Like another recently-read book, Michael Connelly's The Dark Hours, this book made the WSJ's Best Mysteries of 2021 list. It's by John Grisham. I remember reading his first best-seller, The Firm, back in the early 1990s. He's written well over thirty books since then, but I was never motivated enough to read them, and I probably wouldn't have read this, if not for that recommendation
I was disappointed.
Lacy Stoltz is an investigator working for Florida's "Board on Judicial Conduct", an agency tasked with checking out allegations of wrongdoing by the state's judges. Usually that involves undisclosed conflicts of interest, bribery, that sort of thing. It's a neglected and disrespected department, everyone's morale is low. But an unusual call is routed to Lacy: it's from a mysterious anonymous caller, claiming that a judge is actually a mastermind serial killer, bumping off people on his "list": those who did him dirty in years previous. His hallmark is strangulation with a nylon cord, tied post-mortem with an unusual double clove hitch.
Lucy is reluctant; that's way out of the Board's usual ambit. Why doesn't the anonymous caller just go to the cops? Or maybe an ambitious true-crime reporter? Well, that's a good idea, and the answer isn't really that convincing.
I kept waiting for the didn't-see-that-coming shocking plot twist. I have a spoiler about that: there is nothing to spoil. No twists, no turns. Not even a mystery, really.
Wait a minute! Is that a loose end I see, one that Lacy will tug on to reveal … Nope, sorry.
The dialog is flat, the characters are not that interesting, it's very repetitious, the plot is full of unanswered "why didn't they just…" points. There are suspenseful moments of action, resolved by dumb luck and coincidence.
And it's way too long; I assume Grisham was writing to meet a page-count contract.