One of my favorite reads while growing up was the series of novels by Erle Stanley Gardner featuring the famed defense attorney Perry Mason (and his confidential secretary Della Street). Not sure if I read all 52 titles in the series, but I sure came close; I remember excitedly borrowing a title from the circulating library in my neighborhood and eagerly devouring them. John Grisham, another master of legal thrillers, became another perennial favorite of mine.
The genre of legal thrillers is perennially popular and appeals to a wide audience. This is because they deliver excitement, feature complex characters, have unpredictable legal twists and there is usually a who or whydunnit mystery threaded throughout. In addition you get a look at the inner working and complexities of the justice system from characters working in the legal profession and/or by watching a case in court, or as it’s being prepared for trial.
HBO is releasingits adaptation of Perry Mason set in 1932 L.A. and Defending Jacob on Apple Tv Plus is a well made adaptation of the legal mystery novel.
Here are some great legal thrillers available as ebooks or audiobooks which offer legal suspense and courtroom drama without requiring you to report to jury duty!
A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr
This true story of an epic courtroom showdown, where two of the nation’s largest corporations were accused of causing the deaths of children from water contamination. It is the searing, compelling tale of a legal system gone awry—one in which greed and power fight an unending struggle against justice. Yet it is also the story of how one man can ultimately make a difference. Representing the bereaved parents, the unlikeliest of heroes emerges: a young, flamboyant Porsche-driving lawyer who hopes to win millions of dollars and ends up nearly losing everything, including his sanity. The movie version is available on Hoopla.
The Color of Law by Mark Gimenez
In this riveting, unputdownable legal thriller, a partner at a prominent law firm is forced to choose between his enviable lifestyle and doing the right thing. Former college football star Scott Fenney has worked his way to the top of the heap at the Dallas firm of Ford Stevens. But when Clark McCall, wayward son of a Texas politician, gets himself murdered after a night of booze, drugs, and rough sex, Scott is assigned to defend the prime suspect, a heroine-addicted hooker named Shawanda Jones. The powers that be want her convicted—and Scott’s future at the firm may depend on it. But unfortunately for Scott, Shwanada claims she’s innocent, and he believes her.
A Covenant with Death by Stephen Becker
Set in a small New Mexico town in 1923, this New York Times bestseller dramatizes the clash between frontier justice and the ethical imperatives of the modern courtroom. When Bryan Talbot is convicted of murdering his adulterous wife, 29-year-old judge Ben Lewis must carry out the death sentence, despite his strong misgivings about the case. But a shocking turn of events will force Lewis to reckon not just with his duty to the law, but with his own fate. A thrilling suspense story and a fascinating inquiry into human nature and the true meaning of justice, A Covenant with Death was a New York Times bestseller and the basis for a feature film starring George Maharis and Gene Hackman.
Crime of Privilege by Walter Walker
A stunning thriller about power, corruption, and the law in America—and the dangerous ways they come together.
Defending Jacob by William Landay
In this suspense filled thriller assistant district attorney Andy Barber’s 14-year-old son Jacob is accused of a killing; the victim is a classmate of Jacob’s and a bully, but Andy would rather the police focus their investigation on a local pedophile. When new evidence emerges, however, Jacob is arrested and brought to trial. Landay, a former prosecutor, brings an intimate knowledge of the law to the courtroom scenes and paints a realistic portrait of a family in crisis.
The Holdout by Graham Moore
It’s the most sensational case of the decade. Fifteen-year-old Jessica Silver, heiress to a billion-dollar real estate fortune, vanishes on her way home from school, and her teacher, Bobby Nock, a twenty-five-year-old African American man, is the prime suspect. The subsequent trial taps straight into America’s most pressing preoccupations: race, class, sex, law enforcement, and the lurid sins of the rich and famous. It’s an open-and-shut case for the prosecution, and a quick conviction seems all but guaranteed—until Maya Seale, a young woman on the jury, convinced of Nock’s innocence, persuades the rest of the jurors to return the verdict of not guilty, a controversial decision that will change all their lives forever.
Lincoln’s Last Trial–The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency by David Fisher & Dan Abrams
The true story of Abraham Lincoln’s last murder trial, a case in which he had a deep personal involvement—and which played out in the nation’s newspapers as he began his presidential campaign. At the end of the summer of 1859, twenty-two-year-old Peachy Quinn Harrison went on trial for murder in Springfield, Illinois. Lincoln, who had been involved in more than three thousand cases—including more than twenty-five murder trials—during his two-decades-long career, was hired to defend him. This was to be his last great case as a lawyer. The book captures the presidential hopeful’s dramatic courtroom confrontations in vivid detail as he fights for his client—but also for his own blossoming political future.
The Rule of Law: Dismas Hardy by John Lescroart
Attorney Dismas Hardy is called to defend the least likely suspect of his career: his longtime, trusted assistant who is suddenly being charged as an accessory to murder.
