Legal Thrillers — Second Titles

Legal Thrillers — Second Titles

cover imageTitle:  Accused (1)
Author: Lisa Scottoline
Main Appeal Factors: Humor, characters
Mystery Subgenre:
Legal Thriller
Annotation/Thoughts: Lisa Scottoline has a legal mystery series featuring an all-female law firm, Rosato and Associates, in Philadelphia. The city is one of the characters, as are the families of the lawyers. Each book features one of the lawyers as the main character and the rest as sidekicks. The first in the series is called Everywhere that Mary Went and features Mary DiNunzio.
The one I read is called Accused and also features Mary DiNunzio, an Italian-American girl, parochial-school raised, and just recently made partner in the firm. The plot is probably the most common plot for a legal thriller: a wrongful conviction. This allows the lawyers to solve the crime which wouldn’t usually happen in a case. In this case, the daughter of a rich Philadelphian was murdered at a company part six years ago and a man was found with blood on him, running from the scene. Slam dunk for the prosecution. But the sister of the victim, a thirteen-year-old beekeeping genius named Allegra doesn’t think the man did it. In fact she remembers events differently from the rest of her family. Mary and crew work hard to follow the old clues and witnesses to free the convicted man.
The hook – which makes this a match for Evanovich readers – is the humor of Mary’s family. While Mary is no Stephanie Plum (too goody-two-shoes), she does crack a lot of jokes. If you get tired of the family banter, you can just read for the mystery. The pace is slow – Scottoline is often character-driven, not page-turning fast. More cozy than dark, more humor than drama.
Readalikes might include Linda Barnes (where Boston is a character) or Margaret Maron’s Deborah Knott series where family is an important component.

cover imageTitle:  Accused (2)
Author: Lisa Scottoline
Main Appeal Factors: Plot, Sense of place (Philadelphia), Strong women characters
Mystery Subgenre:
Legal Thriller
Annotation/Thoughts: Scottoline launches right into the story with character and plot introductions in the first 2 chapters. Chapters are short with mostly dialog and the storyline is linear with major and minor plotlines that are all resolved by the end.  Violence and language are pretty minimal. The story is presented as first person narrative, told through Mary DiNunzio, a lawyer in the all women’s law firm Rosato & Associates. The firm is hired by a 13 year old girl to prove that a man who was found guilty of killing her sister is innocent.  The reader learns Mary’s strengths and weaknesses as well as her quirks as she works to  help her client.  Her driving skills are often mentioned as she travels around Philadelphia and nearby communities.  Each of the Rosato & Associates books star a different character in the law firm.  As you read more of the books, you get a fuller picture of all of the associates’ and partners’ personalities, strengths, weaknesses as well as a great idea as to how they all interact with each other.

cover imageTitle: Discretion
Author: Allison Leotta
Main Appeal Factors: setting and characters
Mystery Subgenre: Legal Thriller
Annotation/Thoughts: This legal mystery starts off with a woman thrown off the balcony of the U.S. Capitol. Assistant U.S. Attorney Anna Curtis is called to work on the case by the chief homicide prosecutor Jack Bailey. The book will appeal to those who are interested in politics and law. An attorney and a prosecutor are investigating a crime that took place in a Congressman’s office. The story begins on a Sunday and ends on a Friday. So the pace is quick. It is a thriller. The setting in Washington DC is critical to the story. One of the legal questions revolves around the question of whether privacy of the legislative branch can keep investigators from searching the Congressman’s office. The story involves a lot of action outside the court room and gives a look at life in Washington. There is also romance between Anna and Jack. The book shows women in dangerous and powerful occupations, attorney and an FBI agent. Leotta has created a series about Anna Curtin and Leotta herself is a former prosecutor from Washington DC.

