10 Books That Legal Fiction Fans Are Sure to Lose Themselves In

If you are a fan of courtroom drama, the dilemmas faced by a lawyer fighting an electrifying case, or the justice system, and topics related to crime and punishment, then the following books, which fall under the genre of legal fiction, are going to enthrall you.

10. Anatomy of a Murder, by Robert Traver

First Published: 1958

What It’s About:

One of the most popular courtroom dramas in American fiction, the story revolves around Frederick Manion, an army lieutenant arrested for murdering a bartender called Barney Quill. Manion claims that Quill had raped and beaten his wife, Laura. Unfortunately for the couple, even though Laura supports her husband’s story, the police’s surgeon is unable to find any signs of rape in Laura. Manion hires a local small-town lawyer, Paul Biegler to defend him. Biegler discovers that Manion is a violent man deeply possessive of his wife. His wife is not telling the complete truth either, or so it appears.

Why You Should Read It:

In a case where nothing is as it seems, the attacker, the victim, and the dead man – all have something to hide. Is the murder a crime of passion or something more sinister? This is a fascinating legal drama.

Best Quote:

“Animals are strictly dry, they sinless live and swiftly die, but sinful, ginful, rum-soaked men, survive for three-score years and ten.”

9. The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas

First Published: 1844

What It’s About:

Edmond Dantès is sent to prison for a crime he did not commit. Held in the grim fortress of If, Edmond learns of enormous treasure hoarded on the hidden island of Monte Cristo. Determined to escape and claim the treasure, Edmond escapes the prison, finds the gold, and vows to take revenge on the three men who orchestrated his false imprisonment. Edmond reappears in society as the wealthy Count of Monte Cristo and slowly begins to execute his plan of revenge.

Why You Should Read It:

Set in France, Italy and islands in the Mediterranean during 1815 and 1839, the Count of Monte Cristo is considered a classic in both, French and English literature. It is a deeply moving tale about wrongful imprisonment, revenge, and suffering that was inspired by true events and was originally published in serialized form.

Best Quote:

“All human wisdom is contained in these two words – Wait and Hope.”

8. The Firm, by John Grisham

First Published: 1991

What It’s About:

Mitch McDeere has recently signed on with Bendini, Lambert & Locke in the town of Memphis. Mitch received a glamorous BMW from the firm and his employers also helped him pay off his school debt along with mortgage, even hiring a decorator for the McDeere family. Unfortunately for Mitch, the firm that he has just started working for is involved with the mafia. With the FBI approaching Mitch for help, he needs to decide whether or not he will help them.

Why You Should Read It:

Have you ever heard the saying, ‘If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’? Well, this book is the definition of that. Mitch doesn’t realize that his firm, which made him an excellent offer, requires him to work for the Mafia. When he begins to raise questions at his workplace, getting fired becomes the least of his worries. If you enjoy legal dramas with plenty of mob action, this book is for you.

Best Quote:

“Any lawyer worth his salt knew the first offer had to be rejected.”

7. A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens

First Published: 1859

What It’s About:

The story opens in 1775 in London. Doctor Manette has spent the last eighteen years of his life as a political prisoner in Bastille and upon release is finally reunited with his estranged daughter who lives in England. Two men are in love with Doctor Manette’s daughter Lucie Manette. One is Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and the other is Sydney Carton, a brilliant lawyer whose image in society was tarnished. Through their common love for Lucie, both are led to Paris in the bloody days of Reign Of Terror.

Why You Should Read It:

Commonly cited as one of the most widely read books of all time, A Tale Of Two Cities is a must-read to see how tragedy and drama are interwoven in an intricate tale of love, loss, and betrayal. Set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, the story also touches upon the plight of the French peasants oppressed by the aristocracy.

Best Quote:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

6. The Stranger, by Albert Camus

First Published: 1942

What It’s About:

Set in Algeria, the story is about Meursault, a man whose mother has recently passed away. In the next few days, Meursault finds himself shooting a man for no apparent reason due to an unfortunate string of events. During his trial, Meursault is accused of having no remorse for the senseless crime that he has committed. However, surprisingly, the court finds it even more incredulous that Meursault showed no signs of grief even when his mother passed away. Despite several efforts, Meursault refuses to say that he believes in God and stands firm in his atheist beliefs. His fate lies in the hands of the law.

Why You Should Read It:

Camus was at the forefront of the existentialist movement in literature and The Stranger is one of his finest works. Through The Stranger (L’etranger in its original form), Camus asks the reader some important questions such as: What is the meaning of life, if any at all? Is there a God? Is there a spiritual realm or only the physical world? All of these concepts are at the heart of existentialism as well as absurdism, a belief that humans exist in a purposeless state.

