About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Jury Master by Robert Dugoni

15. – 762.) The Jury Master by Robert Dugoni – Having enjoyed Murder One last year by Dugoni I decided to read an earlier book in the series featuring lawyer, David Sloane. Murder One was a fine legal mystery and on the shortlist for the 2012 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction.

Based on Murder One and the title of The Jury Master I was expecting another legal mystery. To my disappointment The Jury Master is actually a thriller that happens to feature a lawyer. Even had I read the blurbs on the paperback, which I did not following customary practice, I would have thought it was a legal mystery. To me the title is misleading.

While Sloane certainly is a Jury Master the book has little to do with him being a lawyer.

The opening of the book does show why he is called the Jury Master. Sloane has a rare, almost mystical, talent for connecting with and persuading juries. His closing address wins a case for the defendants in a wrongful death suit. He has regrets over his success.

I was hoping I would learn more about his mastery of juries. Instead, the book veered into a thriller.

Joe Branick, special assistant to the President of the United States, dies in a park in West Virginia. For reasons Sloane cannot fathom Branick, the day he died, was trying to contact Sloane.

Charles Town, West Virginia detective, Tom Molia known to all as “Mole”, balks at the swift effort to have Branick’s death declared a suicide. He is uneasy partly because a young policeman responding to the report of death has disappeared.

Rivers Jones from the Federal Department of Justice, acting on the personal instructions of Parker Madsen the White House Chief of Staff, takes over the investigation into Branick’s death. Mole is even more suspicious.

Finally, in rural Washington, Charles Jenkins a retired CIA operative gets a visit from Alex Hart from the Federal Government. What she brings with her shocks Jenkins.

From there the book races along at excellent thriller pace. There is the occasional need to suspend belief but nothing extreme.

There is a conspiracy at play that is also more credible than the average fictional conspiracy.

Sloane is mystified as he cannot ever recall having a connection to Branick. He does not recall ever dealing with him or working with him or even meeting him.

Aiding Sloane is his long time personal assistant, Tina. She is the assistant of a lawyer’s dreams keeping the office in order and meeting Sloane’s needs almost quicker than he tells what is to be done.

Dugoni does well in letting the reader and Sloane work out the conspiracy. It is frightenly plausible.

It was interesting to receive background on Sloane. He had orphaned at 7 by an accident and raised in foster homes. His youth had been a struggle. Joining the U.S. Marines at 17 set him on his path to success. In this book Sloane is based in San Francisco. By Murder One he is in the state of Washington.

If you are looking for a thriller with a lawyer it is a good book. If you want a legal mystery, move on to a different book. I will still characterize it as a legal mystery for the main character is a lawyer and there are elements of law in the book. (Apr. 9/14)


  1. Bill - I am glad that as a thriller you thought it was enjoyable. But I know exactly what you mean about books that aren't what you expect. I've had that happen too and it's so disappointing. I have to say though that I am intrigued by a character who has that much charisma when it comes to a jury.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I am sure Dugoni was an excellent trial lawyer. The closing address his character, David Sloane, makes to win the case at the beginning of The Jury Master is brilliant. That brilliance is one of the reasons I was disappointed the rest of the book was not about a court case.

  2. This sounds good: I used to live in Washington state, so that's an added attraction. I always enjoy the legal expertise you bring to your reviews, and this time I was also amused by your comments on the lawyer's assistant, Tina - that sounded like the voice of experience!

    1. Moira: I did not know you had lived in America. A good personal assistant, I still think of p.a.'s as secretaries, is a special person.

  3. Bill, a lot of mysteries and thrillers involving the President, directly or indirectly, are conspiracies. I think they appeal to many readers. I have read a few myself. I enjoy reading, as well as watching on film, a lawyer's "closing address" before a jury, partly because of the dramatic effect. Being a lay reader I would have thought this novel was a legal mystery rather than a thriller featuring a lawyer. I can see why it's not the same thing. Thanks for explaining that aspect of the book.

    1. Prashant: Thanks for the comment. Closing addresses can be fascinating to listen and watch for their effect. What is much harder is to make them as good on paper. Part of what makes them compelling visually and aurally are the actions and voice of the lawyer. Errors in grammar and repetition may work better in an address than they do when written.