The Racketeer – by John Grisham (2012)

The Racketeer

If you love novels that involve lawyers, wrongful imprisonment, murder mysteries, and hiding from the government, you’re going to enjoy this Grisham book. It begins with Malcolm Bannister, a lawyer who has been stripped of his license, serving a ten-year sentence in a federal facility. Convicted of money laundering- which he did not do – he now spends his time as an informal jailhouse lawyer, looking at other inmates’ cases to see if they have any basis to appeal their sentences.

When a federal judge is murdered in his mountain cabin get-away, Malcolm believes he knows who did it. If he can just convince the FBI of the identity of the murderer, he may have the rest of his sentence commuted. But as it turns out, the story isn’t quite as cut and dried as first thought. Does Malcolm have the right man? If he’s wrong, what are the consequences?

The Pocket Wife – by Susan Crawford (2015)

the-pocket-wife

This is the second book on the list of personalized recommendations that I got from a librarian at my local library. It’s a suspenseful, psychological mystery.

Dana is a suburban housewife with a shaky marriage, some drinking issues, and bipolar disorder. She also battles anxiety and memory problems. Her only child is grown and has moved away, which has left her lonely and depressed. Sometimes Dana hangs out with her neighbor Celia, a foreign-language high school teacher.

The story begins with Dana waking from a drunken stupor on her couch, and hearing sirens outside. As she staggers outside to see what is happening, she finds out that Celia has been murdered at home. Dana remembers visiting her friend that day, and that they fought about something, but her mind is fuzzy. Mental anguish builds as she begins to suspect that she may have killed her own friend, but she can’t remember committing the crime.

Although the basic story-line is nothing unique, the psychological terror that builds in Dana is what really propels the story along. I do have to say that I figured out “who dunnit” before the murderer was revealed. There was a bit of language in the book, but all in all, it was a fast-paced, interesting read.

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer – by John Grisham (2010)

Theodore Boone - Kid Lawyer

Theodore is the only child of a husband-wife lawyer team in the small town of Strattenburg. His father handles real estate deals, his mother divorce cases. He hangs out at his parents’ office after school, and is well-known at the local courthouse. Conversations at dinner often center around the law. At 13 years of age, Theo already has a better grasp of legal matters and defense strategies than most adults. His dream is to become a skilled lawyer like his parents.

Theo’s fascination with everything legal earns him the nickname “kid lawyer”. He answers classmates’ questions about the law. He also goes to the courthouse with his friend April to offer moral support. When the trial of accused killer Pete Duffy starts, the government class is allowed to see the opening arguments. Theo is immediately fascinated with the case, and gets personally involved.

Grisham’s first novel for pre-adults is a fun read. I enjoyed the unusual-ness of the Boone family. His close friendship with April, whose life is rather messed up, added to the story. Lastly, Theo’s crazy Uncle Ike was terrific. This story can be enjoyed by readers spanning middle-school, high school, and adult ages. A copy of this book can be found in the teen or young adult section of your local library.

House Rules – by Jodi Picoult (2010)

House Rules

The description inside this book will tell you that “House Rules” is about a young man – Jacob Hunt – who has Asperger’s Syndrome, and is charged with killing his tutor, Jess Ogilve. Did he really kill her? While the trial is a big part of the story, it seems to me that the real story is Jacob’s struggle to live day-to-day with Asperger’s, and how it affects every member of the family. The telling of the story rotates between Jacob, his mother Emma, his younger brother Theo, his attorney Oliver, and the police investigator Rich. The timeline jumps back and forth between the present and the years of Jacob as a child.

I came to appreciate each character in the story after reading their point of view. Emma’s love for her son, her patience, her willingness to do whatever it took to give her son a “normal” life, was inspiring. When Theo expressed how overlooked he felt over the years as all the attention was focused on his brother, I felt great sympathy for him. As Oliver and Rich told their parts of the story, I could see how conflicted they were about Jacob. And Jacob – it was just plain amazing to see how he viewed the world and the people around him.

After reading this book, I have a much better understanding of Asperger’s. There is a small amount of content and language that some readers may object to, but overall this is a well-written novel worth reading. It is also available as an audiobook, with different narrators reading the parts of the main characters.

The Splitting Storm – by Rene Gutteridge (2004)

The Splitting Storm

 

“The Splitting Storm” follows the prequel “The Gathering Storm”. The novel begins with Mick Kline, FBI special agent, trying to determine who killed his brother Aaron. There doesn’t seem to be any motive for the murder, and there are no leads in the case. But Mick is not a man to sit back and wait for someone else to solve the case.

I enjoyed the psychological aspect to this novel. The mind is an infinitely complex organ, one that can be used for brilliance or for great harm. The story reminded me that while we can try to guess what’s going on inside someone’s head, only God truly sees the pain each person has been through, and what thoughts are in their mind.
Excerpt from page 93:

Mick’s jaw tightened at the thought. Guilt for simply being alive beckoned him into deeper sorrow. Aaron had always been the good son. The son of integrity. The man whom everyone looked up to. Including Mick, through it took years for Mick to admit it. Mick owed so much to his brother, and now the most he could do for him was find out who took his life. It would do nothing but provide justice, which was obsolete to a man who no longer breathed.