When you think of legal thrillers and crime dramas, one name comes to mind. John Grisham’s books have become almost synonymous with the genre, and he is considered to be a master writer with a large collection of titles to his name. Grisham has written nearly 40 different crime-related novels from the firm to the street lawyer, Camino Island, to a painted house and playing for pizza. He has also written several short stories and some nonfiction works as well, with many stories being adapted into films. Here we've compiled a list of some of his best fictional works that are sure to satisfy any fan of crime drama.
A Time to Kill is Grisham's very first novel which was published in 1989. It focuses on the assault of a young Black girl in the fictional small town of Clanton, Mississippi, (a setting used in many Grisham novels such as The Last Juror) but pulls many of its themes and story elements from a real trial Grisham witnessed as a young attorney. Though the story takes place in the 80s, it is an impactful tale that unfortunately resonates strongly in the 21st century with its themes of racial bias, hate crimes, violence and a polarized country.
Grisham handles the delicate subject matter expertly in his first book, establishing a style of courtroom drama and legal thriller that he has since become so famous for. A Time to Kill introduces a young lawyer that Grisham has stated as being very similar to himself at the time. The novel was subsequently placed on bestseller lists, was adapted into a star-studded namesake film, and adapted into a popular audiobook expertly narrated by Michael Beck.
The Pelican Brief is another hit by John Grisham which centres around legal dramas and mystery. The plot involves the assassination of two Supreme Court Justices, and from there is an intriguing murder mystery full of legal references and court trials. It is a gripping tale of suspense, drama and death. From FBI agents to confidants, The Pelican Brief is a wild ride of murder and danger fuelled by seemingly political motives, which makes for a truly unpausable experience.
The story was adapted into a namesake film, as well as released as an abridged audiobook. This audio version is narrated by Anthony Heald and accompanied by sound effects and musical background for an all-inclusive audio experience that will sweep listeners up in the suspense of the story.
The Client is another excellent work by John Grisham. This story centres around an eleven-year-old boy who accidentally witnesses something much bigger than he realizes, making him the sole eyewitness to a mob lawyer's suicide. With the Mafia on one side and an up-and-coming young lawyer on the other, Mark is caught in the middle of a legal battle with drastic consequences.
The Client is a fast-paced story of the dangers of criminal trials, the importance of witness protection, and the battle at hand when trying to take on the mob in any legal way. Blair Brown narrates the story with enthusiasm and a clear crisp voice that fits the story’s themes perfectly. Exciting, gritty, and suspenseful, The Client is a must-listen for any fan of John Grisham novels.
This legal thriller is all about jury corruption and how verdicts can be manipulated. Though apparently unbiased, the story dives into how one juror, Nicholas Easter, can say the perceptions, minds, and eventually verdicts of his fellow jurors. The Runaway Jury is an exciting cat and mouse thriller that twists and turns through to its shocking ending.
Published in 1996, it was thought to be one of Grisham's best displays of storytelling at the time and has since become one of his beloved classics. The novel was adapted to film in 2003 and was also adapted to audiobook format - narrated by Frank Muller. Muller handles all twists in a plot with ease, carrying the listener along on this thrilling adventure right up until the unpredictable end.
The Rainmaker is yet another example of Grisham's expertise in his genre. This story focuses on corporate greed, and how the legal system attempts to take on multi-million dollar corporations in a fight for human justice. The main character Rudy Baylor takes on this daunting task while he is still in law school and not even a full-fledged lawyer. His sense of justice is strong, though, and after discovering how poorly an insurance company has treated the Black family (whose son is dying of leukemia), he can't help but step up to the plate - or at least try.
Again, Grisham displays a masterful understanding of the inner workings of the legal system, and brings these details - and the amazing trials and stories that come out of them - to life beautifully. He does not shy away from gritty topics or major legal issues but brings these giant stories to the forefront of his writing for stories that will entice and entertain audiences. Frank Muller then brings the story to life with an expert narration that will grab hold of listeners and pull them further into the story.
Like many of the best John Grisham books, The Chamber is set in Mississippi and is about a trial focused on racial crimes. The Chamber is a complicated story that deals with some huge issues, such as the death penalty, hate crimes, and racism in a hard-hitting and head-on manner. Grisham is an expert at addressing, or at least raising questions about these types of social and political issues while at the same time delivering exciting thrillers of rogue lawyers, tainted juries, or biased courtrooms.
The Chamber is no exception, and this suspenseful tale looks at questions of guilt versus innocence, through the eyes of anti-death penalty lawyers and the law firm which is taking on the trial, as well as the accused's grandson, Adam, who also happens to be familiar with the law. The Chamber is an exciting and thought-provoking listen narrated by Alexander Adams. His dynamic performance will grab the audience’s attention and not let go until the chilling end.
Grisham is a master at legal action stories and The Testament is no exception. Starting with an ageing billionaire that decides to take his own life, the story sets off on a crazy adventure of lawyers trying to track down an illegitimate daughter (and heir), sort out legal wills, and ward off the vulture-like children of the deceased, winding its way through the U.S. and ending up in the small towns of Brazil. It is an exciting and action-packed plot that immediately grabs the listener's attention.
The audiobook adaptation is narrated by Frank Muller, whose experienced narrations include works from Stephen King and classics like Moby Dick. His background in established narration comes through in this performance, too, exhibiting the skill and depth to bring this story and its characters to life for an all-around impressive audio experience listeners will love.
Sycamore Row is the first follow-up (second in a loose series) to A Time to Kill. It was originally published in 2013 and was later followed by the third novel in this storyline, called A Time For Mercy (2020). Sycamore Row takes place three years after the trial of Carl Hailey, in the same fictional town of Clanton, Ford County, Mississippi. The tale provides further storylines for the intriguing characters established and created in A Time to Kill, and dives deeper into the repercussions of the acts and outcomes of the famed trial.
Again Grisham handles his legal dramas with ease, building a world full of life, grit and deceit. He also continues to flesh out characters that audiences are already attached to, creating an immediate sense of familiarity. This novel placed number one on the New York Times bestseller list and was an immediate hit with critics and fans alike.
Last but not least on the list is, The Broker. This novel is slightly different from Grisham's norm, in terms of subject matter, but retains all the fast-paced suspenseful action he is known best for. When the president pardons notorious 'broker' Joel Backman, what the public doesn't know is that this is a request from the CIA who say that Backman knows too much. Under the guise of protection, Backman is set up with a new name and new life overseas, and the CIA sets about finding the right foreign assassin to take him out for good.
Fast-paced, exciting, and full of suspense, The Broker is an action-packed listen that will grab audiences and pull them in from the start. Grisham launches into a story of deception and cohesion that the audience won't be able to help but get swept up in. Michael Beck's narration only adds to the suspense and thrilling feel of yet another masterpiece by John Grisham.