Category Archives: Legal Thriller

Review: The Stolen Hours by Allen Eskens

Title: The Stolen Hours by Allen Eskens
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Genre: Contemporary, Legal Thriller
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


A woman finds herself in a race not only for justice but for her life in this riveting, hold-your-breath” new mystery from the bestselling author of The Life We Bury (Karin Slaughter, New York Times bestselling author of The Silent Wife).

Lila Nash is on the verge of landing her dream job—working as a prosecutor under the Hennepin County Attorney—and has settled into a happy life with her boyfriend, Joe Talbert. But when a woman is pulled from the Mississippi River, barely alive, things in the office take a personal turn.

The police believe the woman’s assailant is local photographer Gavin Spenser, but the case quickly flounders as the evidence wears thin. It seems Gavin saw this investigation coming—and no one can imagine how carefully he has prepared.

The more determined Lila is to put Gavin behind bars, the more elusive justice becomes. Battling a vindictive new boss and haunted by the ghosts of her own unspeakable attack, which she’s kept a dark secret for eight long years, Lila knows the clock is ticking down. In a race against an evil mastermind, it will take everything Lila’s got to outsmart a killer—and to escape the dark hold of her own past.


The Stolen Hours by Allen Eskens is a riveting legal thriller.

Lila Nash is working with the Hennepin County Attorney as a law clerk while awaiting the results of her bar exam.  After her vindictive boss reassigns her to clerk for Andrea “Andi” Fitch, they are assigned to prosecute the assault and attempted murder of hairstylist Sadie Vauk. Detective Niki Vang and her partner Matty Lopez are also on the case much to accused attacker Gavin Spencer’s dismay.  While he believes he will outsmart the prosecution, Niki suspects Gavin is responsible for the deaths of three other women. Will Lila, Andi and Niki find the evidence they need to convict Gavin? Or will the suspected serial killer be set free to kill again?

Lila’s teenage years were tumultuous and culminated with a horrific attack that continues to haunt her. And yet Lila pulled her life together and now she is on the verge of achieving her dream career. She is also in a happy relationship with rising newspaper reporter Joe Talbert but she is content for them to continue living together. Lila has kept parts of her past from Joe so when she is forced to confront it, she decides to go it alone since he is working an on important assignment. But will her unanticipated reactions and a malicious boss end her chance in seeing justice done for Sadie and Gavin’s other victims?

Gavin is certain he has a foolproof plan to avoid prosecution for his crimes. He also has what he considers infallible fail safes in place to help ensure he will not be convicted of his heinous attacks and murders. With everything falling into place as planned, will Gavin’s arrogance be his downfall?

The Stolen Hours is a fast-paced and engrossing legal thriller with a clever, addictive storyline. Lilia has a keen legal mind with an uncanny ability to accurately predict shortfalls and ingeniously find what seem to impossible solutions. Andi and Niki are strong, smart women who stand out in their chosen professions. Gavin is a vile and reprehensible predator who is no match for Lila once she knows exactly who and what she is up against. With a breathtaking twist, Allen Eskens brings this brilliant thriller to a dramatic conclusion.

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Review: Twenty by James Grippando

Title: Twenty by James Grippando
Jack Swytek Series Book 17
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Contemporary, Legal Thriller, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


Jack Swyteck and his family are caught in the crossfire after a deadly school shooting claims twenty casualties—Florida’s fifth mass shooting in as many years—in this provocative and timely thriller from Harper Lee Prize–winner James Grippando that touches on some of the most contentious issues roiling America today.

It is the message every parent of a school-age child fears: “Active Shooter on Campus.” 

Jack Swyteck is at his office when he receives the emergency text from Riverside Day School. Both his daughter, Righley, and his wife, FBI agent Andie Henning, are in danger. Andie is in the school’s rec center when she hears the fire alarms, then loud popping noises and screams coming from the hallway. A trained law-enforcement officer, Andie knows she’s supposed to stay locked down inside the room. But Righley is in her kindergarten classroom and Andie must get her to safety.

The tragedy prompts mass hysteria—and dangerous speculation. The police haven’t identified the shooter, but they find a handgun on the school grounds registered to a parent, a Muslim man named Amir Khoury. News of the gun and its owner leaks and quickly goes viral. Within minutes Al Qaeda claims responsibility. Andie is shocked—Amir is married to her friend, Lilly, a WASP whose bloodline goes back to the American Revolution.

