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The Best Legal Thrillers (That Aren’t by John Grisham)

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Mel Ashford

Staff Writer

Hearing impaired and proud, Mel is always on the lookout for more books about deaf people. She loves SFF and horror, but will read anything that’s not tied down. Mel is currently studying for a Natural Sciences degree. She is the proud mum of a tortoiseshell cat and a French Bulldog puppy. Mel loves crafts and video games. LGBTQIA+. Bioqueen.

Having developed a passion for both law and legal thrillers, I decided it was time to come up with a list of the best legal thrillers that aren’t John Grisham.

Like everyone else, I’ve read John Grisham, though, perhaps surprisingly, not his adult fiction. (It’s on my TBR!) Despite being 30, I loved Grisham’s “Kid Lawyer” series, Theodore Boone. I also loved In Your Defence by Sarah Langford. I think it was Langford who sparked my passion for law books, to be honest.

In Your Defence is non-fiction, sort of memoir, sort of not, by a British defence lawyer. Sarah Langford takes the reader through various cases she has worked on during her career. She gives you a fantastic glimpse into British defence law and covers some harrowing cases. It was devouring In Your Defence that got me to seek out legal thrillers in the first place. Naturally, John Grisham came up a few times!

But there are plenty of legal thriller books that are not John Grisham, and plenty by women or authors of color, too. Have a look at these 12 best legal thriller books that are not John Grisham!

Every Reasonable Doubt cover image

Every Reasonable Doubt by Pamela Samuels Young

A woman of color attorney is tasked with defending a socialite on trial for murder. With her career dreams hanging in the balance, the socialite’s case starts seeping into Vernetta’s personal life. It even starts to interfere with her marriage. A legal thriller with a strong angle on race.

cover image of Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Angie Kim won the Edgar Award for best first novel for Miracle Creek, and with the slightly science fiction edge to it, I can see why! Miracle Creek is about an experimental medical device owned by Young and Pak Yoo. The legal part comes in when something goes wrong and patients are killed. This one deserves it’s place on a list of the best legal thriller books!

Bluebird, Bluebird book cover

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

Featuring a black Texas Ranger, Bluebird, Bluebird is the first in the Highway 59 series. A black lawyer and a white woman have been found dead, triggering racial disputes and simmering tension. Can Darren Mathews solve the murders before it all kicks off?

Clean Hands book cover

Clean Hands by Patrick Hoffman

Quite an apt title for our current times, Clean Hands is a summer 2020 release about a female-led New York law firm. Clean Hands looks at what happens when a legal company’s digital files end up in the wrong hands. One of the newer legal fiction books.

To Kill a Mockingbird book cover

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I couldn’t leave out the incredibly famous To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This one is about a black man accused of assaulting a white girl. As it explores the legal angle from the point of view of a lawyer’s child, it is a slightly unique take on the legal novel.

A Nearly Normal Family book cover

A Nearly Normal Family by M. T. Edvardsson

An unsettling read if you’re a parent, and an intense thriller even if you aren’t. This novel takes a deep dive into what happens when your child is accused of murder. Definitely one of the best legal fiction books!

Mistaken Identity book cover

Mistaken Identity by Lisa Scottoline

If you love books about long-lost siblings, or twins, try this one! Mistaken Identity is about a lawyer tasked with defending her doppelgänger in a murder case. And she’d always thought she was an only child…

The Emperor of Ocean Park book cover

The Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter

Featuring wealthy families of color and an Ivy League law school, Stephen L. Carter weaves a thrilling tale of murder amongst the Supreme Court itself.

Blood Defense book cover

Blood Defense by Marcia Clark

A series starter, for those of you who want a bigger world to dive into.  Blood Defense follows Samantha Brinkman, a prominent Los Angeles lawyer. Her current case involves a TV celebrity and an LAPD veteran.

Invisible Client book cover

An Invisible Client by Victor Methos

Written by an Afghani author, An Invisible Client is about a pharmaceutical company believed to be poisoning children with the medicine it makes. A good personal injury novel, following Noah Byron.

Monster by Walter Dean Myers cover

Monster by Walter Dean Myers

One for the YA readers, Monster is another race-focussed legal novel, with powerful writing. It’s about a 16-year-old accused of acting as lookout during a Harlem murder.

No Further Questions book cover

No Further Questions by Gillian McAllister

Another one about sisters, No Further Questions leans toward the general crime thriller in feel, but has a legal focus. Perfect for those of you who normally read general crime thrillers and fancy something new.

Looking for more of literature’s best legal thrillers? Check out this guide to Authors Like John Grisham.