Murder in the Courthouse by Nancy Grace

OK, I admit to watching Nancy Grace years ago before she was quite as…Nancy Grace as she is now. Recently I’ve just thought of her as the woman-in-danger-true-crime obsessed blonde who is quick to label males suspects as guilty (admittedly, she is often right).

Apparently, she has written other novels, including two others featuring the protagonist Hailey Dean, the prosecutor who has never lost a case. In this third in the series, Hailey goes to Savannah, GA to testify as an expert witness and, while there, she gets embroiled in other murders…so far, so good. But the details of a man murdering his pregnant wife and then hers and the baby’s (fetus’s?) bodies washing up after being dumped in a body of water…it made me wish Nancy had written a more original plot. It isn’t like she was writing a roman a clef — too many differences. In any case, that kept getting in the way of my being able to just go with the story and assess this book fairly.

I do think that this might be perfect for the people who want something light with a mystery and some twists to read while sitting on the beach. Nothing that makes you think too much, you know? But it just wasn’t my thing.

Thanks to BenBella Books and NetGalley for a copy of this title in exchange for my honest review. Two stars.

Justice Burning by Scott Pratt

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A few years back, I read An Innocent Client by Scott Pratt, the first in the Joe Dillard series of legal thriller/mysteries. I haven’t read all eight titles in that series, but all the ones I have read were crisp, entertaining, and fun reads. So I was happy to get an advance copy of Justice Burning, a new title by Scott Pratt featuring new attorney Darren Street, from Thomas & Mercer and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

So (spoiler alert) I REALLY liked this book! The characters were vivid, the legal/criminal stuff was interesting, and I just kept reading til it was gone. BUT it turns out this is #2 in the Darren Street series (I must have been asleep or whatever, but I missed the first one, Justice Redeemed.

So Darren Street, like Scott Pratt in a previous lifetime, is an attorney in Tennessee. I’m not sure how much else they have in common, but Darren has recently had his law license reinstated after escaping from a maximum security prison where he spent two years for a crime he didn’t commit. In Justice Burning, he seems to be the target for unknown bad guys, who may or may not have something to do with things that went down in prison. Along the way, he suffers from PTSD, tries to deal with his ex-wife and son, loses a family member, and resolves to see justice (as he defines it) done.

As is my habit, I don’t do spoilers, so there’s not much I can say about the plot except that it was terrific fun. While reading it, there were several instances of me nearly shouting “NO!” and “OH!” and “AARRGGHH” to the point where my husband, ensconced in his recliner located right next to mine, grew a bit tired of asking “what’s wrong?” In the end, he decided he HAS to read this book!

I told him he really should read Justice Redeemed first…while Justice Burning stands alone just fine, there were some situations that had backstory in the first novel that I think might have been even more impactful if I had read the prior book first.

Either way, this one is highly recommended for those who like legal mystery/thrillers, smart down-to-earth protagonists who might sometimes bend the rules but still maintain their own moral compass, and a fast-moving plot with violence but not gore. Five stars.

The 7th Canon by Robert Dugoni

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Over the years, there have been a few authors that have been in my reliable column: back in the 80s, Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series was among the first. Then, Elizabeth George’s Lynley series (although there were some bumps along the road). More recently, Robert Crais and his Elvis Cole-Joe Pike books. And I just realized after reading two books by Robert Dugoni recently that he is firmly in that camp.

I first read My Sister’s Grave (#1 in the Tracy Crosswhite series, followed by Her Final Breath, and In the Clearing, which I recently read and reviewed), and loved the protagonist and the way the story gripped me from start to finish. Now I have found a new Dugoni protagonist in Peter Donley, the young attorney in The 7th Canon.

While Tracy Crosswhite spends her time in Seattle, working as a detective, Donley is an attorney in San Francisco. This story opens in a crappy part of the City known as the Tenderloin, where a young street hustler is found murdered in a homeless shelter for young males run by a dedicated priest, Father Thomas Martin. I confess at first I had some trepidation about whether this was going to go in the pedophile priest direction…but I kept reading. Along the way, there is evidence that Father Martin is guilty of the murder, as well as other creepy things, but Peter Donley believes in his innocence and the legal wrangling begins.

Donley is an interesting character who has worked for the first three years of his legal career in a low-rent law firm where his uncle has carved out a living putting people over profit for decades. While Peter admires the intent, and also admires Father Martin’s dedication, he is just about to leap at a position at a cushy firm where he can stop worrying about money when the murder case involving the priest and the homeless boy lands in his lap. The story includes a ruthless DA and a brutal homicide detective, both of whom make Peter’s challenge even greater. Oh, and to add to it all, his uncle lands in the hospital so Peter is on his own handling his first murder case.

It was a fun read, and I’m glad I stuck with it. I confess I set it aside in favor of others in my TBR pile before I finally got into it…but am now firmly in the pro-Dugoni camp. And I realize I have some new titles to add to that TBR pile, as I have only read one of Dugoni’s David Sloane series, including The Jury Master, Wrongful Death, Bodily Harm, Murder One, and The Conviction).

I appreciate Thomas & Mercer (publishers) and NetGalley for providing a copy in exchange for my review…and I promise to jump QUICKLY on the next Dugoni book that crosses my path! Four and a half stars…