Suspenseful courtroom dramas by some of the best writers in the business

Mal Warwick
6 min readNov 23, 2018


Photo credit: Texas Public Radio

Here are 16 courtroom dramas I’ve read, enjoyed, and reviewed here. You’ll see several familiar names among the authors. Jodi Picoult’s name frequently appears on the New York Times bestseller lists. Michael Connelly writes the popular series featuring the Lincoln Lawyer, Mickey Haller, in Los Angeles. John Lescroart features defense attorney Dismas Hardy and SFPD Lieutenant Abe Glitsky in San Francisco. Scott Turow, author of Presumed Innocent, Reversible Errors, and other novels, writes about crime and punishment in Chicago in the guise of Kindle County. And, of course, John Grisham frequently writes courtroom dramas as well. The titles in the list below are arranged in descending alphabetical order by the authors’ last names.

The Reversal (Mickey Haller #3) by Michael Connelly — A master of the mystery genre struts his stuff in a new Mickey Haller novel

Defense attorney Mickey Haller is in the spotlight. Together with his half-brother, Harry Bosch, and his ex-wife, Mickey takes on the prosecution of a child-killer convicted in 1986 and just released from prison on an appeal based on newly reviewed DNA evidence. Read the review.

The Gods of Guilt (Mickey Haller #5) by Michael Connelly — A brilliant courtroom drama about the Lincoln Lawyer from Michael Connelly

Haller takes on the case of an Internet-Age pimp accused of killing one of the women he manages. Naturally, Haller determines that the pimp, whatever else he may be, is no murderer. Read the review.

The Jury Master (David Sloane #1) by Robert Dugoni — From Robert Dugoni, a thriller that thrills but falls flat in the end

The Jury Master is the first entry of five novels to date in Robert Dugoni’s David Sloane series. Sloane, the protagonist, is a trial attorney specializing in wrongful death defense. The story in this novel involves several intertwining threads and a half-dozen principal characters. To say that it’s complicated is an understatement. Dugoni does a fine job building suspense, and he manages to leave the resolution of the tale to the book’s final chapters. In fact, the resolution is what some readers might call “shattering.” I found it questionable.

Gray Mountain by John Grisham — John Grisham vs. Big Coal

Grisham really, really doesn’t like big companies that ride roughshod over their employees, the communities where they operate, and the environment, all for the sake of making a buck, and he likes them even less when their actions are downright illegal. Read the review.

Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham — American police come off badly in John Grisham’s latest novel

The city’s “warrior cops” have mistakenly invaded the home of an elderly couple, killing the wife and wounding the husband, and have covered up the later discovery that a disaffected teenager living next door is actually the drug dealer they thought they were going to arrest. Read the review.

The Confession by John Grisham — Why do so many people buy John Grisham’s books?

A young African-American man is railroaded into a guilty verdict by the so-called justice system of the State of Texas. The real rapist and murderer surfaces, but not in time to stop the young man’s execution for a rape and murder he didn’t commit. Read the review.

The Litigators by John Grisham — Get this: John Grisham’s latest novel is funny

A Harvard Law graduate working at a huge corporate firm finally snaps one day and, in a drunken stupor, makes his way to the misbegotten firm of Finley & Figg, a couple of ambulance-chasers (and worse) whose office is next door to a massage parlor. Read the review.

Sycamore Row by John Grisham — The belated sequel to John Grisham’s breakthrough first novel

Grisham couldn’t resist the temptation to revisit the world of Jake Brigance, the cocky young lawyer at the center of the action in Grisham’s breakthrough first novel, A Time to Kill. Read the review.

Dead Irish (Dismas Hardy #1) by John Lescroart — John Lescroart: The joy of San Francisco noir

San Francisco bartender Dismas Hardy was briefly a patrol officer in the SFPD while he worked toward a law degree. When his boss and best friend learns that his popular brother-in-law has mysteriously died, Dismas can’t resist the urge to investigate. Read the review.

The Vig (Dismas Hardy #2) by John Lescroart — A great start to John Lescroart’s Dismas Hardy series

Dismas Hardy’s former office-mate in the DA’s office shows up at the Shamrock to inform him that a man the two of them had helped send to prison for a 13-year term has just gotten out early. And he had sworn to murder both of them. Read the review.

A Plague of Secrets (Dismas Hardy #13) by John Lescroart — Laws selectively enforced in John Lescroart’s courtroom drama

An overzealous cop investigating the murder of a coffee-shop manager prematurely takes the case to the right-wing U.S. Attorney, who uses the opportunity to go after Dismas Hardy’s prominent friends, both outspoken liberals, a San Francisco Supervisor and the Mayor. Read the review.

The Ophelia Cut (Dismas Hardy #14) by John Lescroart — A gripping legal thriller full of surprises from John Lescroart

The familiar cast of characters includes Dismas Hardy; the crusty SFPD chief homicide detective Abe Glitsky; Hardy’s investigator, Wyatt Hunt; and Hardy’s law partner Gina Roake. In The Ophelia Cut, Hardy’s brother-in-law, Moses McGuire, and both his and Hardy’s young-adult daughters, Brittany McGuire and Rebecca (“The Beck”) Hardy, also appear. Read the review.

The Fall: Rebecca Hardy’s First Case (Dismas Hardy #16) by John Lescroart — An engaging courtroom drama set in San Francisco

Dismas and The Beck scramble to uncover evidence that will point away from their client, Greg Treadway, who is targeted as the suspect in a murder. Despite her complete lack of trial experience and almost crippling self-doubt, The Beck is pressed into service as Treadway’s attorney. Read the review.

The Long Drop by Denise Mina — A courtroom drama set in Glasgow in the 50s

The Long Drop is based on contemporaneous accounts and two later books about the trial of Peter Manuel, who came to be known as “Scotland’s first serial killer.” Manuel was a career criminal who had come to the attention of the police as early as age 10 and was imprisoned at 16 for a series of brutal sexual attacks. He was hanged on July 11, 1958, having been convicted of seven gruesome murders. Read the review.

The Verdict by Nick Stone — A fascinating English courtroom drama

A law clerk named Terry Flynt is unexpectedly offered a dream opportunity to join the defense team for Vernon James, a multimillionaire accused of murdering a young woman. To complicate matters, Terry and Vernon had been best friends until falling out in a dramatic way. Terry was expelled from Cambridge University, and he holds Vernon responsible. Read the review.

Innocent (Kindle County #8) by Scott Turow — Crime and punishment in Scott Turow’s Kindle County

Rusty Savitch is now presiding justice on the state’s second highest court when his wife dies, suddenly, unexpectedly, and mysteriously. Rusty’s old nemesis, now the county’s acting Prosecuting Attorney, prosecutes him for murder, as he had twenty years previously. Read the review.

For additional reading

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For an abundance of great mystery stories, go to Top 20 suspenseful detective novels (plus 200 more).



Mal Warwick

Author, book reviewer, serial entrepreneur, board member