When Xavier, Amir and Lilly’s oldest child and an eighteen-year-old senior at Riverside confesses to the crime, the local community’s anti-Muslim fervor explodes to levels unseen since 9/11. Terrified for her son’s life, Lilly asks Jack to step in. A seasoned defense attorney with a passion to see justice done, he’s taken on plenty of complicated cases. Xavier’s, however, is not one he’s inclined to take—until an old friend who lost his daughter in the shooting tells him that he must.

With the public calling for blood and prosecutors confident their case is air tight, Jack must unearth the Khourys’ family secrets in order to expose the shocking truth and save his client from certain death. But he may not be able to save everyone—including himself.


Twenty by James Grippando is a riveting legal thriller with a socially relevant storyline. Although this latest release is the seventeenth mystery in the Jack Swytek series, it can be read as a standalone.

Before attorney Jack Swytek drops wife Andie Henning and their daughter, Righley, there is nothing different about their day. He walks to work while Andie accompanies Righley to her classroom. Andie then decides to join the other parents for a cup of coffee in the rec room where she chats with her friend Lilly. However, shots soon ring out and while everyone else follows protocol and exits the building, Andie runs to Righley’s classroom. Jack receives an active shooter text and he rushes back to the school. Frantically searching for his wife and daughter, he is relieved to find them unharmed. However, other parents are not as lucky including Jack’s friend Nate Abrams.

Lilly is relieved none of her children are injured but the gun used in the shooting is registered to her husband Amir Khoury. She is shocked when her oldest son Xavier confesses to the horrific crime and he is soon arrested. Jack has no plans to represent the shooter, but he cannot resist Lilly’s pleas for him to become Xavier’s defense attorney. With plenty of evidence, Chief Prosecutor Abe Beckham plans to ask for the death penalty.  Determined to keep Xavier off death row becomes Jack’s main objective but with anti-Muslim sentiment running high, can he convince Beckham to take a deal?

With Xavier refusing to talk to him, Jack turns to his best friend and investigator Theo Knight to help him look into the events leading up the school shooting. They unearth some intriguing information that leads Jack to believe his client might be innocent.  But when his chief witness disappears, Jack becomes more determined than ever to uncover the truth about who besides Xavier might have been the shooter.

Twenty is a captivating mystery with a clever plot and interesting characters.  Not only is Jack fighting for his client’s life, things are tense between him and Andie.  When his case goes in an unexpected direction, Jack is more determined than ever to unearth the truth about the school shooting. With stunning plot twists, James Grippando brings this suspenseful legal thriller to a tension-filled conclusion. Old and new fans of the Jack Swytek series are sure to enjoy this  newest addition to this outstanding series.

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Filed under Contemporary, Harper, Jack Swyteck Series, James Grippando, Legal Thriller, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense, Twenty

Review: Take It Back by Kia Abdullah

Title: Take It Back by Kia Abdullah
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Legal Thriller, Domestic Mystery
Length: 296 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


From author Kia Abdullah, Take It Back is a harrowing and twisting courtroom thriller that keeps you guessing until the last page is turned.

One victim.
Four accused.
Who is telling the truth?

Zara Kaleel, one of London’s brightest legal minds, shattered the expectations placed on her by her family and forged a brilliant legal career. But her decisions came at a high cost, and now, battling her own demons, she has exchanged her high profile career for a job at a sexual assault center, helping victims who need her the most. Victims like Jodie Wolfe.

When Jodie, a sixteen-year-old girl with facial deformities, accuses four boys in her class of an unthinkable crime, the community is torn apart. After all, these four teenage defendants are from hard-working immigrant families and they all have proven alibis. Even Jodie’s best friend doesn’t believe her.

But Zara does—and she is determined to fight for Jodie—to find the truth in the face of public outcry. And as issues of sex, race and social justice collide, the most explosive criminal trial of the year builds to a shocking conclusion.


Take It Back by Kia Abdullah is a captivating legal thriller with a topical storyline.

Zara Kaleel is a former barrister who now advocates for victims of sexual abuse. When  sixteen year old Jodie Wolfe reports she was attacked by four of her classmates, Zara never doubts her story. After Jodie agrees to go to the police, Detective Constables Mia Scavo and John Dexter bring the teenagers in for questioning. The young men deny Jodie’s accusation but after finding evidence which contradicts their stories, the case goes to trial. Because the four teenagers are Muslim and the sons of immigrants, the trial becomes a flashpoint for anti-Muslim and anti-immigration protesters. With tensions rising, will Jodie find justice?

