Tag Archives: legal suspense fiction

Audiobook Review: The Confession

18 May

In 1998, in the small East Texas city of Sloan, Travis Boyette abducted, raped, and strangled a popular high school cheerleader. He buried her body so that it would never be found, then watched in amazement as police and prosecutors arrested and convicted Donté Drumm, a local football star, and marched him off to death row.

Now nine years have passed. Travis has just been paroled in Kansas for a different crime; Donté is four days away from his execution. Travis suffers from an inoperable brain tumor. For the first time in his miserable life, he decides to do what’s right and confess. But how can a guilty man convince lawyers, judges, and politicians that they’re about to execute an innocent man?

 

John Grisham is an American bestselling writer, attorney, politician, and activist best known for his popular legal thrillers. His books have been translated into 42 languages and published worldwide.

John Grisham graduated from Mississippi State University before attending the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1981. He practiced criminal law for about a decade and served in the House of Representatives in Mississippi from January 1984 to September 1990.

His first novel, A Time to Kill, was published in June 1989, four years after he began writing it. As of 2012, his books have sold over 275 million copies worldwide. A Galaxy British Book Awards winner, Grisham is one of only three authors to sell 2 million copies on a first printing.

Grisham’s first bestseller, The Firm, sold more than seven million copies. The book was adapted into a 1993 feature film of the same name, starring Tom Cruise, and a 2012 TV series which “continues the story of attorney Mitchell McDeere and his family 10 years after the events of the film and novel”. Eight of his other novels have also been adapted into films: The Chamber, The Client, A Painted House, The Pelican Brief, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, Skipping Christmas, and A Time to Kill.

 

My Impressions:

Anticipating a very long plane trip, I looked for an audiobook that would keep me engaged and interested and would last long enough to get me through the return flight. My thoughts immediately went to a John Grisham novel. I like Grisham for a number of reasons, one being that his books never fail to entertain. I chose The Confession, a title that already resided on my shelf (my husband read it years ago). It was a great choice. Not only did it make the miles literally fly by, but it challenged and expanded my beliefs on capital punishment. A controversial topic to be sure, The Confession examines what it means if an innocent man is sentenced to death. All aspects are included: the media circus, the political climate, the heartbreak of the families on both sides, and the spiritual implications of the ultimate punishment. The story is full of twists and turns, the characters are intriguing, and the subject matter handled in a mostly even-handed manner. I think it is safe to say that Grisham writes from an anti-death penalty standpoint, a view that I also hold, though for probably different reasons. Grisham didn’t change my mind about anything, but he did cause me to see the whole process surrounding death penalty cases in a new light. An engrossing read, I recommend The Confession.

The story opens with a confession from career criminal Travis Boyette to a Lutheran pastor. Keith Schroeder doesn’t really know what to do with Travis or his statement that an innocent man is about to be executed in Texas. What follows is a race to bring the confession to light, something that is met with resistance and dismissal from all parties concerned. Travis and Keith are interesting main characters. They cannot be more different — one who has lived a life taking and manipulating, another who earnestly desires to do the right thing. Their unlikely partnership makes for good drama. Grisham’s portrayal of the circus that surrounds the upcoming execution rings true. Media, groupies, politicians, all make the situation bizarre and disturbing. While The Confession is not Christian fiction, three pastors make an appearance and an impact on the story. Keith’s views are, of course, front and center, but Grisham also shares the feelings and thoughts of the pastors of the victim’s family and the accused’s family. The three struggle in varying ways — also very realistic. The Confession is dark, so don’t expect a feel good ending. This book is one to make you think, whichever side of the debate you find yourself on.

The narrator did an admirable job of bringing all the voices in the novel to light, while being easy to listen to.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(I purchased the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: Fatal Accusation

3 Feb

51ys3rhhiplAttorney Olivia Murray hopes her life will get back to normal after a hard fought trial. But she soon finds out that the forces of evil have not given up their pursuit to win the hearts and minds of those in Windy Ridge.

