Misjudged by James Chandler (Severn River Publishing, 2020) is the first book in a new legal thriller series with Sam Johnstone as the lead character. Chandler is the pseudonym of Paul Phillips, a retired career Army officer who now is a circuit court judge in Wyoming. Johnstone is a disabled veteran who loves to fish and who has a great reverence for the law. His untreated PTSD has left him unable to hold steady employment on the East Coast, and he accepts the last-chance offer of an old law school friend to join his small law practice in Custer, Wyoming.
The effects of PTSD on Sam, even years after the precipitating event, are wrenching. When an easel falls over in the courtroom, Sam has a flashback and screams “Incoming!” as he dives under a table, disrupting judicial proceedings. The only place Sam finds peace is fishing alone in the scenic mountain lakes and streams. Sam accepts the help he’s declined for years during the story in a strong effort by the author to show veterans the impact of the hard years of middle Eastern conflict can be reduced.
The town of Custer is a far cry from the law practices of Georgetown in Washington, DC, where Sam has been working. The lawyers in town are often uncomfortably cozy with the two judges who hold sway over the courthouse, and the janitors often know as much about cases being tried as the participants. To get along, lawyers go along, sometimes at the expense of the equitable application of the law. I’ll never trust a small-town lawyer again after reading this book. The degree of wheeling and dealing and under the table arrangements is staggering, especially considering the size of Custer.
The caliber of cases is depressingly mundane. Custer has a severe substance abuse problem and most crimes can be traced to alcohol, prescription drugs, or illegally manufactured ones. Soon after Sam’s arrival, another alcoholic veteran with PTSD is arrested for a particularly gory murder, and Sam feels compelled to take the case to ensure the man is treated fairly. Since a conviction would be convenient for everyone but the defendant, Sam finds himself battling powerful forces. How he prevails is a well-organized and immersive story with memorable characters in an atypical setting for a legal thriller. Highly recommended.
· Publisher: Severn River Publishing (November 10, 2020)
· Language: English
· Hardcover: 364 pages
· ISBN-10: 1648750354
Aubrey Nye Hamilton ©2021
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal It projects by day and reads mysteries at night.