The Judge’s List (Whistler #2), by John Grisham

Eight stars

Always a fan of John Grisham’s work, I eagerly reached for this book. Grisham dazzles as usual when using the law as his background, and keeps the reader focussed on the case of a corrupt and criminally responsible judge, without revealing too much all at once. Grisham’s work remains top notch and I am eager to see if there is more to this series, as the ending left things slightly open for interpretation.

Lacy Stoltz has a history of staring down the truth and making tough choices, never more so than when investigating members of the judicial branch. Almost dying for her efforts during a recent case, Lacy has never stood down from bringing justice into the light while keeping her role on the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct on track.

It is during her work that Lacy meets Jeri Crosby, a woman so scared that she tries to mask her identity however she can. The murder of Jeri’’s father remains a cold case two decades after it occurred, having lost anyone advocating for the victim. Jeri is sure that there is something others missed, particularly when two other victims emerge, even as a killer has yet to be found.

Jeri points the finger not at a known criminal, but rather a sitting Florida judge. As Lacy listens, she learns that Jeri has been accumulating evidence for years and thinks that she has connected some random pieces of evidence. However, this is not a simple case of warrant and arrest, but rather one in which one of the most powerful legal authorities in the state has to be called out for his apparent actions. Lacy is ready to act, but must do so carefully, or fear blowback like no other.

On the other side of the coin is the judge, whose sly actions are that of a conniving serial killer, remaining one step ahead of those in authority. He has a list of victims and motive to fuel his actions, though much of it is unknown to the general public. While the killings pile up, Lacy must not only catch him, but prove that he, a judicial hero, could have done all those horrible crimes. It will take cunning and patience, but if she does not stand down, Lacy is sure to add herself to that list and die trying to stop its fulfillment. Grisham at his best with an eerie twist, sure to impress many who enjoy these type of stories.

I have long enjoyed the stories of John Grisham, mixing the law with some form of moral cause. His novels usually pull the reader from their comfort zone and leave an indelible mark on their psyche, such that there is no turning back. In this piece, Grisham mixes legal matters with a criminal game of cat and mouse, in which there can only be one winner. All this while allowing the reader a front row seat to all the action.

As with some of his best novels, Grisham uses a strong narrative to build on the themes laid out early in the story. The roadmap for the piece may not be as straightforward as some would like, but it is paced and shows promise from the outset. Strong characters, both likeable and despised, appear throughout the pages of the story, offering glue to keep things together. Grisham injects plot twists throughout to keep the reader, who knows the killer from the early pages, from getting too comfortable. In a sequel that begs for more to come, Grisham leaves readers wondering if there is more to say about Lacy Stoltz, whose personal life is on full display as well. Less a legal thriller than criminal one, Grisham shows versatility and strong writing that will impress many who take the time to explore this book, as well as the two pieces of writing that add to the series.

Kudos, Mr. Grisham, on a winning publication, sure to keep your fans appeased. I am eager to see what else you have been working on lately.