Capital punishment is a hot-button issue in the United States, so it’s no wonder there are many mystery-suspense, thrillers, and crime fiction stories that explore this subject. What happens when we explore the stories of characters on death row? How does that affect our opinion of the death penalty? Here are several crime fiction novels that bring us a front-row seat to the infamous death row and its inmates.
Twenty-six-year-old Adam Hall has a promising career in law ahead of him. But in John Grisham's The Chamber, Adam is risking it all to defend a killer on death row. Sam Cayhill is a former Klansman facing the death penalty for a fatal bombing in 1967. He also so happens to be Adam's grandfather. The clock is ticking, and now Adam only has days to figure out this impossible case and save Sam Cayhill's life.
In Patricia Cornwell's 12th Kay Scarpetta novel Blow Fly, Kay's job as Virginia's Chief Medical Examiner has come to a sudden end. Now, she's starting her new life as a private forensic consultant. As she's investigating the case of a woman who's found dead in a seedy hotel in Louisiana, something strange happens. Jean-Baptiste Chandonne, who is currently on death row, asks for an audience with the famous Dr. Kay Scarpetta. He has secrets that he's only willing to share with her. Could his secrets be related to her Louisiana case?
The Green Mile is a contemporary classic from author Stephen King. In Cold Mountain Penitentiary, condemned killers await their death in a stretch of cells known as the Green Mile. John Coffey has been sentenced to death for raping and murdering two girls. Some people think he is the devil incarnate. But the truth of John Coffey is very different from anything anyone could have imagined.
Readers everywhere are intrigued by the story of Hannibal Lecter, and it all starts here with Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. A terrifying killer named "the Tooth Fairy" is one the loose, and when more people end up murdered and more leads go cold, Special Agent Jack Crawford turns to the only person who can help: Will Graham, the best profiler the FBI has ever seen. Chasing and capturing serial killer Hannibal Lecter, Will was forced into an early retirement. But now Will must ask Hannibal Lecter for help.
Michael Connelly's Suicide Run features four stories about LAPD detective Harry Bosch. In "Cielo Azul," a killer of a young teen girl sits on death row. The girl was never identified and Bosch still has so many questions about the case. Now, Bosch takes advantage of this final opportunity to find out exactly what happened all those years ago.
The sixth chapter in Scott Turow's Kindle County Legal Thriller series, Reversible Errors, tells the story of a brutal triple murder and the man condemned to die for these crimes. Rommy "Squirrel" Gandolph is slowly approaching his final days and all feels hopeless. That is until corporate lawyer Arthur Raven receives word that another inmate may have new evidence that will prove Gandolph's innocence.
In The Devil's Cure, one man has the cure for cancer, and that man is currently on death row, convicted of murdering leading research doctors, all in the name of God. David Haines would rather die and see those around him die than share his blood for medical science. Oncologist Dr. Laura Donaldson goes to David to find out more, but instead, she unwittingly sets David free. Now Laura and FBI agent Kevin Sheldrake will chase David across the county with the goal of bringing him back alive, even if that's the last thing David would ever want.
Hollie Overton's The Walls is a dark crime thriller that explores domestic violence, life on death row, and the morality of murder. Kristy Tucker is a single mom working as a press agent for the Texas Department of Corrections. Day in and day out, Kristy is confronted with the worst of humanity and thinks she's learned to see the signs. But then she falls in love with Lance Dobson. At first, she thinks she's found her happy ending, but Lance is nothing like he first appeared. Kristy fears she will be forced to live out a life of torment and abuse unless she takes matters into her own hands.
What happens when you help put a man behind bars, only to later doubt that he was ever guilty—just as he is about to be executed? The Ballad of Frankie Silver is about a career lawman who is about to watch the execution of a man he put away 20 years ago for the brutal slaying of two hikers. But the lawman can't stop thinking about another execution that happened over 100 years ago, one in which an innocent woman was killed for a crime she did not commit. And he's afraid history is about to repeat itself if he doesn't act soon.
Notes on an Execution is a fascinating crime story that examines the life and mind of a criminal through the perspectives of the women who know him: a mother, a sister, and a homicide detective. Ansel Packer is scheduled to die in ten hours. He knows he's guilty of the crimes, but he still wants to live. He wants to be understood.
Set in a small Cajun community in the 1940s, A Lesson Before Dying introduces readers to Jefferson, a young Black man who witnesses a liquor store shoot out in which three men are killed. As the only survivor, Jefferson is convicted of their murders and sentenced to death. While on death row, Jefferson meets Grant Wiggins, who has just returned to his hometown to teach and hopes to impart a few lessons on Jefferson before his death. Ultimately, the two men form a close bond and teach each other unexpected lessons.
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