An embezzling scandal breaks that rocks the community church to its core. The New Age groups are ready to declare victory when a high profile prosecutor files criminal charges against the local pastor. However, Olivia is not willing to give up on the community she’s come to love. She takes on the defense pro bono knowing it could destroy her career, but it’s a case that she is called to defend.

The battle will be fierce, but she’s not fighting it alone. Her friend and fellow attorney Grant Baxter is by her side. Olivia must use all the tools in her arsenal to combat those who seek to destroy the believers in the community. If Olivia can’t prove the pastor’s innocence, more than her career is on the line. The entire community of Windy Ridge could fall to the forces of darkness.

71l2nnpxbsl-_ux250_-pngRachel Dylan writes Christian fiction including inspirational romantic suspense for Love Inspired Suspense. She also writes the Danger in the Deep South series and the Windy Ridge Legal Thriller series. Trial & Tribulations is a 2016 Selah Awards Finalist. Rachel has practiced law for a decade and enjoys weaving together legal and suspenseful stories. She lives in Michigan with her husband and five furkids — two dogs and three cats. Rachel loves to connect with readers. You can find Rachel at http://www.racheldylan.com.

 

My Impressions:

The faith community of Windy Ridge is rocked by a seeming betrayal by Pastor Dan Light in Rachel Dylan’s latest legal thriller, Fatal Accusation. In this supernaturally-charged suspense novel, the reader is treated to twists and turns galore and fast-paced action. If you haven’t read book 1 in this series, Trial & Tribulation, make sure to do so first. The plot lines are continuous, so you’ll miss some really good stuff!

While the action in Fatal Accusation is front and center, characterization does not take a back seat. Olivia Murray is a great lead character — complex, with a strong faith foundation. Dylan uses her to show the power that God can exhibit through His people. Spiritual warfare is chillingly illustrated in this novel, but in a very realistic way. Perhaps that is why it makes such an impact on the reader. The battles between good and evil make this a thought-provoking page turner. I liked that Dylan resolved the legal fight Pastor Dan is involved in, but she leaves some plot lines dangling. There’s more than enough for another much anticipated book.

One theme I especially liked was the idea of God using our circumstances, both good and bad, to shape our lives and purpose. Pastor Dan finds himself in a difficult place, but realizes he is just where God wants him. That was a good reminder to me.

A quick read, Fatal Accusation is a good choice for fans of legal thrillers, and gets a recommended rating from me.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE. The Kindle version is just $3.99!

(Thanks to the author for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

Book Review: The Witnesses

12 Aug

518j31rOpsL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Young lawyer Parker House is on the rise—until his grandfather’s mysterious past puts both of their lives in danger.

Parker House’s secret inheritance is either his greatest blessing . . . or his deadliest curse. The fresh-faced North Carolina attorney shares his German grandfather’s uncanny ability to see future events in his mind’s eye—a gift that has haunted 82-year-old Frank House through decades of trying to erase a murderous wartime past.

While Parker navigates the intrigue and politics of small-town courtroom law, Frank is forced to face his darkest regrets. Then, a big career break for Parker collides with a new love he longs to nurture and the nightmares his grandfather can no longer escape. Sudden peril threatens to shatter not only Parker’s legal prospects but also his life and the lives of those dearest to him.

Two witnesses, two paths, an uncertain future.

 

512-S7U3OmL._UX250_Robert Whitlow grew up in north Georgia. He graduated magna cum laude from Furman University with a BA in history in 1976 and received his JD with honors from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1979. A practicing attorney, he is a partner in a Charlotte, NC law firm. He and his wife Kathy have four children and three grandchildren.

Robert began writing in 1996. His novels are set in the South and include both legal suspense and interesting characterization. It is his desire to write stories that reveal some of the ways God interacts with people in realistic scenerios.

