Looking for authors like John Grisham? Check out our list of authors that John Grisham fans are likely to enjoy.
American novelist John Grisham has written 28 number one bestsellers in a row. While Grisham has range, he’s known primarily for blockbuster legal thrillers such The Pelican Brief, A Time to Kill and The Chamber. Many Grisham books have been turned into box office smashes, and The Firm was adapted into both a film starring Tom Cruise and a TV series. A global sensation, his books have sold more than 300 million copies worldwide.
Grisham comes from humble origins. He was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas. His mother was a homemaker and his father was a construction worker and cotton worker. His novel A Painted House, not a legal thriller, is also set in Arkansas among struggling cotton workers. He worked in numerous odd jobs growing up. Eventually, he attended Mississippi State University and graduated with a law degree.
The characters in Grisham novels typically represent a noble hero with a singular, unwavering focus on delivering justice. The attorneys in his books are often sleuths, going far beyond the normal call of duty to ensure a just outcome. Innocent characters in danger are often treated with a high degree of empathy, making it nearly impossible not to root for them.
His settings vary, but few authors make small town crime come to life on the page like John Grisham.
Grisham came by his reputation as the gold standard for legal thrillers honestly. He started his career working long hours as an attorney in a Mississippi firm. He wrote his first novel, A Time to Kill, in the small windows of time between going to the office and courtroom recesses. Years later, his books have sold over 300 million copies. He has written 28 consecutive number one bestsellers.
If you’re waiting for the next Grisham book, you’ll love some of these books by other great legal thriller authors.
1) Flagstaff Station by John Ellsworth
The first book in the Justice Series finds Flagstaff, Arizona attorney Thaddeus Murfee agreeing to help Special Agent Donnie Francisco as he faces down the Vittini mob.
As you might imagine, Murfee soon finds himself in the crosshairs, and the warfare spans both the courtroom and deadly streets of small towns in Arizona.
In the process, Ellsworth does what few novelists have done before him — write a highly entertaining novel that weaves in elements of Arizona tribal culture, which eventually lands Murfee in tribal court. Turquoise Murfee, Thaddeus’s police detective daughter, makes a discovery at Flagstaff Station that could trigger sudden death – but she doesn’t know what she has, and could inadvertently kill hundreds of innocent men, women, and children if Thaddeus doesn’t stop her in time.
The result is a legal thriller with a world like no other, heavy on the action, while still involving enough legal drama for genre fans. Haven’t read Ellsworth? No problem. Readers with no prior knowledge of the Murfee character should have no problem picking this one up.
2) God’s Ponzi by Robert Buschel
Gregory Portent has no regrets about running one of the greatest international Ponzi schemes in history. “I’ve been committing these crimes for the right reasons,” he declares. As God’s Ponzi opens, Gregory is on the run from authorities and fiercely determined to ensure that his enemies get exactly what they deserve. If only he can get the right guidance and advice from his AI-powered partner, JLL.
Told from Gregory’s point of view, author Robert Buschel deftly explores the seeds of a world class schemer through reflections on his childhood. We learn early that Gregory’s own father was the victim of a friend’s scam that cost him his entire life’s savings. The journey from son of a victim to predator is heartfelt, strewn with complex relationships, and most important of all, believable. It’s peppered with romance, including high school sweetheart Chana, and even a strategic marriage to Taylor, his “perfect Ponzi partner.” But by far the most suspenseful and tense is that of his friend and colleague, Joseph. Perhaps only HBO’s Westworld has so thoroughly and convincingly explored the emotions involved in the theoretical transition of human existence into an artificial intelligence life form.
Buschel, an attorney and author of the excellent novel By Silent Majority, has included plenty of suspense for legal thriller fans as well. Amidst a thorough grad-level course on various types of ponzi schemes, he explores legal firm partnerships as well as the role of the law in society in general (“lawyers aren’t heroes”). Through Gregory’s nefarious activities, he also delves into the surprising power of banks, sufficiently illuminating both how dangerous and “magical” they are. Buschel excels at delivering keen insights about history, sociology and the law within the context of a highly suspenseful plot.
