An Epic Legal Thriller: The Judge’s List

John Grisham has done it again. Grisham has hit another home run with his 2021 book, The Judge’s List, The Whistler’s sequel, an epic legal thriller.

An Introduction to This Epic Legal Thriller

Already among the most well-known American authors of intensely compelling stories full of excitement and satisfying conclusions, Grisham gives us The Judge’s List. This epic legal thriller is certainly worth a read for fans of his work – and a good entry point for anyone interested in giving him a try.

Have you ever read a book that you just couldn’t put down? Then there’s a very good chance that you’ve read one of John Grisham’s mysteries or legal thrillers. Those who are familiar with Grisham’s outstanding prose and highly original story content already knew what they were getting into with The Judge’s List.

If you enjoyed The Whistler, you’re going to love this sequel, John Grisham’s latest entry to his already impressive collection of epic legal thrillers and suspense novels.

This epic legal thriller asks, "Could a siting judge be a serial killer"?

The Narration

As is the case in the preceding entry in this series, this story is told in the third person point of view, meaning Grisham serves as our narrator throughout the book. Lacy Stoltz is still the main character, but you’ll still get Grisham’s distinct voice to carry you through each page.

Who's Next on the Judge's List, an epic legal thriller.

The Book’s Setting

The Judge’s List takes place in Florida, where Lacy is in a rut at her Florida Board on Judicial Conduct job – until she meets a woman, whose father was murdered, and she suspects a judge within Lacy’s jurisdiction.

John Grisham's The Judge's List

The Theme of This Epic Legal Thriller

Arguably, one might say that the theme of this book is the importance of pursuing justice no matter the dangers or the likelihood that you’ll succeed. Throughout this book, Lacy Stoltz deals with one difficult situation after another, and the prospects of nailing down the crooked judge become dimmer and dimmer.

What makes these murders so complex is that the killer commits the crimes in different states and municipalities years apart, and leaves no forensic evidence other than his signature MO. Still, she perseveres and fights for the truth to come out in any way she can.

The Book’s Genre

The Judge’s List is another in a long line of Grisham’s epic legal thrillers and suspenseful thrillers. John Grisham is known for and clearly highly proficient at creating courtroom and legal thrillers. You’ll get all the chills and addictive storylines that you can expect from other entries in this genre.

About the Author

This is yet another novel by the tireless John Grisham. Compared to one of his literary hits like The Firm, this new book absolutely holds up. It also serves as a compelling continuation of the chain of events started in The Whistler.

The Plot

Our protagonist, Lacy Stoltz, meets Jeri Crosby, whose father had been killed two decades before. That murder case and several others with the same modus operandi (MO) are still unsolved after nearly 20 years in the case of Crosby’s father. There is one person whom Jeri suspects, a sitting judge who she’s been stalking obsessively since her father’s death.

With no shortage of other victims to be found along the way in her 20 years of pursuit, the stakes could not be higher. And yet, the trail couldn’t seem colder as everyone is seemingly a suspect and suspicions run wild, but it’s nearly impossible to find a single scrap of proof that could identify and condemn her father’s murder in this epic legal thriller.

Is Lacy Stoltz up for the case?

My Opinion about This Epic Legal Thriller & Read Recommendation

As usual, John Grisham delivers famously on his captivating story mechanism and ingenious plot architecture. In his work, you see a clear snapshot of real people engaging with real situations. He’s clearly still up for new challenges in his writing – definitely an author to continue to keep your eye on.

#1 New York Times Best Seller — Currently (16 December ’21) #4.

“Investigator Lacy Stoltz follows the trail of a serial killer and closes in on a shocking suspect—a sitting judge—in ‘one of the best crime reads of the year.… Bristling with high-tech detail and shivering with suspense…. Worth staying up all night to finish.’ ” — The Wall Street Journal.

With 22,015 ratings by verified Amazon buyers, this epic legal thriller was rated 4.5 out of 5 stars overall. Eighty-eight percent rated it four or five stars.

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Be sure to read my review of Sycamore Row the second and read my review of A Time for Mercy the third Jake Brigance courtroom drama novel based in Clanton in Ford County, MS.