 

My Impressions:

My book club never passes up a chance to read a novel by Robert Whitlow. Although he has scored a miss or two with us, he is a consistent favorite. His latest book, The Witnesses, is Whitlow at his best. We met last night to discuss the book. I have to admit that I finished it just minutes before walking out the door. Others in the group had not finished it, but had skimmed the ending so that they could join in on the discussion. (In our defense, we only had a 2 1/2 week turn around between meetings. We usually have at least a month.) The consensus was that we loved the book, and for those who had not completed it, that pleasure was on their agenda for the rest of the evening.

Parker House and his grandfather, Frank, are gifted with hunches and premonitions. Frank’s ability has led to some of his biggest regrets, while Parker, a young lawyer, has barely discovered the power and responsibility of his gift. The past, present and future collide as their need for a life lived with integrity is impacted by the expectations and demands of their world.

There is much to love about The Witnesses. Well-developed characters are easy to love (or hate as the case may be). My book club especially liked Frank who could have easily been a difficult character to connect with. As a former officer in the German army in WWII, he participated in operations against the Allies. But his deep sense of right and wrong and his conscience made him real and relatable. His story was the most engaging, yet we were heavily invested in Parker’s story, especially his relationship with Layla and her father/his boss, Tom Blocker. Elements of suspense, legal drama, and romance make this a story that will appeal to a wide audience. I had to take this book away from my husband so I could have it read by my meeting. He is a big fan of Whitlow, too, and is eager to get back to the story. The book encouraged a good bit of discussion, and the questions at the back went a long way in directing us. Faith elements are strong, including the theme of forgiveness that runs throughout the book. Whitlow uses God’s word and the words of others to impact the characters ( and his readers) and draw them closer to God. The idea of visions/intuition/premonitions was one that intrigued us and made us think more about what the Bible has to say about it. A book that points to what God says is a big winner for us.

We all loved our time spent with Frank, Parker and Layla — one member wished there could be a sequel. The Witnesses scores a unanimous thumbs up from By The Book!

Highly recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(I purchased this book. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

August Book Club Selections

1 Aug

I am excited about my book clubs’ selections this month. I have already read the Page Turners‘ selection, The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron and am hoping for a special guest to turn up at our meeting! (More to come on that later.) By The Book is reading the latest release of our favorite authors, The Witnesses by Robert Whitlow. August looks to be a very busy month, but I am up for some really good reading. Have you read either of these books? Let us know your thoughts.

51+hlwxbkcL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_An ounce of courage.

A leap of faith.

Together, they propel two young women to chase a new life—one that’s reimagined from what they might have become.

In turn-of-the-century America, a young girl dreams of a world that stretches beyond the confi nes of a quiet life on the family farm. With little more than her wit and a cigar box of treasures, Mable steps away from all she knows, seeking the limitless marvels of the Chicago World’s Fair. There, a chance encounter triggers her destiny—a life with a famed showman by the name of John Ringling.

A quarter of a century later, Lady Rosamund Easling boards a ship to America as a last adventure before her arranged marriage. There, the twenties are roaring, and the rich and famous gather at opulent, Gatsby-esque parties. The Jazz Age has arrived, and with it, the golden era of the American circus, whose queen is none other than the enigmatic Mable Ringling.

When Rosamund’s path crosses with Mable’s and the Ringlings’ glittering world, she makes the life-altering decision to leave behind a comfortable future of estates and propriety, choosing instead the nomadic life of a trick rider in the Ringling Brothers’ circus.

A novel that is at once captivating, deeply poignant, and swirling with exquisite historical details of a bygone world, The Ringmaster’s Wife will escort readers into the center ring, with its bright lights, exotic animals, and a dazzling performance that can only be described as the Greatest Show on Earth!

 

518j31rOpsL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Young lawyer Parker House is on the rise — until his grandfather’s mysterious past puts both of their lives in danger.

Parker House’s secret inheritance is either his greatest blessing . . . or his deadliest curse. The fresh-faced North Carolina attorney shares his German grandfather’s uncanny ability to see future events in his mind’s eye — a gift that has haunted 82-year-old Frank House through decades of trying to erase a murderous wartime past.