The Last Trial by Scott Turow
By bestselling lawyer-author Scott Turow, this is a “brilliant courtroom chess match” about a celebrated criminal defense lawyer and the prosecution of his lifelong friend. At eighty-five years old, Alejandro “Sandy” Stern, a brilliant defense lawyer with his health failing but spirit intact, is on the brink of retirement. But when his old friend Dr. Kiril Pafko, a former Nobel Prize winner in Medicine, is faced with charges of insider trading, fraud, and murder, his entire life’s work is put in jeopardy, and Stern decides to take on one last trial. Stern’s duty to defend his client and his belief in the power of the judicial system both face a final, terrible test in the courtroom, where the evidence and reality are sometimes worlds apart.
The Lincoln Lawyer: Mickey Haller Series, Book 1 by Michael Connelly
For defense attorney Mickey Haller, the clock is always running. With two ex-wives, four Lincoln Town Cars that he uses as offices, and dozens of guilty clients, he can’t afford to miss a trick. When he gets picked by a Beverly Hills rich boy arrested for assault, Mickey sees a franchise case: a nice, long, expensive trial with maximum billable hours—until it hurtles him into the last place he wants to be. Suddenly hustling, cynical Mickey Haller is confronted with pure evil and someone who may be truly innocent. To save an innocent man’s life, Haller will have to bend the law to its breaking point. Full of gritty details, dark humor, and high-stakes action by a master of suspense.
Mistaken Identity by Lisa Scottoline
Bennie Rosato, head of an all-female law firm, has built her career on taking down dirty cops. So when her newest client, accused cop-killer Alice Connolly, says that her murdered police detective boyfriend was dealing drugs, Bennie believes her. What the crusading attorney has a harder time accepting is Alice’s claim that she and Bennie are identical twins. A DNA test will solve the mystery, but in the meantime, Bennie has to save Alice from the electric chair. This is a standout entry in the Rosato & Associates series, which consistently delivers thrills, romance, and intense courtroom scenes by another bestselling author of legal fiction.
Best selling master of legal suspense, John Grisham has electrified readers with his white-knuckle narratives for more than two decades. Assembled here in a convenient eBook bundle are three of his classic legal thrillers: The Firm, the runaway hit that ignited his writing career, The Appeal, and The Chamber.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This beloved coming-of-age classic contains some of the most riveting courtroom scenes in American fiction, as Atticus Finch defends his client, Tom Robinson, from the false accusation that he raped a white woman. For millions of readers all over the world, Atticus is the embodiment of what a good lawyer should be—trustworthy, fair, and willing to stand up for what’s right, no matter the personal cost.
The Verdict by Nick Stone
Terry Flynt is a struggling legal clerk, desperately trying to get promoted. And then he is given the biggest opportunity of his career: to help defend a millionaire accused of murdering a woman in his hotel suite. The only problem is that the accused man, Vernon James, turns out to be not only someone he knows, but someone he loathes. This case could potentially make Terry’s career, but how can he defend a former friend who betrayed him so badly?With the trial date looming, Terry delves deeper into Vernon’s life and is forced to confront secrets from their shared past that could have devastating consequences for them both. For years he has wanted to witness Vernon’s downfall, but with so much at stake, how can Terry be sure that he is guilty? And what choices must he make to ensure that justice is done?
For more ebooks including some Perry Mason series titles (which I will definitely be borrowing), check out these on Hoopla.
Here some legal thrillers on screen available on Hoopla–
Song Woo-seok has no clients, connections, nor college degree, but his eye for business and appetite for money make him the most successful lawyer in town. But at the peak of his success, a local teenager is falsely accused of a crime, then beaten and tortured while waiting in jail. Shocked by these conditions, Song takes the case no one else will, and changes the course of his life.
Three young boys playing in the nearby woods never come home for dinner. In the rush to find and convict the killers, police focus on a trio of teenagers suspected of devil worship. Starring Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth, Devil’s Knot is based on the true story of the West Memphis 3.
Crime thriller starring Samuel L. Jackson and Dominic Cooper. A young district attorney sets off on a desperate mission to find the man he had previously acquitted of a fatal hit and run, realizing he did actually commit the murder.
Hannah Maynard, prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague, is leading a trial against a former commander of the Yugoslavian National Army who is accused of the deportation and later killing of dozens of Bosnian-Muslim civilians. When a key witness commits suicide, it looks like the case will unravel, however Hannah refuses to give in. Hoping to uncover new findings, she travels to the witness’ burial in Sarajevo and meets his sister Mira who she senses has much more to say than she is willing to admit. Despite threats of violence, Mira reluctantly agrees to testify at The Hague. However, she and Hannah must both risk life and limb to make it to the court, only to discover that there are traitors among their own ranks.
-Archana, Adult Services & Acquisitions Librarian