The best legal thrillers… which challenge our views that justice will prevail

Who am I?

Having spent my youth watching dramas Crown Court and L.A. Law on TV and reading Rumpole of the Bailey, it’s not surprising I became a lawyer and then went on to write legal thrillers myself. The courtroom is an inherently theatrical place, where emotions and tensions run high. It’s a place where egos collide, theories are propounded and punctured and the liberty (and sometimes the life) of the accused is at stake. It follows, then, that lawyers operate in a totally even-handed system, where they’ll always achieve a fair and just result and uncover the truth. All the books I’ve recommended challenge this notion in different (but equally brilliant) ways.


I wrote...

The Pinocchio Brief

By Abi Silver,

Book cover of The Pinocchio Brief

What is my book about?

Fifteen-year-old schoolboy, Raymond Maynard, is accused of the brutal murder of his teacher. His appointed lawyers—the guarded veteran, Judith Burton, and the energetic young novice, Constance Lamb—begin a desperate pursuit of the truth, revealing uncomfortable secrets about the teacher and the school. 

But Judith has her own secrets which risk exposure when a new lie-detecting device, nicknamed Pinocchio, is introduced at Ray’s trial. This sophisticated software will watch for tiny movements in his face, to determine whether he is telling the truth—or not. A chilling, compelling courtroom drama that asks timely questions about the way we live our lives.

The books I picked & why

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Suspect

By Scott Turow,

Book cover of Suspect

Why this book?

When US police chief, Lucia Gomez, is accused of promoting male subordinates in return for sex, her lawyer and old friend, Rik Dudek, turns to private investigator ‘Pinky’ Granum for help. 

Pinky, who narrates the story, is an unconventional young woman (mohawk, piercings, bi-sexual, neuro-diverse), with considerable sleuthing skills. Part of the fun of the story (and it is great ‘fun’ despite its serious themes) is watching Pinky defy Rik’s warnings with unexpected consequences. The tension builds slowly, with numerous twists, to a dramatic conclusion where all of Pinky’s talents are exploited.  

This book has everything. Clever courtroom scenes, a topical storyline, plenty of action and wonderful, beautifully-drawn characters. On one level it’s a story of organised crime, revenge, and corrupt cops; in reality, it’s so much more.

Suspect

By Scott Turow,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Suspect as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Presumed Innocent and The Last Trial returns with a riveting legal thriller in which a reckless private detective is embroiled in a fraught police scandal.

For as long as Lucia Gomez has been the police chief in the city of Highland Isle, near Kindle County, she has known that any woman in law enforcement must walk a precarious line between authority and camaraderie to gain respect.  She has maintained a spotless reputation—until now. Three male police officers have accused her of soliciting sex in exchange for promotions to higher ranks. With few…


You Don't Know Me

By Imran Mahmood,

Book cover of You Don't Know Me

Why this book?

A young man accused of murder stands before the jury in court. Fed up with his barrister’s advice to ‘only tell the jury what they can believe’ he makes his own closing speech. He tells ‘the whole truth’ in his own words. 

In setting out the details of his chaotic life, he aims to provide an innocent explanation for the eight pieces of circumstantial evidence against him. It’s only if the jury can understand what it’s like to be him (echoes here of Atticus Finch’s famous line, "You never really understand a person until you… climb into his skin and walk around in it.") that he will receive a fair trial.

A highly original angle for the modern, courtroom drama, executed to perfection. Clearly (as is only right) there’s a subtly-woven, social commentary agenda too.

You Don't Know Me

By Imran Mahmood,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked You Don't Know Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

2013 Christy Award winner!
2013 Carol Award finalist (ACFW)
To everyone who knows her, Annalise Decker is a model wife and mother. She’s a permanent member of the PTA, never misses her kids’ sporting events, and is constantly campaigning for her husband’s mayoral race.

No one knows that Annalise was once Deidre O’Reilly, a troubled young woman whose testimony put a dangerous criminal behind bars. Relocated through the Witness Security Program to the sleepy town of Deep Haven, Deidre got a new identity and a fresh start, which began when she fell in love with local real estate agent Nathan…


Thirteen

By Steve Cavanagh,

Book cover of Thirteen

Why this book?