The daughter of immigrants, Zara is at odds with her family who do not agree with her choices. Their interactions and visits are often fraught but she refuses to give into their pressure. Despite knowing she made the right decisions, Zara struggles with to find peace and happiness.  As the protests become more volatile, will Zara pay a personal price for continuing to support Jodie?

Jodie has not had an easy life. She has a medical condition that results in severe facial deformities. She is often the target of bullies and she must deal with being called hurtful names.  She lives with her single mother who blames her daughter for her problems and offers her little love or support. Jodie second guesses her decision to press charges against her attackers but Zara’s encouragement convinces her stay to the course.

Take It Back is a multi-layered domestic mystery with a timely plot. The characters are vibrantly drawn with realistic strengths and weaknesses. The courtroom scenes are gripping page-turners that raise many questions what happened to Jodie. With stunning turns, Kia Abdullah brings this tension-filled legal thriller to an absolutely jaw-dropping conclusion.  I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend this thought-provoking novel to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Contemporary, Domestic Thriller, Kia Abdullah, Legal Thriller, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, St Martin's Press, Take It Back

Review: A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight

Title: A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense, Legal Thriller
Length: 398 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


Big Little Lies meets Presumed Innocent in this riveting novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Reconstructing Amelia, in which a woman’s brutal murder reveals the perilous compromises some couples make—and the secrets they keep—in order to stay together.

Lizzie Kitsakis is working late when she gets the call. Grueling hours are standard at elite law firms like Young & Crane, but they’d be easier to swallow if Lizzie was there voluntarily. Until recently, she’d been a happily underpaid federal prosecutor. That job and her brilliant, devoted husband Sam—she had everything she’d ever wanted. And then, suddenly, it all fell apart.

No. That’s a lie. It wasn’t sudden, was it? Long ago the cracks in Lizzie’s marriage had started to show. She was just good at averting her eyes.

The last thing Lizzie needs right now is a call from an inmate at Rikers asking for help—even if Zach Grayson is an old friend. But Zach is desperate: his wife, Amanda, has been found dead at the bottom of the stairs in their Brooklyn brownstone. And Zach’s the primary suspect.

As Lizzie is drawn into the dark heart of idyllic Park Slope, she learns that Zach and Amanda weren’t what they seemed—and that their friends, a close-knit group of fellow parents at the exclusive Brooklyn Country Day school, might be protecting troubling secrets of their own. In the end, she’s left wondering not only whether her own marriage can be saved, but what it means to have a good marriage in the first place.


A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight is a clever mystery that is also a riveting legal thriller.

Lawyer Lizzie Kitsakis is working late when Zack Grayson, an old law school friend, unexpectedly calls her for help. He is current being held without bail at Riker’s Island and oh, by the way, his wife, Amanda, has been murdered. Lizzie reluctantly agrees to help get him out on bail, but Zach is soon formally charged with murder.  Although she tries to convince him to hire another attorney, Zach coerces her into remaining on the case. Wanting him out of her life for good, Lizzie knows the only way to get the charges dropped is to find the real killer. When she discovers stunning evidence, has Lizzie found the murderer?

Lizzie is not at all happy with the unexpected trajectory of her career. She is exceptionally good at her job but she cannot help but be resentful of husband Sam Chadwick for forcing this change. Their marriage has been rocky for quite some time but she continues to ignore Sam’s problems.  Will her marriage survive when she learns shocking information about her husband?

Lizzie’s lack of enthusiasm working for Zach is tempered by her conviction that he is innocent of the charges against him.  She immediately hires family friend, private investigator Millie Faber, to take care of the forensic portion of her investigation. Lizzie begins questioning Amanda’s closest friends, Sarah Novak and Maude Lagueux. Amanda and Sarah worked at the charitable foundation set up by Zach.  While the women do not have much in common, their children attend the same school, Brooklyn County Day. Despite the friends spending quite a bit of time together, Lizzie quickly discovers  Amanda did not reveal much about herself.  But the one thing both Sarah and Maude agree on is that their friend’s marriage was hardly close and neither of them like Zach.  Interesting details, but does any of this have anything to do with Amanda’s murder?

Answers to that question might just lie within the pages of Amanda’s journal. Lizzie learns very troubling information about Amanda’s life in the weeks leading up to her murder. Against Millie’s advice, Lizzie strikes out on her own hoping to find evidence that will exonerate Zach.  She learns very surprising facts about Amanda’s past that completely change Lizzie’s perspective about events in the present.  But will any of this new information lead to Amanda’s killer?