Best Quote:

“Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday. I can’t be sure.”

5. An American Tragedy, by Theodore Dreiser

First Published: 1925

What It’s About:

The story is based on true events and shows the dark side of the American dream as well as the harsh realities of life in America. The book centers around Clyde Griffiths, a young man raised by poor parents who happen to be devout Christians working on street missionary work. Clyde supports his family by working menial jobs and meeting a range of less than wholesome characters. At its heart, the story is a tragedy which sees every dream that Clyde has being shattered, ultimately leading to his complete destruction.

Why You Should Read It:

If you enjoy symbolism, then you will certainly relish the heavy dose of symbols that Dreiser includes in the story. Clyde is shown as a weak character and somewhat of a coward, who hopes for success and worldly pleasures. The popularity of the novel led it to being adapted into the Hollywood hit A Place in the Sun starring Elizabeth Taylor.

Best Quote:

“What matter it if a man gaineth the whole world and loseth his own soul?”

4. The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

First Published: 1850

What It’s About:

In 1642 Boston, Hester Prynne, a young married woman whose husband has been assumed lost at sea, is found guilty of committing adultery. She is made to wear a scarlet ‘A’ on her clothes as a symbol of shame. Hester refuses to reveal the father of her illegitimate child and is sent to prison for a short while. Upon her release and being shunned from society, Hester moves to the outskirts of the town and lives a quiet existence with her child. With her husband reappearing and vowing to take revenge on the man who Hester had an affair with and the authorities threatening to take away her daughter Pearl, Hester’s life is challenged at every turn.

Why You Should Read It:

The tale is said to introduce the first heroine of American fiction and takes a harsh look at the puritan 17th century society, while also challenging certain religious beliefs.

Best Quote:

“We dream in our waking moments, and walk in our sleep.”

3. Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo

First Published: 1862

What It’s About:

A French historical novel, this is considered one of the greatest literary works of the 19th century. Les Miserables was Victor Hugo’s critique of the French judicial and political systems and is an unparalleled classic. The story sees Jean Valjean, a poor peasant being sent to prison for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread for his starving family. While the novel does contain numerous subplots, the main story relates to Jean Valjean, who after his stint in prison becomes a man devoted to doing good, but unfortunately is unable to escape his criminal past.

Why You Should Read It:

Not only is this one of the most famous works of modern literature, it is a classic story of good versus evil and has been adapted into several musicals and movies. If you enjoy a lengthy challenge, then you’ve found the right novel as this is considered one of the longest novels ever to be written.

Best Quote:

“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”

2. Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

First Published: 1866

What It’s About:

At its heart, the novel explores themes of forgiveness, redemption, and suffering. A young man, Raskolnikov is a poverty-stricken student who believes that extraordinary men must be above the law simply because they are capable of contributing to society through their thinking. To prove this theory to himself, he murders an old pawnbroker and her sister. The act brings him face to face with the religious Sonia who has suffered throughout her life, and Porfiry, the intelligent investigating officer. As he grapples with his actions, Raskolnikov must also face his buried conscience.

Why You Should Read It:

Considered one of the most influential novels in literature, Crime and Punishment is a must-read for the way it handles the psychological aspects of the protagonist’s actions, and his views on guilt and redemption which, in turn, become a study of the human condition itself.

Best Quote:

“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth.”

1. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

First Published: 1960

What It’s About:

Set in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama during the Great Depression, the story follows Jean Louise Finch, a six-year-old who lives with her elder brother Jem and their middle-aged father, Atticus, a widower and a lawyer. Atticus is appointed by the local judge to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, who has been accused of raping a young white woman. In a racially divided society, the lawyer’s children are faced with ridicule because their father is defending a black man. The story follows the trial of Tom and is considered one of the best examples that show the plight of black Americans before the civil rights movement. Harper Lee has said she was inspired by real-life racially-motivated crimes that took place in the 1950s, including the brutal murder of black teenager Emmett Till.

Why You Should Read It:

Considered one of the greatest legal dramas of the 20th century, Harper Lee initially hoped to write a love story, but instead delivered a Pulitzer prize winning novel that is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature, which shed light on racial tensions that plague America even today.

Best Quote:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

Conclusion

These ten novels have plots that are, in some way or another, linked to legal battles, iconic courtroom scenes, or themes of crime, justice, and punishment. It is interesting to see how the legal fiction genre often carries a much larger message related to the society or the human condition.

Fans of legal fiction, take your pick from these ten memorable novels.

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