Review Camino Island by John Grisham

My Review Camino Island

Review Camino Island, a novel about the theft of five original, hand-written F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from Princeton’s Firestone Library by five cunning yet nerdy guys, well except the one psychopath, which goes south rather quickly after the heist, when the FBI discovers a small drop of blood left by one of the thieves.
There are rumors that Bruce Cable, a Camino Island bookstore owner bought the manuscripts. Elaine, an investigator for a mysterious and covert company hired by an insurance company that holds a policy on the manuscripts for $25 million, hires Mercer Mann. Mercer is a down-on-her-luck writer, who has just lost her teaching job. Elaine wants her to get close to Bruce and his wife, Noelle Bonnet, an antique dealer, to possibly discover if they have the manuscripts.

Summary of Camino Island a Novel

My review Camino Island. Mercer is the “perfect” woman for the job as she is young and beautiful, newly unemployed and up to her eyeballs in student debt, which Elaine offers to pay off for her, plus $100,000 for a six-month assignment, during which time she can finish the novel she hasn’t even started writing yet and is 3 years overdue. She’ll get half up front and the other half at completion. Another component that makes her ideal for the situation is that she spent nearly every summer with her grandmother, Tessa on Camino Island. Though she hasn’t been back since her grandmother’s passing, the beach cottage is still in the family and available for use.
Mercer fits right in with the crowd of Bruce’s friends on the island, mostly writers with storied pasts and stories about each other, as writers are notorious gossips. At least, they are in this story. Her plan to spend the six months writing her passed due novel does not necessarily go as planned. However, the discussion she has with Bruce about writing turns into a story that draws them closer together. One of Bruce’s past girlfriends was writing a story about a love triangle between F. Scott Fitzgerald, his wife Zelda, and Ernest Hemingway before his ex-girlfriend committed suicide and he begins giving Mercer the details.
While Noelle is in France buying antiques, they have a romantic fling. Despite Bruce and Noelle’s open marriage, Mercer feels a bit guilty about it, but not enough to stop.

Narration (Review Camino Island)

The narrator is the storyteller, the bard, or Mr. Grisham, whichever you please.

Setting (Review Camino Island)

The first set for this novel is the Firestone Library at Princeton, then the cabin in the Poconos where the thieves hide out for a while, but the setting for most of the story is modern day Florida, Camino Island, in the small, sleepy tourist town of Santa Rosa.


To me, the overall theme of this novel is not to let greed rule your life. The thieves wind up dead, in jail, or on the run because of greed. Mercer sells her moral standing to discover if Bruce has the manuscripts, mainly because she has no job, no money, and a ton of student debt. Elaine’s company and the insurance company do not want to pay the $25 million they insured the books for, and Bruce gives up a cushy, comfortable, and prosperous life on a resort island and possibly risks everything for the excitement of dealing in stolen goods.


This is a crime fiction dealing with rare books and manuscripts.


As all Grisham fans know, he is a notable trial defense and courtroom drama writer with very few exceptions. From his very first novel, A Time to Kill to The Rooster Bar, and some very popular titles in between, such as The Frim, Sycamore Row (the sequel to A Time to Kill), and The Pelican Brief most are courtroom dramas. Many of these titles became major motion pictures. Even his Young Adult (YA) series of Theodore Boone books were courtroom drama based. And yes, he did stray from the genre with Playing for Pizza, Calico Joe, The Tumor, and a few others, but crime drama or legal thriller, at least to me, is his forte! After all, he was an attorney.
Well, this is not the usual John Grisham courtroom drama, but you could refer to it as a legal thriller because much of the storyline deals with criminal elements within the underground rare books and art trade.

