Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Top Legal Thrillers: I Need Help!

From the messy desk of Paul Levine...

I'm putting together a list of my favorite legal thrillers, so feel free to chime in.

Coincidentally, I've come across a website called "Online Universities" that has selected its own favorites and summarizes each one in a single sentence.  Here's the one-line summary of Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," which comes in first.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" explores the implications of the cases you take on."

Yep, that's it. No mention of race, or justice, or parenting, or intolerance (and later, tolerance). Who in the name of Boo Radley wrote such a lousy description? Was the writing assignment out-sourced to Mars?

I have no problem with the choice of the novel, even though far more people remember the movie than the underlying book.

And of course, "Mockingbird" is much more than a "legal thriller." but the rape trial is surely a major element of the story. But get this...here's the one-line summary of the classic novel:

But back to the topic. Do you have any favorite legal thrillers? I am building my list.

Other, than "Mockingbird," here are some early candidates:

"Anatomy of a Murder" by Robert Traver  (That's the pen name of a former Michigan Supreme Court justice, and we were pen pals, but that's a story for another day).

"Presumed Innocent" by Scott Turow

"A Time to Kill" by John Grisham

"The Best of Rumpole" by John Mortimer (or other Rumpole stories)

"The Case of the Careless Kitten" by Erle Stanley Gardner (or other Perry Mason stories)

"The Witness for the Prosecution" by Agatha Christie (a short story and stage play, not nearly as well known as the Tyrone Power/Charles Laughton/Marlene Dietrich movie).

"The Bonfire of the Vanities" by Tom Wolfe (using an expansive definition of legal thriller).

"The Lincoln Lawyer" by Michael Connelly

"Defending Jacob" by William Landay

"QB VII" by Leon Uris

"Primal Fear" by William Diehl

"Gone, but Not Forgotten" by Phillip Margolin

"The Seven Minutes" by Irving Wallace

What say you?

Paul Levine


  1. from Jacqueline

    Paul, I don't have any to add to your list, but it sure reminded me of some very good reading hours! And that description of "Mockingbird" - from a university. Now I know the education system is heading for the toilet!!

  2. Thanks for the list. There are several I haven't read. I need a book report on each! And of course, you know I love your legal thrillers.

  3. When I do my final list, I'll provide a brief description....hopefully better than the online university did with "Mockingbird."

  4. The Last Juror, by John Grisham

    The Runaway Jury, by John Grisham

    Plain Truth, by Jodi Picoult

  5. Lincoln Lawyer.

    Connelly proved he knows lawyers as well as cops.

    Jim Born

    1. All good choices. Yes, Jimbo, I think Michael Connelly really created an outstanding character with the "Lincoln Lawyer."