cover imageTitle: But Remember Their Names
Author: Hillary Bell Locke
Main Appeal Factors: fast-paced, suspenseful, richly detailed, settings Pittsburgh, Philadelphia & New York
Mystery Subgenre:
Legal Thriller
Annotation/Thoughts: This is the first book in the Cynthia Jakubek legal thriller series. The main character, female lawyer Cynthia Jakubek, is a recent graduate of Harvard Law School who expected to work at a high powered New York law firm, but ended up as a volunteer intern at a local Pittsburgh law firm instead.
There is very little graphic violence with just enough murder and mayhem to move the story along. Interest is generated more with the intrigue of the mystery and how lawyer Cynthia (Jake) Jackubek goes about solving the mystery. The back story involving the unsolved Isabella Stewart Gardner art heist is featured as a possible red herring connected to the murder of  wealthy local philanthropist and art connoisseur T. Colfax Bradshaw would interest Massachusetts readers. Attention was paid to his wife and daughter as suspects in his murder.
The Battle of Lexington introducing the mystery caught my attention, but there was very little of American history as part of the story. The book kept my interest throughout and I would recommend it to readers who prefer gentle thrillers, but more exciting than cozy mysteries. There are enough legal details for those who enjoy mysteries involving lawyers, but not too much to distract from the action of the story. The story lines of working class ethnic family life contrasted with high society as well as contemporary romance added color to the characters.

cover imageTitle: Final Jeopardy
Author: Linda Fairstein
Main Appeal Factors:  Female protagonist, setting (Martha’s Vineyard)
Mystery Subgenre:
Legal Thriller
Annotation/Thoughts: The title plays off the fact that Alexandra Cooper, Assistant DA of Sex Crimes in NYC and a police inspector try to stump each other with Jeopardy questions. Alexandra (Alex) lets a movie star friend of a friend (Isabella) stay at her vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard where she in murdered.  Cops think it was Alex who died, so begins the investigation into who killed Isabella and were they trying to kill her or Alex.
Fast paced, with good banter between cops and Alex.  Toss in a handsome, world traveling boyfriend (Jedd) with a stalker from his past and the plot thickens as the cops find pictures of Jedd and Isabella on the ferry ride to the Vineyard.

cover imageTitle: Open and Shut
Author: David Rosenfelt
Main Appeal Factors:  humor, fast pace, suspense
Mystery Subgenre:
Legal Thriller
Annotation/Thoughts: Two years ago, defense attorney Andy Carpenter’s father asked him to take on the death row appeal of a man he himself had prosecuted as the New Jersey D.A. five years earlier. A secret inheritance and mysterious photo make Andy wonder how well he knew his father, but between the unusually short preparation period for the appeal case; an aborted romance with his private investigator, Laurie; the return of his estranged wife, Nicole; and the death threats he starts to receive, Andy is under pressure to figure out who actually did commit the murder his client was accused of. Although humorous, the language in spots and the descriptions of the murder itself are too gritty for this to be considered a cozy. The first-person point of view and present tense keeps the suspense level high, while Andy’s wise-cracking and grandstanding make the case preparation and courtroom scenes entertaining.
Open and Shut is the first in a ongoing series now at #12.  Tara, Andy’s dog, doesn’t play as much of a role as the book implied, but Tara may become more of a character as the series goes along. The author has also written some standalone thrillers, but all of the books in the Andy Carpenter series have a dog on the front cover. I would suggest Open and Shut to readers who like Michael Connelly’s Mickey Haller series and also to readers who like John Grisham, who tries for a similar style of sardonic humor in The Firm but isn’t as funny.

coverTitle: To Kill a Mockingbird
Author: Harper Lee
Main Appeal Factors:  Strong-willed female protagonist, gentle despite difficult subject matter, addresses issues of racial injustice and prejudice against outsiders, Pulitzer Prize winner
Mystery Subgenre:
Legal Thriller
Annotation/Thoughts: Set during the Great Depression, To Kill a Mockingbird focuses on a 6-year-old girl named Scout who lives in Maycomb, Alabama. Scout’s father, Atticus Finch, is a lawyer who is assigned to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a young white woman. The climate of racism and prejudice in the Deep South makes this a dangerous situation not only for Tom, but also for Atticus and his family. Meanwhile, Scout, her brother Jem, and their friend Dill are absorbed in trying to lure the town recluse, Boo Radley, from his house. Full of tragedy, bravery in the face of great adversity, and unlikely heroes.


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