While Parker navigates the intrigue and politics of small-town courtroom law, Frank is forced to face his darkest regrets. Then, a big career break for Parker collides with a new love he longs to nurture and the nightmares his grandfather can no longer escape. Sudden peril threatens to shatter not only Parker’s legal prospects but also his life and the lives of those dearest to him.

Two witnesses, two paths, an uncertain future.

Audiobook Review: Sycamore Row

16 Jun

51QUB-bTyFL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_John Grisham takes you back to where it all began. One of the most popular novels of our time, A Time to Kill established John Grisham as the master of the legal thriller. Now we return to Ford County as Jake Brigance finds himself embroiled in a fiercely controversial trial that exposes a tortured history of racial tension.

Seth Hubbard is a wealthy man dying of lung cancer. He trusts no one. Before he hangs himself from a sycamore tree, Hubbard leaves a new, handwritten will. It is an act that drags his adult children, his black maid, and Jake into a conflict as riveting and dramatic as the murder trial that made Brigance one of Ford County’s most notorious citizens, just three years earlier. The second will raises many more questions than it answers. Why would Hubbard leave nearly all of his fortune to his maid? Had chemotherapy and painkillers affected his ability to think clearly? And what does it all have to do with a piece of land once known as Sycamore Row?

71JrhQGPrOL._UX250_John Grisham is an American bestselling writer, attorney, politician, and activist best known for his popular legal thrillers. His books have been translated into 42 languages and published worldwide.

 

My Impressions:

John Grisham’s novels never cease to provide hours of reading enjoyment. His plots keep me riveted and his characters become friends. Choosing one of his novels is always a safe bet. But in Sycamore Row, a return to Clanton, MS and Jake Brigance, Grisham has outdone himself. This novel is one of my all time favorites.

It’s been three years since the controversial case that put Jake Brigance in the spotlight. Still recovering from the trauma of a difficult trial and threats to his family, Jake needs another case to challenge him and make a little cash. When a handwritten will arrives in his mailbox, Jake knows this civil case will be like no other.

Jake Brigance is a character to love. A tenacious and principled lawyer and a confirmed family man, Jake is just a likable guy. His good looks, easy Southern charm and everyman attitude make him a favorite with townspeople and juries. Colorful characters from A Time to Kill are back in Sycamore Row, along with new characters all vying to get a piece of Seth Hubbard’s pie — lawyers, Seth’s family and the unlikely beneficiary, Letty Lang. There are plenty of villains to boo and likable, yet flawed, characters to cheer for. Race is again the emphasis in a novel set in the late 1980s, but with roots in the early years of the 20th century. Both the book and the case have twists and turns that Grisham lets the reader in on even before the main characters. And while the reader may have some doubt as to how it will all turn out, Grisham comes through. The reader will be shocked, saddened and heartened by the unfolding events.

I listened to the audiobook and was overall pleased with the reader. Being from the South, I found some of the accents a bit over the top, but that’s fairly normal for portrayals of the Southern voice. Although to be fair, I am acquainted with some real small town lawyers who do lay it on a bit thick. (Michael Beck, the reader, is from Memphis so I defer to his expertise.)

Overall, Sycamore Row is a great novel. Please note: it was published for the general market, so there are a few instances of profanity.

Highly recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(I purchased the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

Author, Author! — Rachel Dylan

12 Feb

Rachel-Dylan-200x300I am so excited to welcome romantic suspense author, Rachel Dylan to By The Book today. Take a few moments to find out what makes this talented author tick as well as exciting new releases coming up. (You can click on the pictures of Rachel’s books for my reviews and to find information on how to purchase them.)

By The Book — Many authors say that they have always been a writer — making up stories as a child. When did you first become a writer?

