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The Judge's List

Review

The Judge's List

The one predictable thing about John Grisham is his unpredictability. During his more than 30 visits to various bestseller lists, he has never allowed his writing to be stereotyped or grow stale. Of course, the Grisham name is associated with courtroom thrillers, and rightly so. Beginning with A TIME TO KILL and THE FIRM, there often has been a legal foundation to his work. But the former Mississippi attorney has also left the courtroom to write sports-themed novels, young adult books, and recently a series of thrillers with a bookstore setting.

THE JUDGE’S LIST, Grisham’s latest thriller, is the second to feature Lacy Stoltz, an attorney and investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct. Investigations of judges are a mundane process. Most find themselves in trouble because of drug or alcohol issues, their inability to complete their judicial assignments, or occasional conflicts of interest. When Lacy gets a mysterious phone call to meet an anonymous witness who accuses a sitting Florida judge of murder, she is flabbergasted.

"Grisham pulls you deeply into his story. You cheer for the good people and worry about them, while you loathe the villains.... THE JUDGE’S LIST is a brilliant thriller that grabs your attention early."

Lacy arranges a clandestine meeting with Jeri Crosby, a college professor with a remarkable story. Twenty years ago, her father --- a retired law professor --- was killed. The case remains unsolved because law enforcement has been unable to secure any solid evidence. But Jeri has done her own investigation and found murders committed in several southern states using nearly similar methods. All of these victims share one common individual in their life histories: Judge Ross Bannick.

Jeri’s information is substantial and points to Bannick as a serial killer. She provides both motive and method. But while there is a great deal of circumstantial evidence, there is nothing to tie Bannick directly to the murders. Additionally, the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct lacks the manpower and ability to conduct a criminal investigation of a sitting state court judge. There are numerous hurdles to leap here, but this is a John Grisham novel, so the obstacles are jumped and the chase begins.

In reviews of previous Grisham titles, I have sometimes observed that while he is identified as part of the legal thriller genre, he often uses the law only tangentially in solving the mystery. THE JUDGE’S LIST is one of those novels. Yes, Bannick is a judge, but his actual profession is serial killer. In a book of more than 350 pages, there might be just one courtroom scene that is so brief you may very well miss it. This observation is not intended to be a criticism as Grisham pulls you deeply into his story. You cheer for the good people and worry about them, while you loathe the villains. Along the way, he shares a great deal of intriguing information about serial killers and the dark web. Hopefully, some of what he offers is more speculation than fact.

THE JUDGE’S LIST is a brilliant thriller that grabs your attention early. Lacy Stoltz appears to be at a crossroads in her career. Whether or not she stays on the job, I hope that John Grisham has another case for her to solve. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on October 21, 2021

The Judge's List
by John Grisham

  • Publication Date: October 19, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday
  • ISBN-10: 0385546025
  • ISBN-13: 9780385546027