeptic, feels the facts don’t support the ‘too-easy’ theory. The family lives in a gated community, so access is limited and checked. It’s a mystery that needs to be solved before an innocent young man, however gang-connected, is railroaded.

 

As we get to know the quick-tongued, extremely bright Rachel Knight, we realize that she will never let the opinions of others slow her down, that she will protect the victims, that she is tough-skinned, but soft-hearted when it comes to the children and underdogs in the cases before her. She is shot at, threatened, bruised, finds her car vandalized, is compelled to wear a bulletproof vest, and yet still keeps after the truth in the two puzzling investigations. 

 

Yes, THAT Marcia Clark, has written a taut, complex legal thriller in “Guilt by Association” that never sets foot in the courtroom. Clark brings her prosecuting experience into play as we follow Knight through the gang areas of L.A. and in and out of jails, as Knight plays ‘bend-the-rules’ to her advantage even with the threat of suspension hanging over her head, as she interacts with her co-workers, as she navigates the surprising twists and turns of the sometimes ugly story of life on the street.

 

The supporting cast in “Guilt by Association” is fully developed and as interesting as Rachel Knight. The beautiful, commitment-phobic Special Trials lawyer Toni, the tough-as-nails, savvy Detective Bailey Keller, the hunky cop Graden Hales, and the compelling victims – all have distinct voices and realistic parts to play in this well-written novel. As we read the banter between the friends, we see people we’d want as colleagues, people who roll their eyes at each other’s gaffes, people we’d like to see in a sequel.

 

Marcia Clark spoke at a Crimewriters’ conference I attended and I now have an autographed copy of “Guilt by Association.” Please visit www.marciaclarkbooks.com to find out more about her other Rachel Knight books, as well as the non-fiction title that explores Clark’s role in the O.J. Simpson trial.