Rachel Dylan — I think I have always been a writer. As a child, I was a voracious reader. I gobbled up books left and right. I started writing stories and poems in elementary school. Everyone in high school assumed I was going to become an English professor. It didn’t turn out quite like that, but writing has always been a part of who I am.

BTB — Was there a special someone, such as a teacher, parent, or other relative, who encouraged you to pursue writing?

Rachel — I had many teachers along the way starting in elementary school that encouraged my love of reading and writing. My parents were also both very supportive of my writing. Currently, my family and friends are all a great source of support and motivation for me.

unknown11BTB — Your books always contain a strong Christian message. Do you have a particular motivation to write books that contain faith threads?

Rachel — Actually, I do. The first couple of novels I ever wrote were secular novels. But I felt convicted to change my path and write books that had a strong faith message. God was tugging at my heart to take a different direction. I went through some struggles in my personal life that led me to really reevaluate things. And I wanted to use the talents God had given me to write Christian fiction. I made that commitment and have been thoroughly blessed by doing so. Looking back over my writing career, I can now see God working in ways that at the time I had no idea about.

BTB — What does a typical writing day look like? Are you structured or informal in your writing schedule?

Rachel — Because I still work full time as a lawyer, most of my actual writing is done on the weekends. I usually get up very early on Saturday morning and work all day. It is a tough schedule given my lawyer hours, but I love writing and I feel like it’s a form of ministry for me. I get that fiction is entertainment, but I really want my books to have a purpose beyond entertainment.

BTB — Your most recent books, Lethal Action and Trial and Tribulations, involve legal drama, romance and suspense. What is your motivation for writing in this genre? How does your experience as an attorney impact or influence your writing? 


514miqr2z6l-_sx311_bo1204203200_Rachel — Writing books with legal themes is a natural fit for me. I keep getting drawn back to telling legal stories because I’ve been a lawyer now for about 10 years, and I have so many ideas. Also, I love reading romantic suspense novels, so it made sense to me to write what I love to read. With legal stories, there’s also a fine line I try to walk on being realistic and also entertaining.

BTB — Trial And Tribulations adds an extra dimension with its focus on spiritual warfare. Did you encounter any obstacles or problems in writing this novel? 


Rachel — I never set out to write a book about spiritual warfare. In fact, I was writing a completely different book. I remember sitting there on vacation and then an idea hit me. The main character Olivia came to my mind along with the story line about two battling New Age companies and spiritual warfare. Writing the book itself flowed so easily. It’s all a blur now when I look back on the writing process—and I wrote the book very quickly. But then after I finished it and my agent submitted to publishers, that’s when the challenges and obstacles really started to pop up. Traditional publishers said that spiritual warfare wasn’t something that would sell right now. I made the decision to independently publish the book because I felt so strongly about it. It has been a challenge to reach readers searching for spiritual warfare stories, but I am not giving up because I really believe in the message of the story.

BTB — What kind of research did you do in writing both books?

Rachel — For Lethal Action, I didn’t have to do a lot of research because the legal elements of the story were so familiar to me. I also set the story in Georgia which is where I am from. For Trial & Tribulations, I did a lot of reading. I probably read at least ten books on spiritual warfare.

BTB — What do you want your readers to take away with them after finishing one of your novels?

Rachel — I want them to enjoy the books, but I also would love it if they take away a positive message of faith, hope, and redemption.

BTB — Both Lethal Action and Trial And Tribulations are first books in a series. When can readers expect book 2 in the series? What are some other projects you are working on?

51becfzyvzl-_sx311_bo1204203200_Rachel — I’m working on the sequel to Trial & Tribulations now and will soon start the Lethal Action sequel. I have two books from Love Inspired Suspense coming out in April and July, so I’m targeting the sequels for later this year. I’m also working on a totally separate legal suspense, but that project hasn’t been finalized yet.

BTB — What would you like to share about your personal life?

