One for the Books: Nail-biting legal thrillers

I enjoy a good legal thriller, but it’s hard to find one that isn’t part of a series! That said, I found some exciting reads.

“Her Deadly Game” by Robert Dugoni is set in Seattle in 2023. A disabled woman is murdered in her home. Prosecuting Attorney Ambrose goes after the husband, who asks lawyer Keera Duggan to defend him. Keera is following in her famous father’s footsteps, but this will be her first time as lead defense in a major trial.

The only potential “witness” to the woman’s death is the outdoor security camera, which shows the victim had two separate visitors before hubby got home. Could one of them have done it? Did hubby kill her for their money? Did another kill her to save a reputation? Was there an affair? Did they do it together? And the big question is, why would someone kill her?

The prosecuting attorney is a man Keera had previously dated and dumped, so he’s bitter and would love to get even with her. Now, “She didn’t trust Ambrose as far as she could throw him.” His animosity and gamesmanship show her “She needed to somehow use Ambrose’s arrogance, overconfidence, and his intense desire to beat her against him.” Meanwhile, somebody using an alias is sending her on a wild goose chase … or is it?

For Keera, the trial plan is a huge chess metaphor, but the book’s theme is from Oscar Wilde: “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” The solution is a clever, complex but I-don’t-see-quite-how-it-could-work crime. Readers will have fun guessing from the weird clues. The defense figures it out at the last minute, of course, making it a bit of a nail-biter.

Part of the book’s job is to introduce the characters, as this is the first in a projected series. It’s a good story, and I like the characters, so this could be a good series to follow.

“Resurrection Walk” by Michael Connelly is the seventh in his series of Lincoln Lawyer novels.

Retired Los Angeles Police Detective Harry Bosch and lawyer Mickey Haller, fresh off a successful case that freed an innocent man, are swamped with letters from prison inmates who also claim to be wrongly convicted, begging for their legal help. Haller works pro bono for these clients as part of his innocence project, but he can get money if a freed client later sues for damages and compensation.

Bosch picks a letter or two out of the pile using his intuition that they could be innocent. For Bosch, “Something about them tells me I should at least take a further look.” Bosch “had a facility for digesting reports and being able to view the case from all angles. He could see the logic jumps as well as the discrepancies and conflicts between reports.”

They take the case of Lucinda Sanz, who was convicted of killing her ex-husband, a sheriff’s deputy. The evidence was stacked against her, so she was coerced by a bad defense lawyer to plead no contest, but she’s always proclaimed her innocence and has never changed her story. The reader can see that she’s probably innocent, but can they prove it? Can they figure out who really did it?

Intense courtroom drama, fascinating outside-the-courtroom investigations, the judge frustratingly going back and forth on ruling whether to allow evidence: This is one great read!

In “The Exchange,” author John Grisham brings back Mitch McDeere from his early bestseller, “The Firm.”

Mitch is now 41 and working in Manhattan for a huge law firm with offices around the world. There “Every lawyer was required to donate at least 10 percent of his or her time to various causes.” He’s assigned a case with a man on death row, which leads him back to Memphis, where the mess in “The Firm” happened. It’s been five years, but for Mitch and his wife, Abby, “Getting away from the place had been so frightening that they could not imagine going back for any reason.”

Then an old friend of the law firm in Rome wants Mitch’s help. His client is a Turkish construction company that’s building a bridge in Libya, but now Libya doesn’t want to pay them the $400 million it owes them. He wants Mitch to take over the case (because he’s ill). In Libya, there’s a brutal terrorist attack and an associate of the law firm is taken as a hostage. With gruesome threats, the kidnappers demand a huge ransom or the hostage will be killed. Mitch is in charge of finding the payoff money, and soon his life and the lives of his family are in danger.

This is a fun story, with Mitch traveling all over the place. Grisham’s work is just a gift to readers. It’s so easy to read; the words just glide by smoothly and you don’t want to put the book down.

Grisham implies that there will be another book featuring Mitch McDeere. I’m in!

Happy reading!

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Mary Louise Ruehr is a books columnist for The Portager. Her One for the Books column previously appeared in the Record-Courier, where she was an editor.