My Opinion & Recommendation

My favorite character was Bruce Cable. I can’t imagine having a better life than as the owner of a successful bookstore and coffee where you are the barrister. I mean come on, you can wear any outfit you want, even with a bowtie if you’re into such things, and no one thinks you’re weird because, hey you own a bookstore. You go to “work,” make some coffee, grab whatever book you choose from the shelf, and sit down and read until someone comes in. You have a huge collection of first edition books autographed by the authors, most of whom you know personally; and then, you meet and marry a beautiful and beguiling antique dealer, who fills your home with Provençal furnishing. I couldn’t imagine wanting much more, but then there are the nefarious deals with rare books to keep things exciting.
To me, this was a good story, not a great John Grisham page-turner novel like many of his legal thrillers, but it is superb crime fiction. If you’re looking for a compelling story that forces you to turn the page in anticipation, this is not it. Although, I do believe it is a must-read for all Grisham fans, and it didn’t become a New York Times Bestseller and reach number one just because it was Grisham who wrote it; still and all, I’m sure that helped. Plus, his going on tour for the first time in twenty-five years to publicize the book probably helped as well.
I think non-Grisham fans would probably like this book even more than his regulars because it is such a departure from courtroom dramas and legal thrillers. Someone that is not expecting a cutting-edge courtroom battle would perhaps be more in tuned to the book. Nevertheless, I do think anyone would enjoy the story. Well, that’s my review Camino Island!

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Book Review: Ashley Bell, Buy it Here!

Ashley Bell Book Review

This is a book review about Ashley Bell, which is a great read, a book I could not put down. Although I was a little confused at first by what was happening, I was hooked, right from the very beginning. When things cleared up and I realized what was going on I was shocked and compelled to keep going. Not only does it keep you at the edge of your seat waiting for what is going to happen next, but you will have genuine compassion for the characters. You will feel like you are right there with them.

An Introduction (Ashley Bell Book Review)

In this book review, I will detail (hopefully, without too many spoilers) the latest in a long line of spine-tingling thrillers, which readers like you have come to enjoy from Dean Koontz, title after title. Such as Final Hour, Last Light, The City, Whispers, Odd Thomas the series, and most recently, The Silent Corner. A page-turner to keep any reader riveted. The book gives the background of ten-year-old Bibi Blair who lived under a grim vault of sorrow each day in Southern California, at least until her grandfather (whom she called “Captain”) came to live in the loft of their garage. She wanted to marry a hero someday yet her mind was always spinning. Just how this little girl imagined her life at a tender age. Yet in the long run, this may turn out to be a bit too much for her.

I loved Bibi from the minute she was introduced in the book. What a charismatic young lady. Even from her childhood you couldn’t help but love her. The book ends up taking quite a turn when Bibi gets terminal brain cancer and believes that she did not die because she was meant to save someone else’s life, that someone was Ashley Bell.

At the time of the book, she is currently living in Southern California. To be exact, a small bungalow in Corona del Mar. There was no ocean view, despite being three blocks away from the Pacific. The girl wrote short stories and kept a diary. There is also mention of her previously living in San Francisco where a dog was abandoned by a cruel master on a beach just south of there. A lot of writings chronicled Jasper going from place to place in search of a new home. He was a black and gray mongrel named Jasper in her stories. Yet a golden retriever and named Olaf in Bibi’s real life.

Her parents named her Bibi because they were quirky and lighthearted surfers. Pronounced Beebee and derived from the Old French word ”Bibelot”, meaning a ”toy”, ”bauble”, or trinket. She resisted the thought of ever being anyone’s toy. She resisted the thought of ever being anyone’s toy. Yet by age sixteen, she was used to the name. After turning twenty, this woman embraced and accepted her quirky name. Feeling it made her stand out. Yet worried her name would prevent her from being taken seriously as a novelist yet she never used a pen name.

The story quickly progresses to her life at age twenty-two. She wrote for a newspaper and had big dreams of a career beyond this, working on a novel. She preferred to write less about big events and more about stories where people’s lives are affected by forces beyond their control. The journey of a young woman in a man’s world is tough. Bibi, no doubt, also has it tough in some way. When you turn each page, more of her struggle will be revealed.

Starting with Bibi’s hunt for Ashley things get crazier than ever as Bibi gets involved in another world in her own mind. Bibi’s brain tumor puts her in a coma that the doctors cannot understand because the brain activity is as active as vibrant as a fully awake and functioning as any person’s mind would be. This world is full of many things Bibi is not used to. Lots of conspiracies and lots of crime. This story is filled with themes of both innocence and evil.

