Category Archives: legal thrillers

SE-RART Meeting April 15 in Quincy — Legal Thrillers

cover imageThe Southeastern Reader’s Advisory Roundtable met at the Thomas Crane Public Library on April 15th to talk about the mystery subgenre of legal thrillers (and legal mysteries).

Group members were reminded about the upcoming genre overview webinars  from MLS: Genre Blends on May 14, at 11 a.m. and New Adult on June 11, at 11 a.m. These webinars and others related to reader’s advisory are all recorded and available for listening to from the MLS Reader’s Advisory LibGuide. SE-RART co-leader Miki recently did a wonderful Fantasy webinar, and Laurie did one in October on the Horror genre. Everyone was reminded to subscribe to the blog to get an email alert on new posts. (While you’re here, you can check out the blogs of the other RA Roundtables or find them through the MLS Libguide.) There is also a reader’s advisory track of workshops and presentations each day of the upcoming Massachusetts Library Association conference.

Group members shared tips with each other. The comprehensive Web site Stop, You’re Killing Me was recommended as a good resource for reader’s advisory. A mystery book club theme of “First in a Series” was suggested as a way of introducing readers to new authors. Two mystery display ideas were mentioned:

  • “Whodunit First?” – display first books in series with an index card included listing the series titles
  • Use crime scene tape to make an outline of a body on the floor or rug in front of a mystery display

We discussed the following readings:

  1. Saricks, Joyce. Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction, 2nd ed., pp. 71-90
    b. Charles, John, et al. The Mystery Readers’ Advisory, 2nd ed., pp. 33-5
  2. The Readers’ Advisor Online: Order in the Court: Legal Thrillers
  3. Top Ten Legal Thriller Novels (a lawyer’s take on the topic)
  4. . Optional reading: Collins to Grisham: A Brief History of the Legal Thriller

We started out talking about the differences the second reading points out between “legal thrillers” and “legal mysteries” and how distinctions like these will or won’t help us as reader’s advisors. (In that reading, we read that books like The Firm combine “the appeal of the legal profession for plot and character purposes with the fast pacing and high level of suspense and danger associated with thrillers. This is what truly distinguishes books that are legal thrillers from those that are legal mysteries.”)

The group discussion touched back frequently to our earlier discussion on suspense vs. thriller and the benchmark title, The Firm by John Grisham, also came up frequently. Everyone agreed that the window into the legal field that a legal thriller or mystery provides was a real draw for readers, when someone pointed out the fascination with that profession evidenced in popular books, movies, and TV shows. Going along with this, another group member pointed out that the inside view of the legal profession gained by reading, was like a shortcut to a law degree. “You can be a lawyer when you read it.” It was also suggested that the two major murder trials taking place in Boston this month might spur more interest in reading legal thrillers.

Most in the group had not read The Firm before this, and there were mixed feelings about it how it has held up almost 25 years after being published in 1991, but all agreed that they could see the appeal of the book’s fast pace, flawed main character, and inside view of a corrupt law firm. Someone pointed out that John Grisham’s style became less wordy in later books. Someone else recommended A Time to Kill as the better book for courtroom scenes (which The Firm didn’t have) and that brought about a discussion of how much do we as reader’s advisors need to know or can know about “triggers” in specific books (types of crime that would disturb particular readers.)

Thank you very much to Galen and Theresa for the lovely breakfast spread and for hosting the April SE-RART meeting! The next meeting will be Monday, June 8, 10-12, at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood.

Click here for the April 15th (Legal Thrillers) meeting agenda.

Click here for the discussion questions on the readings.

Click here for the reader’s advisory discussion questions on The Firm.

Click here for mystery & thriller discussion questions from Reading Group Guides that might come in handy for book club leaders who need ideas for questions.