by John Grisham
‘After twelve years of investigating judges, Lacy considered herself immune from shock. She was also calloused and jaded enough to have serious doubts about Jeri’s story.’
For my second book to read over the Christmas period, I chose this thriller by John Grisham.
Judges – as far as I know – don’t come high in the rankings of serial killers. But as such criminals go, Judge Ross Bannick is a nasty piece of work. Jeri Crosby thinks – knows – he murdered her father; she has spent years tracking him, but has no evidence to support a police investigation. She also knows of several other murders committed by the judge in several states, and there could be many more.
Jeri takes her case to Lacy Stoltz, a lead investigator at the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct. Going after a judge without evidence is not the wisest thing for a public servant to do. However, there is a pattern to the crimes, one that intrigues Lacy, so she cautiously agrees to look into the matter.
All the murders, except one, involve bludgeoning the victims with a blunt instrument and finishing them off with a blue nylon rope round their windpipes. These are crimes with no apparent motive and which leave no useable forensics. In only one case has the murderer changed his MO to dispose of a witness who happened along while he was committing the crime. And in this case, there is evidence, if only it can be recognised for what it is by police or FBI. And that seems unlikely!
‘[Bannick] had never returned to the scene …. but the moment suddenly seemed right. He had made no mistakes. No one had a clue. His grey pickup looked like a thousand others in the area. Its fake Mississippi plates seemed perfectly authentic.’
Eventually, Lacy must formally register the case, which means the Judge learns he is being investigated. He is smart, has access to records and files, and manages to identify Jeri as the complainant, making her a candidate for his list. Lacy too could be at risk if, or when, she gets close to uncovering the truth about a bizarre string of apparently unrelated deaths.
‘She forced herself to stand and walk to the door. She unlocked and cracked it again, then unlocked the storm door. The envelope fell to the threshold …. When she opened it and saw her silly poems, her hands instinctively flew up to her mouth and muffled her screams.’
We have grown to expect cliffhangers from Grisham, and he gives us one again in The Judge’s List. It’s the kind of thriller that makes you wonder whether anyone is to be trusted, whether anyone is safe. Bannick is above law enforcement’s suspicion. He has committed perfect crimes. The question we ask is, can he possibly commit more and get away with it?