Courtroom Thrillers

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Order in the courtroom! Working within the legal system isn’t easy. Sometimes a case hits too close to home, and other times it spirals out of control. Legal-themed thrillers provide plenty of drama, plot twists, and suspense to keep you turning the pages.

Try one of the following titles, available from the JMRL catalog:

The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore – In this historical thriller about the nature of genius, the cost of ambition, and the battle to electrify America, a young lawyer fresh out of Columbia Law School takes a case that seems impossible to win. His client, George Westinghouse, has been sued by Thomas Edison over who invented the light bulb.

A Time to Stand by Robert Whitlow – After leaving her firm in Atlanta, African American attorney Adisa returns home where she takes on a case defending a police officer who shot an unarmed black teen, which forces both herself and her community to confront prejudices, justice, and forgiveness.

The Defense by Steve Cavanagh – Using skills gleaned from his past as a con man to pursue a legal career, Eddie Flynn turns his back on the legal system after a disastrous case only to be drawn back to the courtroom when the Russian mob in New York kidnaps his young daughter.

The Ex by Alafair Burke – Agreeing to defend her long-ago ex-fiancé when he is arrested for a triple homicide involving his wife’s murderer, a top criminal lawyer confronts formidable doubts in the face of mounting evidence.

Testimony by Scott Turow – Assigned to investigate the unsolved disappearance of an entire Gypsy refugee camp during the Bosnian War, a disillusioned American prosecutor navigates a host of suspects while uncovering disturbing alliances and betrayals.

Snap Judgement by Marcia Clark – When the daughter of a prominent lawyer is murdered and the prime suspect, the ex-boyfriend, dies under suspicious circumstances days later, attorney Samantha Brinkman investigates and discovers multiple motives for murder.

The Outsider by Anthony Franze – Intervening in a violent mugging and catching the eye of the chief justice of the U. S., a young law clerk becomes caught in the crosshairs of a serial killer in a fast-paced thriller set in the high-pressure world of the Supreme Court.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult – When her reluctance to treat the newborn of a white supremacist couple results in the child’s death, a black nurse is placed on trial and is aided by a white public defender who urges her not to bring up race in the courtroom.

“Extraordinary things are always hiding in places people never think to look.”

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The Brown Baggers book group met on Thursday, August 17 to discuss My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult.

Published in 2004, the story centers around a teenager, Kate, who suffers from leukemia and her younger sister, Anna, who was conceived as a perfect genetic match to Kate. Having been required by her parents to participate in ever more serious medical treatments to save her sister, Anna finally sues her parents for medical emancipation when she is told she next must donate a kidney.

Most readers thought Anna was a very realistic and well developed character. They noted how her struggle to win her freedom from medical procedures she did not agree to was constantly at odds with her hesitation to harm her sister by doing refusing. This constant vacillation was very indicative of her young age, readers felt, and contributed to her authenticity.

Readers felt other characters in the book were not as well developed. While they understood the mother’s struggle, and thought her single-minded-ness and need to fix everything seemed accurate, she came off as a bit of a martyr. There were mixed feelings about the brother. While readers all agreed his behaviors were believable in response to being more or less overlooked during the medical and legal drama of the sisters they debated whether or not he would have reformed so quickly and completely. The father was a more unrealistic character, readers felt, since you don’t see his struggles the same way as the rest of the family. This may have been due to his tendency to avoid confrontation but it made him seem flat. The Campbell and Julia story line was deemed entirely unnecessary by readers.

The story has several narrators. This led a few readers to speculate about the ending before it was revealed due to who had a voice and who didn’t. While they didn’t object to multiple narrators, some readers felt the styling of the text was unnecessarily flowery (italics, different fonts, poorly tied in quotes). Mostly, though, readers felt Picoult handled the reveal at the end very well.

Readers complained that Picoult had some factual inaccuracies which made them disbelieve or struggle to get into the rest of the book. The inclusion of vast amounts of medical terminology related to Kate’s condition made it hard to enjoy the story for some readers. They also did not appreciate the perfectly tied up in a bow ending.

Reactions to the book were mixed – some readers enjoyed the ethical quandaries that were posed and others thought there were too many story lines and that the writing was a little formulaic. Overall, readers agreed that while the book is over-plotted and maybe not as substantial as they’d like, it is definitely worth reading.

Similar reads:
Family Life by Akhil Sharma (featuring a medically overshadowed sibling)
Corridors of the Night by Anne Perry (featuring a medical mystery and court case)
You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott (featuring a family focused on one child, an elite gymnast)

More information:
New York Times Magazine article about Jodi Picoult
Bio of the author
Other books by Picoult
Article about a similar situation involving the Ayala Sisters that may have provided inspiration

Brown Baggers will meet again on Thursday, September 21 at noon to discuss 1984 by George Orwell.