A Good Marriage is a taut, multi-layered mystery that is quite engrossing. The storyline is complex and engaging. The characters are well-drawn with appealing strengths and relatable flaws.  Interspersed with Lizzie’s investigation are intriguing chapters that detail the grand jury and the days leading up to Amanda’s murder. With brilliant red herrings and cunning misdirects, Kimberly McCreight brings this captivating mystery to an absolutely jaw-dropping conclusion.  Fans of the genre do not want to miss this suspenseful mystery.

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Filed under A Good Marriage, Contemporary, Harper, Kimberly McCreight, Legal Thriller, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense

Review: The Big Lie by James Grippando

Title: The Big Lie by James Grippando
Jack Swyteck Series Book Sixteen
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Contemporary, Legal Thriller
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


 As the Electoral College battle for the White House lands in a Florida courtroom, Miami attorney Jack Swyteck has never felt farther from the truth, fighting for a “faithless elector,” caught between a corrupt president and his manipulative opponent—with each revelation more explosive than the next.

The country is reeling. For the sixth time in American history, the winner of the popular vote will not occupy the Oval Office. President Malcolm MacLeod, the Machiavellian incumbent, was spared from impeachment only because his political foes were certain they would oust him at the ballot box. Now, he appears to have secured a second term, thanks to a narrow victory in the Electoral College.

His opponent, Florida Senator Evan Stahl, saw his campaign rocked by allegations of an extramarital affair—with another man. Despite the salacious headline-making scandal and the surrounding media frenzy, most Americans chose Stahl to lead the politically polarized nation. But Stahl is refusing to concede. Backed by millions of supporters, he looks to individual members of the Electoral College to cross party lines.

Gun lobbyist Charlotte Holmes is one of Floridas twenty-nine electors who is bound by law and by oath to cast her vote for MacLeod, who won Florida by the thinnest of margins. When Charlotte announces that she intends to vote her conscience and throw the Electoral College to Stahl, the president and his Florida machine haul her into court on felony charges—which, for some, isn’t nearly punishment enough.

Miami attorney Jack Swyteck is going to use every legal maneuver he can to keep his new client free—and alive. MacLeod’s hand-picked prosecutor is determined to prove Charlotte is unfit to cast a vote. Dredging through her past, he’s looking for skeletons to humiliate and discredit her, while others with far deadlier intentions have begun acting on their threats.

As the pressure mounts, Charlotte and Jack must decide how far they’ll go to stand their ground in the stand-your-ground state.


The Big Lie by James Grippando is a tense legal thriller with an incredibly topical storyline.  Although this sixteenth installment in the Jack Swyteck series can be read as standalone, I HIGHLY recommend the previous novels as well.

Opening on election night with current President Malcolm MacLeod winning the electoral college but not the popular vote, the election soon takes a surprising turn. Democratic candidate, FL Senator Evan Stahl Jr., decides not to concede defeat in hopes of finding enough faithless electors to hand him the victory.   Florida pro-gun lobbyist Charlotte  Holmes is the first elector who goes public with her decision to vote for Stahl. Her decision sets up a legal battle with FL State Attorney General Paulette Barrow trying to prove her an unfit elector. But luckily for Charlotte, she hires lawyer Jack Swyteck to defend her. But with just a few scant weeks until the electors cast their votes, will Jack defeat Barrows’ efforts to replace Charlotte with an elector who will cast their vote for MacLeod?

Despite his father’s political history, Jack stays firmly out of politics. But with his stepmother not feeling up to attending the election night festivities, he and his father Harry are with Stahl as they await the election results. Although Jack manages to escape attempts to embroil him in political maneuvering, he is surprised when Charlotte hires him to prove she can, in fact, legally cast a vote as a faithless elector.

Paulette Barrow wastes no time coordinating her efforts with MacLeod to eject Charlotte and replace her with a loyal alternate. She does not hesitate to resort to dirty tricks and barely legal arguments.  Swyteck thwarts many of her efforts but when a situation turns deadly, does Paulette finally have what she needs to prove her case against Charlotte?

The Big Lie is a riveting legal thriller that has a ripped from the political headline feel that will send chills up voters’ spines.  The storyline is suspenseful and covers a wide range of relevant topics. Jack is determined to protect Charlotte but with a stubborn client who does not always follow his advice, whether or not he will succeed remains to be seen. With a series of breathtaking twists and turns,  James Grippando brings this compelling thriller to an unanticipated shocking conclusion. I absolutely loved and highly recommend this clever addition to the Jack Swyteck series.