At its core, God’s Ponzi is a revenge thriller that employs everything from flashbacks to emails and footnotes to create a uniquely engrossing experience. Is Gregory hopelessly damaged, and does he rationalize the pain he inflicts with his crimes? Absolutely, and readers will spend all day underlining the book’s numerous quotable passages. But given Gregory’s well-drawn history, most readers will root for him. Well played.
3) A Killer’s Wife by Victor Methos
A compelling legal thriller that will have you turning the pages well into the night.
Victor Methos, author of An Invisible Client (one of our picks for the Best Legal Thriller Books of the Century So Far), is back with a bone-rattling read just in time for summer.
A Killer’s Wife is the story of prosecutor Jessica Yardley, who has rebuilt her career and personal life in the years since her husband, Eddie, was put away for mass-murder.
A new wave of murders suggests that Eddie’s murderous ways have continued although he’s still behind bars.
Could he be pulling the strings from prison, or is a copycat killer on the loose?
The FBI asks Jessica to get involved, which means sitting down with the man who tore her life apart. Those scenes are by far the book’s best, as Methos once again proves why he’s one of the most empathetic and emotionally charged writers in the business.
While most of the book’s best suspense doesn’t take place in a courtroom, the book should appeal to fans of legal thrillers and crime fiction in equal portions.
As a protagonist, Jessica is extremely well-drawn, and anyone with a crazy ex will find her aspirational.
4) They Money by David Shawn Klein
A superb, action-packed legal thriller with a heart of gold.
Defense attorney Henry Krakow has made a career out of representing small time clients living on the fringe. Most don’t pay, and when they do, it’s often via questionable means. His wife Olivia is a moneyed high-powered public relations executive who is no longer enchanted with Henry and his seeming lack of ambition and unwillingness to take the corporate job she helped him land.
Henry would love nothing more than to reignite his marriage and win back Olivia.
So when one of Henry’s favorite down-on-his luck clients, a middleweight boxer and single father supporting two kids, needs Henry’s help to convince the boxing commission to let him fight an upcoming match despite concerns over brain injury, Henry is determined to help him find another way to get the money. And, most importantly, he hopes that his noble cause will win back Olivia.
But as Krakow himself notes in the novel, “Hope has a mean right.” When Henry meets a sketchy Ukrainian national who offers to pay handsomely for a “simple” delivery of a package, Henry sees a path to helping the boxer get back on his feet and winning over Olivia in the process. But It’s not long before things take a wrong turn and Henry is soon caught up in the underworld that he once only knew from the sidelines.
Attorney-turned-author David Klein has a knack for writing intricate characters that are so well drawn up you can almost smell their breath, quite literally (“His mutinous teeth gave rise to a shroud of herring, onion, and Winstons”). But fans of legal thrillers fear not: Klein’s deft hand at drawing his characters is never at the expense of the plot, which is fast-paced but imbued with great heart.
4) Cheater’s Game by Paul Levine
A razor-sharp, rollicking legal thriller that deftly transforms the college admissions scandal into a hugely entertaining crime story.
As Cheater’s Game opens, 20-year-old Kip Lassiter races his Tesla X through the Florida Everglades with twenty-five thousand dollars in cash hidden under the back seat. Soon, a Maserati pulls up alongside him, and two masked goons threaten Kip by name before forcing the Tesla into a canal.
When Kip wakes in the hospital, his uncle, legendary defense attorney Jake Lassiter, is there to question him. How did he wreck? How could he afford such an expensive car? And why has Kip, whose probation terms should have prevented him from leaving the country, been to the Cayman Islands five times in recent weeks?
Kip brushes off his uncle’s questions, but it’s only a matter of time before he’s charged with selling admissions slots at the nation’s most prestigious universities to the parents of rich kids.
When Jake decides to come to his nephew’s defense, he puts himself at the epicenter of a nationwide scandal. He also finds himself squarely in the crosshairs of some very powerful people. But as Jake says, “If there’s blood on the courtroom floor, let it be mine.”
Author Paul Levine, whose novel Solomon vs Lord (Volume 1) was named one of the Best Legal Thrillers of the 21st Century, is again firing on all cylinders. The book’s success has everything to do with the richness with which Levine has drawn Jake. A veritable quote machine (a favorite: “A criminal trial is a contact sport. I buckle my chin strap and hit somebody”), Jake’s banter is equally addictive in the courtroom or at home with fiancée Melissa. His ongoing battle with C.T.E., as a result of his football career, adds unusual depth, making him among the most compelling protagonists in the legal thriller genre.
Characterization aside, Cheater’s Game stands out for its rapid-fire plot, where everything from the car chases to the courtroom scenes seem to move at high velocity.
5) Justice Burning by Scott Pratt
Scott Pratt’s anti-hero Darren Street isn’t particularly likable, but that’s vigilante justice for you, and the book is no less riveting for it.
Former defense attorney Darren Street is desperately trying to put his life back together after spending two years in a maximum-security prison for a murder he didn’t commit. He’s rebuilding his law practice, reconnecting with his son, and falling more deeply in love with his girlfriend, fellow attorney Grace Alexander.
But the past casts a long shadow, and for Street, there’s no outrunning it.
Tormented by nightmares and violent mood swings, Street is seeking treatment for PTSD when a new trauma shakes his world: his mother is killed in an explosion, but the police believe Street was the intended target.
Payback from an old enemy, or the calling card of a deadly new foe? Whoever’s behind it, Street begins to lose his grip on reality and decides to take matters in his own hands. And the law won’t stop him from revenge.
Justice Burning isn’t necessarily a slam dunk for fans of Pratt’s straight-ahead legal thriller Joe Dillard series, but for every one else, it’s a great entry to Scott Pratt’s many talents.
6) Blood Defense by Marcia Clark
Samantha Brinkman, an ambitious, hard-charging Los Angeles criminal defense attorney, is struggling to make a name for herself and to drag her fledgling practice into the big leagues.
…And the defendant is a decorated veteran LAPD detective.
It promises to be exactly the kind of media sensation that would establish her as a heavy hitter in the world of criminal law.
Though Sam has doubts about his innocence, she and her two associates (her closest childhood friend and a brilliant ex-con) take the case.
Notorious for living by her own rules—and fearlessly breaking everyone else’s—Samantha pulls out all the stops in her quest to uncover evidence that will clear the detective.
But when a shocking secret at the core of the case shatters her personal world, Sam realizes that not only has her client been playing her, he might be one of the most dangerous sociopaths she’s ever encountered.
7) The Fifth Witness by Michael Connelly
Haller has fallen on tough times and is taking on foreclosure defense. When one of those clients, Lisa Trammel, is accused of killing the banker she blames for taking away her home, Mickey puts his team into high gear.
Though she seems guilty at first, Haller learns Trammel’s victim had shady dealings, and Mickey gets assaulted.
After Haller mounts the defense of his life, the final twist comes in after the verdict.
8) Killer Deal by Karen S. Gordon
A ripped-from-the-headlines legal thriller that John Grisham fans will love.
Conspiracy theories about the untimely death of a Supreme Court justice draw attention to the West Texas dude ranch where he died. When attorney Vance Courage and his business partner Lauren Gold purchase the ranch to launder a large sum of dirty money, they soon discover that the rumors may be warranted.
The ranch’s previous owner was a highly decorated U.S. Army Captain who, before his death, was locked in a not-so-secret campaign to use the legal system to curb the power of the world’s five largest technology companies. And not long after Vance and Lauren’s arrival at the ranch, another suspicious death is reported. This time, the victim is the ranch’s longtime head of housekeeping, who was certainly the killer’s loose end.
As the duo launch an investigation, they discover that the property is routinely used by some of the world’s most powerful lawmakers and titans of industry. The question isn’t so much who had a motive for murder, but who didn’t?
Strictly speaking, Killer Deal isn’t a traditional legal thriller. After all, Vance may be an attorney (and former detective), but he’s also a money launderer. Even so, the book’s thoroughly satisfying exploration of how corporations attempt to use the courts as a business strategy is meaty enough to warrant admiration from fans of John Grisham and Scott Pratt.
In addition, readers may recall that real-life justice Antonin Scalia also died at a West Texas dude ranch, and those following the story will relish the opportunity to help solve this alternate universe version of events.
As a whodunnit, author Karen S. Gordon succeeds wildly, delivering a whopper of a surprise in the book’s third act that few readers will see coming. Along the way, Vance and Lauren’s (mostly platonic) chemistry is enjoyable, although readers may want to check out the first Gold & Courage series book for the detailed lowdown on how they ended up as partners. With that said, the book works well as a stand-alone. Highly recommended.
Fans looking for a novel reminiscent of Grisham’s A Painted House, a coming of age story set in a mid-century agriculture community in Arkansas, may enjoy the cross-country quest at the heart of Amor Towles’ heralded novel The Lincoln Highway.
In 1954, Emmett Watson is releases from a juvenile work farm after accidentally killing another boy. His father has died, and the family ranch is being repossessed. His young brother Billy urges him to take them west in search of the mother who abandoned them.
Emmett’s already precarious situation takes a turn when two of Emmett’s fellow inmates, Duchess and Wooly, show up announced. While neither escapee seems particularly malevolent – both are actually quite likable, if unpredictable – a sense of foreboding draws in when they agree to go cross country together in Emmett’s car. Soon, the pair end up stealing the car and taking it back east in search of Wooly’s fortune.
This leaves Emmett and Billy to hop trains for New York in search of them, leading to all kinds of potentially lethal situations. It also triggers a quest of sorts for America in the 1950s. Discovering the country through the eyes of these boys, with all its wonders and injustices, is enthralling.
Does this fortune really exist? What really happened to Billy and Emmett’s mother? What crime did Woolly commit to land him in the Kansas’ correctional system? And who, really, is Duchess?
Author Amor Towles tells the story from multiple points of view, delving into relatively deep character studies even with peripheral characters met during their harrowing journey. The result is a 600-page novel that requires patience despite its many twists, turns and surprises. But the payoff comes in satisfying character developments for both Emmett and Duchess in the book’s final chapters, insights that are both life-affirming and shocking.
10) Yellow Death by Alex Lettau
If you’re looking for a book like John Grisham’s The Tumor, a thriller about live-saving ultrasound technology, then Alex Lattau’s Yellow Death could be a great bet.
Yellow Death is an irresistible medical thriller with the urgency of Contagion and the gritty conspiratorial intrigue of Narcos.
When two cases of fatal hepatitis C are reported in a small town, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) sends medical detective Dr. Kris Jensen to Mississippi to investigate. Both victims were junkies. A fatal hep C cluster is almost unheard of, and Dr. Jensen becomes convinced that a previously unknown virus is responsible for the deaths.
And what could be worse than an outbreak of an unknown disease? Losing the expert charged with the investigation. While drawing heart blood from a corpse, Dr. Jensen is accidentally stuck with a needle and infected with the fatal mystery disease.
Author Alex Lettau, the pen name of an American infectious disease specialist, sets the hook deep and early with a series of fast-paced early chapters that would translate well to the big screen. Lettau frames Dr. Jensen with a truly unique conundrum: does she tell anyone she’s infected? If she does, she would surely get pulled off the investigation into the outbreak, which could lessen the probability of finding answers to the virus’ origin.
After heading to New Orleans in search of a “sparkly” new heroin that could be the cause, she uncovers a conspiracy set in motion by another federal agency. The futility of the war on narcotic drugs, and the blowback by heavy-handed American tactics, has rarely been more smartly illustrated. The entirety of the investigation feels authentic, from the motivations of shadowy DEA agents down to the sketchy lab test results.
Just as the stakes seem as high as they could possibly get, Lettau raises them again: when Dr. Jensen travels to the Venezuelan jungle to investigate the origin of the virus, she finds that her infection isn’t the only thing threatening her life.