Legal thrillers make for exciting reads because you get the page-turning intensity of mystery books and the thrilling back-and-forth of courtroom drama. Here are six must-read legal thrillers that you’re absolutely not going to want to pass up. These mystery and thriller books focus on compelling main characters working in the legal world. You’re going to want to root for these characters and follow their stories from their gripping beginnings to their shocking conclusions. Here are five legal thrillers to read now and five to anticipate this year.
Legal Thrillers Coming This Year
by Nancy Allen
Assistant DA Kate Stone has just suffered the biggest loss of her career. She’d worked so hard to prosecute a serial assaulter of women, and it was a case she should have won. But a corrupt judge allowed Max James to walk free. When he confronts her outside the courthouse, she punches James, and he goes down hard. After the footage is plastered across every TV screen, Kate’s boss demands that she either attend anger management meetings or give up the job she lives for.
Begrudgingly, Kate attends her first meeting. Inside is a group of people all failed by the justice system. Their mission: to do everything in their power to help right wrongs, even if outside the law. Unsure who to trust among this unlikely team of renegades, Kate begins to dig into Max James’s secret life, and she unknowingly ignites a battle that will rage across the city that never sleeps.
Gabriel Soto is a social recluse accused of murdering the free-spirited Melina Mora. At the center of the media spotlight is Sandy Grunwald, an ambitious young prosecutor whose political fortunes depend on her using the limited evidence to secure a conviction. But the criminal justice system is complicated, and everyone has a story—especially the jury.
With striking originality and expert storytelling, the ensemble cast comes alive on the page, and as their stories are revealed, their own experiences, biases, and beliefs—not the facts of the case—are what ultimately shape the verdict. You’ve never read a legal thriller quite like this. There’s never been a thriller writer quite like Robin Peguero. And you will not be able to predict how it all ends.
No one mourned when San Francisco DA Wes Farrell put Paul Riley in prison eleven years ago for the rape and murder of his girlfriend. And no one is particularly happy to see him again when he’s released after The Exoneration Initiative uncovered evidence that pinned the crime on someone else. In fact, Riley soon turns up murdered, surrounded by the loot from his latest scam. But if Riley was really innocent all along, who would want him dead?
To the cops, it’s straightforward: the still-grieving father of Riley’s dead girlfriend killed the former prisoner. Farrell, now out of politics and practicing law with master attorney Dismas Hardy, agrees to represent the defendant, Doug Rush—and is left in the dust when Rush suddenly vanishes. At a loss, Farrell and Hardy ask PI Abe Glitsky to track down the potentially lethal defendant. The search takes Glitsky through an investigative hall of mirrors populated by wounded parents, crooked cops, cheating spouses, and single-minded vigilantes. As Glitsky embraces and then discards one enticing theory of the crime after another, the truth seems to recede ever farther.
Cassie Quinn may only be twenty-three, but she knows a few things. One: money can’t buy happiness, but it’s certainly better to have it. Two: family matters most. Three: her younger brother Billy is not a rapist.
When Billy, a junior at Princeton, is arrested for assaulting his ex-girlfriend, Cassie races home to Manhattan to join forces with her big brother Nate and their parents, Lawrence and Eleanor. The Quinns scramble to hire the best legal minds money can buy, but Billy fits the all-too-familiar sex-offender profile—white, athletic, and privileged—that makes headlines and sways juries.
Meanwhile, Cassie struggles to understand why Billy’s ex Diana would go this far, even if the breakup was painful. And she knows how the end of first love can destroy someone: Her own years-long affair with a powerful, charismatic man left her shattered, and she’s only recently regained her footing.
As reporters converge outside their Upper East Side landmark building, the Quinns gird themselves for a media-saturated trial, and Cassie vows she’ll do whatever it takes to save Billy. But what if that means exposing her own darkest secrets to the world?
Our Favorite Legal Thrillers in Stores
A girl dies one late, rainy night a few feet from the back door of her home. The girl, Abeba, was born in Ethiopia. Her adoptive parents, Delvin and Betsy Harvey—conservative, white fundamentalist Christians—are charged with her murder.
Royal, a Seattle criminal attorney in the last days of his long career, takes Betsy Harvey’s case. An octogenarian without a driver’s license, he leans on his son—the novel’s narrator—as he prepares for trial.
by Nancy Allen
The world's #1 best-selling author James Patterson is back with a new thriller co-written with Nancy Allen—The Jailhouse Lawyer. Erva, Alabama, is a sleepy town where very little crime seems to happen, aside from misdemeanors. Speeding tickets and shoplifting are about as wild as the crimes get in this small town. But if that's the case, why is the jail so crowded? When lawyer and single mother Martha Foster tries to figure out what's going on in her town, she finds herself facing off against a corrupt judge. And potentially landing in jail herself.
Michael Connelly's The Law of Innocence is the sixth novel in the Mickey Haller series. When defense attorney Mickey Haller is pulled over, the police find the body of one of his clients in the trunk of his Lincoln. Immediately, Mickey Haller is charged with murder, and Mickey decides to defend himself. Now, he must strategize and build his case while being detained in the Twin Towers Correctional Center in downtown Los Angeles. Mickey knows he's been framed, but how will he be able to prove his innocence?
by Susan R. Sloan
Susan R. Sloan's Guilt by Association is a provocative legal thriller that remains just as exciting and engaging over 20 years after it was first published. This is the stunning story of Karen, a woman struggling to recover after a vicious rape leaves her traumatized. This is her story of overcoming her trauma, rebuilding her life, and finally confronting the man who tried to take everything away from her.