The Defendants by John Ellsworth (Subjudica House, 2014) is the first book in his Thaddeus Murfee legal thriller series, although a prequel released in 2018 makes it the second in the chronology of series events. Less than two years of legal practice in the small town of Orbit, somewhere in southern Illinois, has left Thaddeus ill-prepared to take on a defense for murder, but his client, poor but honest waitress Ermeline Ransom insists he’s the only lawyer she trusts.
Ermeline unfortunately got between the local public works contractor and the Chicago mob to whom the contractor had discontinued kickbacks. When a visit from a mob enforcer did not shake the overdue payments loose, the enforcer attacked Ermeline and set the stage for the contractor to be accused of the crime. After the Orbit Attorney General declined to prosecute for lack of evidence, Ermeline then retained Thaddeus to pursue civil damages.
This was not what the mob had in mind; they did not want any competition for the money they believed the contractor owed them. They decided to squash these upstarts from nowhere once and for all by killing the contractor and slickly framing Ermeline. The local police had no choice but to arrest her on the face of the evidence but Thaddeus knows she didn’t do it. How he outsmarts the cutthroat prosecuting attorney from Chicago while collecting the proof and testimony needed to bring the crime home to its perpetrators make a lively absorbing read.
The author says these books, about a dozen in the series, are based on his early days as a practicing lawyer, and I believe him. Thaddeus makes some rookie mistakes that his more experienced friends and paralegal manage to undo. He makes up in zeal what he lacks in experience, though. The residents of Orbit come together around Ermeline and her son to protect them as much as they can, showing some of the best reasons to live in a small town. Readers of legal thrillers will especially like this book.
· Paperback: 262 pages
· Publisher: Subjudica House (January 15, 2014)
· Language: English
· ISBN-10: 0615953778
· ISBN-13: 978-0615953779
Aubrey Hamilton ©2019
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.