Rachel — I absolutely love animals. I have five special furkids in my life–2 dogs and 3 cats. One of the cats is a tripod. And I love putting animals in my stories. Four of my pets are rescue, and I’m a big advocate of animal rescue. I also am very active on social media and would love to connect to readers on Facebook and Twitter or by email.

Thanks so much, Rachel, for sharing with my readers today. Make sure you check out Rachel and her books HERE

Rachel Dylan writes Christian fiction including inspirational romantic suspense for Love Inspired Suspense and the Windy Ridge Legal Thriller series. Rachel has practiced law for almost a decade and enjoys weaving together legal and suspenseful stories. She is a member of ACFW and RWA. She lives in Michigan with her husband and five furkids–two dogs and three cats. Rachel loves to connect with readers. She is represented by Sarah Younger at Nancy Yost Literary Agency.

Book Review: A House Divided

18 Jan

51kwubDrxcL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Corbin Gage can stand up to anyone . . . . But his own divided house will bring him to his knees. Corbin, a longtime legal champion for the downtrodden, is slowly drinking himself into the grave. His love for ‘mountain water’ has cost him his marriage to the godliest woman he knows, ruined his relationship with his daughter, Roxy, and reduced the business at his small Georgia law firm to a level where he can barely keep the bill collectors at bay. But it isn’t until his son, Ray, threatens to limit Corbin’s time with his grandson that Corbin begins to acknowledge he might have a problem. Despite the mess that surrounds his personal life and against the advice of everyone he knows, Corbin takes on a high-stakes tort case on behalf of two boys who have contracted non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma due to an alleged chemical exposure. The defendant, a fertilizer company, is the largest employer in the area. The lawsuit becomes a tornado that sucks Corbin, Ray, and Roxy into an increasingly deadly vortex. Equally intense pressure within the family threatens to destroy, once and for all, the thin threads that connect them. Corbin must find the strength to stand up to his personal demons. Justice for two dying boys depends on it . . . his family depends on it.

512-S7U3OmL._UX250_Robert Whitlow grew up in north Georgia. He graduated magna cum laude from Furman University with a BA in history in 1976 and received his JD with honors from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1979. A practicing attorney, he is a partner in a Charlotte, NC law firm. He and his wife Kathy have four children and three grandchildren.

Robert began writing in 1996. His novels are set in the South and include both legal suspense and interesting characterization. It is his desire to write stories that reveal some of the ways God interacts with people in realistic scenarios.

My Impressions:

My book club has read every one of Robert Whitlow’s books, except one. He is one of our all time favorite authors, but we have been a bit disappointed in his last few books. But with his latest book, A House Divided, we declare that he is back! Back with riveting stories full of strong, well-developed characters and plenty of themes to discuss. We give this novel a unanimous highly recommended read designation.

Corbin Gage is a small town lawyer whose practice has seen better days and for the most part, Corbin is to blame. Along with his career, his personal life has been impacted negatively by his drinking. Divorced from a faithful wife and with only strained relationships with his children, the only positive in his life is his grandson, Billy. But his alcoholism is about to sever that relationship as well. He has one more chance to make things right . . . will he take it?

Although A House Divided involves a court case, it serves mostly as the foundation for a larger story of choices and consequences. We enjoyed the scenes involving legal strategies both in and out of the courtroom, but it was Corbin and his family that kept us engaged with the story. Corbin is a likable character, even as he insists on ruining his life. Other characters are realistically written and some are more likable than others, though most grew on us. We also liked the look into the workings of AA, and we learned a lot about the 12-step program and how the organization works. A few in our group grew up with alcoholic fathers and the scenes depicting Corbin’s decline rang true. One member stated that it was obvious Whitlow had done his research. Whitlow reprises a theme from one of his earliest novels, The Trial. Prayers are not one-time things, but live on long after the person bringing the requests to God.

Longtime fans of Robert Whitlow will love A House Divided. And if you have never read one of his novels, we recommend this one whole-heartedly!

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

Great for book clubs.

To purchase this book, click HERE.

(I purchased this book from Amazon. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)