The best books for when the long arm of the law isn’t long enough

Danny Ray Author Of Serial Justice
By Danny Ray

Who am I?

I have a lifelong respect for the true sociopaths among us who just happen to side with the good rather than the bad element in society. From Sherlock Holmes’ disregard for the shackles of Scotland Yard and the totally criminal world of Don Pendleton’s Mack Bolan I have cheered on my champions for half a century. My heroes share a common trait – the willingness to break the law to uphold the law. The 21st century has brought an entire new set of protagonists whom I consider to be arbiters of justice. While I believe in jurisprudence, I also subscribe to the tenet that most often the end justifies the means.


I wrote...

Serial Justice

By Danny Ray,

Book cover of Serial Justice

What is my book about?

Frustration with a legal system that releases the worst sort of sexual predators after having served minimum sentences leads to a deadly cat-and-mouse game, pitting FBI against FBI, good against evil, and justice against injustice. Is there a moral dilemma here? Can vengeance be justified as justice? Does the end fully justify the means? Are the ‘good guys’ really good?

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

The Deep Blue Good-By

By John D. MacDonald,

Book cover of The Deep Blue Good-By

Why this book?

The first Travis Magee novel hooked me. The image of a beach bum, living on a houseboat won in a poker game was enough. But when that bum transformed into a more modern version of Don Quixote all MacDonald had to do was to play me, gaff me, and pull me on board for the remainder of the series. Magee takes his retirement in chunks, righting wrongs and recovering that which was stolen. His life is full of brawling, babes, and bodies. All good stuff for the reader. 

The Deep Blue Good-By

By John D. MacDonald,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Deep Blue Good-By as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Travis McGee, beach bum and 'salvage expert' (he'll retrieve what you've lost for 50 per cent), lives on a houseboat in Fort Lauderdale.Instead of taking retirement at sixty, he takes it in chunks as he goes along. If he likes you he'll help you, and he likes Cathy Kerr, who has been robbed of everything but her dignity ...the first in the series establishes the fast-talking, wisecracking standard MacDonald maintained for over 20 years.


In the Best Families

By Rex Stout,

Book cover of In the Best Families

Why this book?

In spite of weighing in at one-sixth of a ton and never willingly leaving his home, Nero Wolfe disappears completely, arranges employment for his personal chef Fritz Brenner, and leaves man-Friday Archie Goodwin to shift for himself.

This mano-a-mano contest between crime boss Arnold Zeck and the reclusive Wolfe stands out from Stout’s 50-some-odd cases in that it becomes a duel between evil and vengeful. Law and order are non-players, and the ending fully satisfies the reader. Rex Stout ranks with the best and his protagonist amongst the most rude, lazy, and brilliant.

In the Best Families

By Rex Stout,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Best Families as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The aging millionairess has a problem: where is her young playboy husband getting all his money? To help find the answer, Archie infiltrates a party at her palatial estate. But her late-night murder ruins the festive mood . . . and a letter bomb from a powerful crime boss makes Nero Wolfe do the unthinkable—run for his life. Suddenly Archie finds himself on his own, trying to find a killer without the help of his old mentor. For to all appearances, Wolfe has vanished. The career of the world’s most famous detective has ended in cowardice and disgrace . .…


Masked Prey

By John Sandford,

Book cover of Masked Prey

Why this book?

In a society where law has constraints that law-breakers do not, characters like Lucas Davenport easily capture those for whom justice trumps legality. Davenport carries a badge. Often that is the sole discriminator that separates him from his prey. Sandford’s Prey series is so good that it’s difficult to select one above the other, but Masked Prey is more recent, more topical, and quite honestly, more satisfying than the others in the series.

Masked Prey

By John Sandford,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Lucas Davenport investigates a vitriolic blog that seems to be targeting the children of U.S. politicians in the latest thriller by #1 New York Times-bestselling author John Sandford.

The daughter of a U.S. Senator is monitoring her social media presence when she finds a picture of herself on a strange blog. And there are other pictures . . . of the children of other influential Washington politicians, walking or standing outside their schools, each identified by name. Surrounding the photos are texts of vicious political rants from a motley variety of radical groups.

It's obviously alarming--is there an unstable extremist…


That Darkness

By Lisa Black,

Book cover of That Darkness

Why this book?

Lisa Black’s Gardiner and Renner series juxtapose the worlds of law and lawless. Maggie Gardiner is drawn into an untenable alliance with Jack Renner. He is a police detective and a killer, bent only on making the world safer by killing criminals without the bother of arrest and trial. She, as a forensic investigator, finds herself in a catch-22; she cannot finger Jack without incriminating herself as an accessory. While shielding Jack’s identity she inexorably digs an even deeper legal crevasse for herself.

That Darkness

By Lisa Black,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The “taut and haunting” first thriller in the Gardiner and Renner series from the New York Times bestselling author of Every Kind of Wicked (Jeff Lindsay, creator of the Dexter series).
 
As a forensic investigator for the Cleveland Police Department, Maggie Gardiner has seen her share of Jane Does. The latest is an unidentified female in her early teens, discovered in a local cemetery. More shocking than the girl’s injuries—for Maggie at least—is the fact that no one has reported her missing. She and the detectives assigned to the case (including her cop ex-husband) are determined to follow every lead,…


Blue Moon

By Lee Child,

Book cover of Blue Moon

Why this book?

Jack Reacher can’t catch a break. Who else steps off a bus at a random stop and ends up in a turf war between Ukrainian and Albanian gangs in the middle of the United States. This is one of my favorites from the Reacher series. Lee Child has crafted a character that strikes at the heart of all of us who cheer on the forces of good and want to punish the bad actors. Lovers of justice will love Jack Reacher. His means might be harsh, but the end is satisfactory.

Blue Moon

By Lee Child,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • THE BLOCKBUSTER JACK REACHER SERIES THAT INSPIRED TWO MAJOR MOTION PICTURES AND THE STREAMING SERIES REACHER

“Jack Reacher is today’s James Bond, a thriller hero we can’t get enough of.”—Ken Follett

“This is a random universe,” Reacher says. “Once in a blue moon things turn out just right.”
 
This isn’t one of those times.
 
Reacher is on a Greyhound bus, minding his own business, with no particular place to go, and all the time in the world to get there. Then he steps off the bus to help an old man who is obviously…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in private investigators, murder, and Nero?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about private investigators, murder, and Nero.

Private Investigators Explore 196 books about private investigators
Murder Explore 497 books about murder
Nero Explore 18 books about Nero

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Dain Curse, Bright Orange for the Shroud, and The Anderson Tapes if you like this list.