Warning: Spoilers ahead in this Book Review!

The girl that Bibi feels she is meant to save, Ashley Bell, whom she has never actually met but was a character in a book she read as a child. Ashley Bell was a Holocaust survivor who grows up to become a brain surgeon. Bibi’s strong desire to save her is what consumes her after her close encounter with death. Bibi has quite a knack for forgetting bad experiences that have happened in her life; however, to save Ashley Bell, she must open a deeper part of her mind of forgotten incidences. This is very important to her rescuing Ashley.

Dean Koontz keeps your attention in this story. Page after page and chapter after chapter you will not want to put it down. Your only thought while reading this book will be that you want to immediately find out what happens next.

The Characters

Another thing that is great about this story is that you can see the characters as real people. Such as Bibi’s mom and dad, a stereotypical Liberal surfer couple from California, if there ever was one, Pax, her Navy Seal BF, currently somewhere unknown to her, then there’s the Captain, her mother’s father and her childhood confidant, and many others you will grow to love and some you will hate tremendously. There isn’t anything that makes you think these are just some made-up people in a story you are reading.

The way Koontz describes his characters gives you such an opportunity to envision them in your own way. But, you do envision them as real people not just as characters in a book. This makes any story a better read because you feel like you are right there with them. You feel their happiness, their anger, their love, their sadness and their pain. Ashley Bell is a story that allows you to feel these emotions.

When you must put the book down, you are so into the story that you can’t wait to pick it up again because you just want to know that much what is going to happen next. And, your mind is racing along distracting you from whatever it is you’re doing, while you think… What is Bibi going to do next? What happens to Ashley Bell if she doesn’t get to her in time? No good character goes through a story without a conflict, this woman is no exception. Who is she? What will happen to her? Does she survive this novel? These questions and more will be on your mind as you read Ashley Bell.

The Book Review Summary & Recommendation

The book itself is quite long; however, with the short chapters in this book you won’t even notice this and you will feel like you are getting through the book quite quickly. This book can catch your attention quickly, especially those who are quite fond of stories that involve an overly determined character, lots of suspense, and maybe even some murders. Any mystery lover will be glad to read this book and will certainly be satisfied with the plot. This book is a must read and I give it two thumbs up as well as 5 out of 5 stars or however you want a book review to rate a novel. Those who are not Dean Koontz fans just might be after reading this novel.

While this book review cannot give too much away, Bibi’s ordeal is both unique and worth a read.

A Comparison?

From the standpoint of this book review, it is a more personal and character-driven story than say Koontz’ novel Breathless. A novel that is basically a high tech and plot-driven retelling of Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein. While this latter book remains an exciting read, the personal focus and heartfelt emotions make Ashley Bell stand out among the rest of his works. This is not the usual Koontz thriller, it is a cut above showing what an author can really do when he digs deep into a character’s mind and soul. It will appeal both to his usual fan base of action thrillers and that of the rarer breed of those who want something more in their fiction. A deeper emotional core most best-selling authors are afraid to reach. And indeed, such depth says a lot about an author’s talent.

In conclusion, Ashley Bell is a very good read that you will not want to miss. Dean Koontz is a very good author who still puts out many books worth exploring. In an era where there is so much focus on digital media and cable TV screens, cell phones, tablets, and iPods, this is refreshing.

Koontz, Stephen King, and others of their ilk might end up being the last of an era. Stories are as timeless as life itself. The evolution of media always changes the way stories are told. Yet the experience of good storytelling, from the perspectives of both the reader and the author, should stay the same, no matter what. Ashley Bell is that personification of a great story.

I hope you liked my little book review and I hope I didn’t give away too much (though, I know I didn’t). It seemed to me that Mr. Koontz is setting us up for a sequel. What did you think? Will there be another thrilling story that focuses more on Pax? Let me know in the comments. By the way, if you have not read Final Hour and Last Light, though it is not necessary to the Ashley Bell story, some of the character lead-ins begin in these two Novellas. Thanks. 

This review also appears on Goodreads.