The best regional criminal/legal/mystery novels with a twist

Who am I?

I’m a southern boy. I practiced law for thirty-five plus years, the last twenty-nine plus as a prosecutor. I loved that time of my life and handled a lot of cases, but it eventually took its toll. I was ready to leave that part of me behind. When I retired, I promised I would let all that go, but I discovered I couldn’t. I started writing because I kept remembering stuff, and I thought I could do a credible job recording it. Writing has helped me to get over it. If you read any of my books, I hope you’ll like them, but I love getting feedback even if you don’t.

I wrote...

Leo's Redemption

By Otis Scarbary,

Book cover of Leo's Redemption

What is my book about?

Patriarch, Leo Berry, Sr. dies leaving a journal to the grandson who shares his name. As “Little Leo” begins reading his Papa’s words, it becomes apparent the book contains secrets never disclosed to the rest of the large family.

Now the young prosecutor has been entrusted with not only seeking redemption for his grandfather’s covert actions, but also administering the deceased man’s substantial estate. At the same time, Leo is assigned a homicide case containing its own mysteries. Perhaps his recently departed grandfather could even be connected to the potential dangers buried within.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Presumed Innocent

Otis Scarbary Why did I love this book?

Authors who have walked the walk always grab my attention. Turow qualifies since he’s been a lawyer for many years and knows the inner workings of the legal system. The story he weaves in his first novel shows this knowledge, but more importantly, the author lets the reader into interpersonal relationships that make the tale intriguing on multiple levels. For me, good mysteries keep me guessing to the very end, and this effort succeeds. You might not like everything about the protagonist, Rusty Sabitch, and that’s okay, too. There’s enough to like about him as he works through what really happened in a murder where he’s been blamed. Family secrets have always intrigued me because of some I’ve encountered in my life. Rusty deals with those secrets in this book, and finds some redemption too.

By Scott Turow,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Presumed Innocent as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Rusty Sabich is a prosecuting lawyer in Chicago who enters a nightmare world when Carolyn, a beautiful attorney with whom he has been having an affair, is found raped and strangled. He stands accused of the crime.

This 'insider' book by a Chicago lawyer was one of the great novels of the 1980s, selling more than nine million copies, and was made into a famous film starring Harrison Ford. It's a supremely suspenseful and compelling courtroom drama about ambition, weakness, hypocrisy and American justice.

Book cover of A Time to Kill

Otis Scarbary Why did I love this book?

I really like this author because he’s got some chops to back it up. Grisham has been one of my favorite authors since he burst on the scene and part of it is due to him practicing law before he started writing. I can certainly relate. In this story, he hits some of the difficult issues of our time, that of racial injustice, especially in the south. Being a southerner, born and bred, I witnessed this growing up although not to the level in his book. What would you do if your young daughter was brutally attacked and raped? As a reader you are thrust into a legal drama and find yourself cheering for not only the father of the victim, but also for the lawyer defending him, Jake Brigance. There was no doubt after reading this novel that Jake would become a recurring character in other Grisham books.

By John Grisham,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked A Time to Kill as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


John Grisham's first and most shocking novel, adapted as a film starring Samuel L. Jackson and Matthew McConaughey

When Carl Lee Hailey guns down the violent racists who raped his ten-year-old daughter, the people of the small town of Clanton, Mississippi see it as justice done, and call for his acquittal.

But when extremists outside Clanton - including the KKK - hear that a black man has killed two white men, they invade the town, determined to destroy anything and anyone that opposes their sense of justice. A national media circus descends on Clanton.


Book cover of Defending Jacob

Otis Scarbary Why did I love this book?

This is a legal drama/thriller/mystery that I couldn’t put down. The author does a credible job describing court scenes, but it’s not the thrust of the book. What really grabbed me was the psychological battles going on within the family. When you’re a prosecutor and your son is charged with a hideous crime, how do you handle that horror? Conflicts with your career are only part of it. Like other books on my list, this book was made into a theatrical release and was done credibly on the screen. The resolution of the story was done well, in my opinion, but it leaves you feeling somewhat dissatisfied. Like life, not everything turns out perfect.