"The serial killer isn’t on trial he’s on the jury."

Actor Bobby Solomon is accused of murdering his wife and bodyguard in a frenzied attack. Eddie Flynn, former conman turned lawyer, is brought in to assist the defence team. Eddie’s the full package—resourceful, quick-witted, a masterful cross-examiner, and he can handle himself in a fight. He also believes in Bobby’s innocence. But he’s up against an ingenious, ruthless killer who will stop at nothing to achieve his cause. 

If the central premise—that of a killer infiltrating the jury and undermining the entire justice system—isn’t sufficiently terrifying, then the array of corrupt police officers and self-serving lawyers (on both sides) should tip you over the edge. Happily, Eddie stands head and shoulders above them all.

Thirteen

By Steve Cavanagh,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Thirteen as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE SERIAL KILLER ISN'T ON TRIAL.

HE'S ON THE JURY...

****************

'THIRTEEN is my favourite read of the year.' Sarah Pinborough

'Outstanding.' Lee Child

'Smart and original. This is a belter of a book.' Clare Mackintosh

****************

They were Hollywood's hottest power couple. They had the world at their feet. Now one of them is dead and Hollywood star Robert Solomon is charged with the brutal murder of his beautiful wife.

This is the celebrity murder trial of the century and the defence want one man on their team: con artist turned lawyer Eddie Flynn.

All the evidence points to…


Without Prejudice

By Nicola Williams,

Book cover of Without Prejudice

Why this book?

When Armani-loving lawyer, Leanne Mitchell, is asked to defend millionaire Clive Omartian on fraud charges, she believes her career is on an upward trajectory. But her success puts her at odds with the head of her Chambers, who is desperate to be awarded ‘Silk’ and with her instructing solicitor and old friend, as she begins to suspect he knows more about their client than he is letting on. Before she realises, she’s being dragged into dangerous waters.

Oozing authenticity, twisty and turny, the reader shares Lee’s pain, not just the wounds she suffers from courtroom barbs, but in her everyday experience as a young, black, working-class woman barrister in a mainly white, male, privileged world. Despite huge challenges she remains feisty and principled. A real hero for our times.

Without Prejudice

By Nicola Williams,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Without Prejudice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Impressive and unique. As relevant today as it was over two decades go' Bernardine Evaristo, from the Introduction

A gripping, propulsive courtroom thriller following barrister Lee Mitchell as she uncovers the dark secrets of London's obscenely rich

Lee Mitchell is a thirty-year-old barrister from a working-class Caribbean background: in the cut-throat environment of the courtroom, everything is stacked against her.

After she takes on the high-profile case of notorious millionaire playboy Clive Omartian - arrested along with his father and stepbrother for eye-wateringly exorbitant fraud - the line between her personal and professional life becomes dangerously blurred.
Spiralling further into…


Primal Fear

By William Diehl,

Book cover of Primal Fear

Why this book?

Defence lawyer Marty Vail never loses a case. That’s made him the bane of Chicago’s judges and prosecutors. To teach him a lesson in humility, he’s assigned to defend altar boy, Aaron Stampler, on charges of murdering a pillar of the community, Archbishop Rushman. The clergyman was stabbed to death in his apartment and Stampler, a baby-faced, 19-year-old from Kentucky, was found hiding in the confessional box, covered in blood and holding the murder weapon. 

Enter psychiatrist Molly Arrington and she and Marty spend hours with Aaron trying to uncover the real killer. Naturally, in this gritty story of power-seeking and corruption, there’s a sparkling supporting cast and lots of courtroom tricks and ploys, but it’s Aaron who takes centre stage for the haunting finale. 

Primal Fear

By William Diehl,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Primal Fear as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Martin Vail, Chicago's most brilliant lawyer, has been set up by his enemies to defend a case he cannot win. Young Aaron Stampler was caught red-handed after a murder that had the city reeling. He looks bound to fry, but he swears he's innocent. In a desperate gamble for justice, Vail must reach deep into the recesses of a killer's mind, to flush out a monster of infinite cunning and evil. Explosive, haunting and brilliantly suspenseful, Primal Fear is a truly terrifying read.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in barristers, family secrets, and serial killers?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about barristers, family secrets, and serial killers.

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