Once again, John Grisham does what he does best: produces a page-turning crime novel with an intriguing plot. Ross Bannick, an elected Florida judge, has an exemplary reputation on the bench. But his public persona clashes with his secret identity as a serial killer. Bannick has a list of people who have crossed, humiliated, or offended him in some way. He’s patient and often waits years before he achieves his revenge. Although he has a signature, strangling victims with a certain type of rope and using a unique knot – the double clove hitch – he kills in different states so the crimes are never linked.
One woman is watching, however. Jeri Crosby’s father, Bryon Burke, a respected law school professor, was Bannick’s second victim. Burke’s offense: he once humiliated Bannick in class. Crosby, a professor herself, has spent 20 years tracking Bannick’s activities. Using her computer and investigative skills, as well as private investigators, she has amassed thousands of pages of information which, although circumstantial, make a compelling case linking Bannick to the murders.
Jeri knows Bannick very well and fears him. She’s worried that if she goes to the police, he will learn her identity and come after her. She decides to approach Lacy Stolz, at the Florida Board of Judicial Conduct. Still cautious, Jeri gives Lacy another name and doles out her information in small bites. Lacy, still recovering from the aftermath of a previous case, a horrific car crash that killed a fellow investigator, quickly tires of Jeri’s cloak and dagger performance.
When Jeri’s information checks out, Lacy realizes the enormity of what she’s involved in: a judge has never been identified as a serial killer. She agrees to take Jeri’s complaint as an anonymous one, but warns that the case will quickly be taken over by law enforcement.
Lacy and her assistant, Darren, approach police in various cities where Bannick’s murders have taken place. All of the cases are cold, the crime scenes yielding no forensic evidence that could help track the killer. Any initial skepticism the police express quickly disappears when Lacy talks about how Bannick killed his victims.
Bannick has operated under the radar for decades and will not be easy to catch. He is meticulous about cleaning up his crime scenes, leaving behind not even a fingerprint. He has financial resources and several hideouts. He’s adept at using a computer program to hack into any system, keeping him one step ahead of the investigators. And he’s still killing.
Jeri warns Lacy that Bannick may know he’s being investigated. Lacy feels she’s been careful, not only to hide Jeri’s identity, but not to reveal Bannick’s name to any of the police departments she’s dealt with. In addition, she’s trying to sort out her personal life. Her longtime lover, Allie Pacheco, is an FBI agent and their two schedules make it hard for them to spend time together. When Allie reveals he’s on the verge of proposing, Lacy has to reevaluate both her personal and professional life. She’s anticipating a settlement from the car crash and worries that her brother, Gunther, who likes to live large – his most recent purchase is a Socata TB700 turboprops plane – will ask for a loan.
Grisham tells the story, bouncing between Jeri, Lacy, and Bannick. The judge has been careful, but not careful enough. And when he senses he’s about to be caught, he has nothing left to lose, leaving both Jeri and Lacy in serious danger.
The Judge’s List is a page turner you will race through.
The Judge’s List
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