By William Landay,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Defending Jacob as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

If your son was on trial for murder, what would you do?

Andy Barber's job is to put killers behind bars. And when a boy from his son Jacob's school is found stabbed to death, Andy is doubly determined to find and prosecute the perpetrator.

Until a crucial piece of evidence turns up linking Jacob to the murder. And suddenly Andy and his wife find their son accused of being a cold-blooded killer.

In the face of every parent's worst nightmare, they will do anything to defend their child. Because, deep down, they know him better than anyone.

Don't they?

Book cover of To Kill a Mockingbird

Otis Scarbary Why did I love this book?

Probably on many lists of greatest books of all time, I would recommend this novel as the ultimate example of why I wanted to become a lawyer. I wanted to save the world because Atticus Finch stood up against all odds. It’s also a great coming-of-age novel, as well. Told from his young daughter’s point of view, it’s an innocent telling of a story. You probably have seen the movie version, but the book made the tale that it is. Life lessons abound throughout and it’s important to see the tensions of almost a hundred years ago are still around today. We could all use a lot more Atticus Finches in our world.

By Harper Lee,

Why should I read it?

30 authors picked To Kill a Mockingbird as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird.'

Atticus Finch gives this advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of this classic novel - a black man charged with attacking a white girl. Through the eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Lee explores the issues of race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s with compassion and humour. She also creates one of the great heroes of literature in their father, whose lone struggle for justice pricks the conscience of a town steeped…

Book cover of The Lincoln Lawyer

Otis Scarbary Why did I love this book?

I like all of Connelly’s books, but the series that features the lawyer, Mickey Haller, is probably my favorite. Although I find the character somewhat unrealistic practicing law out of his vehicle, it is totally entertaining. The courtroom scenes have enough realism to make them worthwhile, and I want to see what the characters will do next. I could tell from the first book that there would be many stories, and there have been. His supporting cast is likeable as well as Mickey. It’s been many years since I was a defense lawyer, but I appreciate his style.

By Michael Connelly,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Lincoln Lawyer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

They're called Lincoln Lawyers: the bottom of the legal food chain, the criminal defence attorneys who operate out of the back of a Lincoln car, travelling between the courthouses of Los Angeles county to take whatever cases the system throws in their path.

Mickey Haller has been in the business a long time, and he knows just how to work it, how to grease the right wheels and palms, to keep the engine of justice working in his favour. When a Beverly Hills rich boy is arrested for brutally beating a woman, Haller has his first high-paying client in years.…

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The Finest Lies

By David J. Naiman,

Book cover of The Finest Lies

David J. Naiman Author Of The Finest Lies

New book alert!

Who am I?

Anyone with siblings knows the deal. Your sibling becomes your first best friend and closest confidant but also your first competitor and fiercest critic. Navigating that relationship as a teen is fraught with peril. If done poorly, it can leave deep scars. If successful, it can teach you the foundations of how to build healthy relationships for the rest of your life. This theme has everything a writer needs to craft an emotional narrative, and these books do it best.

David's book list on sibling rivalry that will inspire you to reconnect

What is my book about?

A mysterious stranger traps teen siblings in a precarious game where each must overcome their embittered past for the other to survive.

This suspenseful, yet winsome novel explores the power of family and forgiveness. But take heed. The truth can cut like shards of glass, especially for those who’d rather avoid it. Sometimes, only the finest lies will do.

The Finest Lies

By David J. Naiman,

What is this book about?

High schooler Nicole Hallett has just about had it with her brother Jay, so when a mysterious man appears with an offer to replace him with a better one, she doesn’t hesitate. Nicole has always been impulsive, but this time, she finds herself in predicament far worse than anything she’s experienced. Just like that, an average snow day—usually filled with hot cocoa and snowball fights—is commandeered by the stranger, who forces the siblings into a dangerous game.

Confronted by past reflections, tested by present complications, and threatened by future possibilities, Nicole has until the end of the day to disentangle…

5 book lists we think you will like!

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