Having already written two growing book series’, author Joyce Strand deftly tries her hand in the historical mystery genre with “The Judge’s Story.” Full of characteristic “Strand-isms,” “The Judge’s Story” uses layers of intrigue, tumult, and deep-seated racism in a small Californian town in 1939.
At the cusp of the Second World War, the climate of “The Judge’s Story” is rife with tension and a sense of dangerous foreboding. The book’s stoic protagonist, the titular ‘Judge’ is faced with yet another violent case to preside over. The case itself is standard enough: a boy is involved in a robbery that ends in bloodshed. However, the Judge soon discovers that the boy, while indeed involved in the fatalistic events ultimately resulting in the loss of a life, is not being completely forthright. His involvement is not so one sided. Seeing this, the Judge attempts to bring justice to the accused boy whilst maintaining his position as a neutral purveyor of justice.
With the help of supporting characters that assist The Judge in his quest for judicature, Strand has created yet another novel with inherent momentum and relevant subject matter. Inspired by the unpublished memoir of a real California Superior Court Judge, the book arises above your typical legal thriller. Strand takes the time needed to flesh out her characters to make them believable and realistic. The plot itself is succinct and fresh, and does not fall victim to melodrama or the genre’s formulaic tendencies. An indicator of what defines a ‘good book’ is originality and hope, two components that drive “The Judge” forward as both an entertaining read but also as a commentary on the justice system itself.