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Review: The Ex by Alafair Burke

the ex Title: The Ex by Alafair Burke
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense, Legal Thriller
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


In this breakout standalone novel of suspense in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on a Train, a woman agrees to help an old boyfriend who has been framed for murder—but begins to suspect that she is the one being manipulated.

Twenty years ago she ruined his life. Now she has the chance to save it.

Widower Jack Harris has resisted the dating scene ever since the shooting of his wife Molly by a fifteen-year-old boy three years ago. An early morning run along the Hudson River changes that when he spots a woman in last night’s party dress, barefoot, enjoying a champagne picnic alone, reading his favorite novel. Everything about her reminds him of what he used to have with Molly. Eager to help Jack find love again, his best friend posts a message on a popular website after he mentions the encounter. Days later, that same beautiful stranger responds and invites Jack to meet her in person at the waterfront. That’s when Jack’s world falls apart.

Olivia Randall is one of New York City’s best criminal defense lawyers. When she hears that her former fiancé, Jack Harris, has been arrested for a triple homicide—and that one of the victims was connected to his wife’s murder—there is no doubt in her mind as to his innocence. The only question is who would go to such great lengths to frame him—and why?

For Olivia, representing Jack is a way to make up for past regrets, to absolve herself of guilt from a tragic decision, a secret she has held for twenty years. But as the evidence against him mounts, she is forced to confront her doubts. The man she knew could not have done this. But what if she never really knew him?


The Ex is an intriguing legal thriller that is full of twists and turns. Alafair Burke masterfully keeps readers (and defense attorney Olivia Randall) guessing whether or not accused killer Jack Harris is guilty or innocent of the murders he is accused of committing.

Olivia and Jack share a complicated and painful past but when his daughter, Buckley, asks Olivia to help her father, she immediately agrees to defend him. While Olivia’s guilt over her role in the heartbreaking demise of their relationship twenty years earlier still haunts her, Jack has clearly moved on. He met and married Molly but, tragically, three year prior, she was one of twelve victims who were killed by teenager Todd Neely during a mass shooting in Penn Station. Unfortunately for Jack, one of the three people he stands accused of killing is none other than Todd’s father, hedge fund financier Malcolm Neely. The other two victims, twenty-year old Tracy Frankel and forty-one year old Clifton Hunter, seemingly have no connection to Jack so the police only give them a cursory look.  Olivia is convinced the Jack she once knew would not murder anyone, but the deeper she looks into his case, the less certain she is of his innocence.

Olivia is a dedicated attorney who does not hesitate to use any means necessary to help her client. She is not exactly pure as the driven snow in her personal life, but despite her less than appealing traits, she is a surprisingly likable character. She continues to feel guilty over her behavior during her engagement to Jack and this is a major factor in her decision to take his case. Olivia initially believes wholeheartedly in his innocence but she quickly discovers he has been less than truthful with her as she prepares his case for trail. For a good portion of the novel, she remains uncertain whether or not he is guilty but Olivia remains committed to providing him the best defense possible.

By all appearances, Jack is a grieving widower who is dedicated to his daughter. He brushes off Olivia’s attempts to discuss their past and he certainly seems to have moved on with his life. However, the deeper Olivia digs into his life, information begins to emerge that reveals his darker side. While he eventually concedes he is not a paragon of virtue, Jack maintains his innocence despite the growing evidence to the contrary.

The Ex is written in first person from Olivia’s point of view and as she delves into Jack’s case, she is forced to re-examine their shared past. Flashbacks provide valuable insight into her previous relationship with Jack and Olivia does not sugarcoat her missteps and misdeeds. While definitely older and wiser, she takes full responsibility for her actions (both good and bad) and her life experiences give her a better understanding of her behavior back then.

The Ex is a well-written and perplexing mystery that is quite suspenseful. The characters are complex and multi-layered with realistic flaws and human frailties. The storyline is engaging and there are enough plot twists to keep the story moving at a brisk pace. As Olivia wavers back and forth between Jack’s guilt and innocence, the reader experiences the same doubts and misgivings which makes it impossible to know how the novel will end. All in all, a superb legal thriller by Alafair Burke that old and new fans will enjoy.

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Filed under Alafair Burke, Contemporary, Harper, Legal Thriller, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense, The Ex