My goal is to eventually make my way through all of these must-read titles. These books have been around for so long and read by so many that another generic review from your average reader seems unnecessary. Instead, I thought it would be fun to take a look at what some of the experts have to say about the stories that paved the way for their own success… and how their perspective compares to my own reading experience. Today, I’m looking at John Lescroart’s The 13th Juror.
Lawyer Dismas Hardy undertakes the defense of Jennifer Witt, accused of murdering her husband and their eight-year-old son as well as her first husband, who had died nine years earlier from an apparent drug overdose. While preparing his case, Hardy learns that both of Jennifer’s husbands had physically abused her. But Jennifer refuses to allow a defense that presumes her guilt. She is not guilty, she claims. Hardy is now driven to seek an alternative truth a jury can believe. As the trial progresses, the complex truth itself begins to change, to bend, to fade in and out of focus as the clock keeps ticking on Jennifer’s fate, until there seems only one person left to convince…
Karna Small Bodman leads off by saying that The 13th Juror, Lescroart’s break-out novel, “changed the paradigm for legal thrillers.” As someone who hasn’t read many legal thrillers, I can’t really support or refute that. What I can tell you is that, while courtroom dramas don’t get me very excited under the best of circumstances, this one – partly because of the expectations from its being on this list – was a bit of a disappointment.
I wanted to like it more. I think if it were tightened up a bit, I would have. The underlying story was a good one. The “battered woman syndrome” issue, embodied in a character who doesn’t quite evoke the sympathy you might expect, makes for an interesting trial.
The problem is that it took so long in getting there that the story just couldn’t hold my interest. When I was reading, I wasn’t excited about it. And when I wasn’t reading, I wasn’t feeling any real pull to pick it up again.
Even when I don’t personally enjoy these ITW picks, I do try to understand why they were chosen as must-read thrillers. Usually I can see how they were important or influential in some way… but I’m afraid I just don’t see it here. As I’ve already said, though, legal thrillers aren’t my expertise.
“By taking a sensitive social issue and weaving it into an action-packed legal story, Lescroart has created a special niche for his books and developed a devoted following.” He may have a following… but based on this book – which I wouldn’t exactly describe as “action-packed” – I won’t be joining it any time soon.
Twenty-four down, seventy-six to go…
Next month I’ll be discussing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles.