disclaimer – i received an e-galley of this book from open road media in exchange for an honest review.
the state of massachusetts doesn’t have the death penalty so when a horrifying double murder takes place in front of a neighborhood clinic, the united states attorney for the district has the defendant charged in federal court so that he will face the death penalty.
the murders are just the start of the action in the hanging judge. written with an almost frantic pace and a taut style, this courtroom drama goes behind the scenes to show what happens when the jury’s out and the judge is off the bench. it shows the effect of the murders on the family of the accused as well as the accused himself. it shows the toll the trial takes on the attorneys involved, the police officers, the victim’s families, and even the courthouse employees.
the only part of the novel that didn’t captivate me were the portions dedicated to the real life trial of dominic daley and james halligan, who were convicted of murder in 1806. for me, this bit of reality acted more as an authorial intrusion, pulling me out of the story, and less as a counter-point to the current action.
on the whole, though, michael ponsor has taken his vast experience with the law and crafted a murder mystery and procedural thriller that kept me interested until the very end.
four out of five stars