THE JUDGE'S BRIEF by John Gastineau


Email this review


When disaster strikes the quiet little town of Holoce County, a public defender from Chicago must face his own past in order to catch a killer in Gastineau’s debut novel.

Eighteen years after an infamous case claimed the life of attorney Allen Pierman, his teenage son seeks answers from an old family friend, a judge, as to who his father was. The judge’s recollection begins in an open field, where Randy Grable, the young man’s uncle, was found dead on his tractor, set on fire, with bullets in his head and chest. Pierman had only recently inherited his county prosecutor job from his deceased father, Carter, and he wanted little to do with the case. Nonetheless, it was up to him and Sheriff Joe Calkins to make an arrest. They discovered that Grable was secretly gay and had been leading a double life; then, pieces of the murderer’s disassembled rifle began turning up on telephone poles across the county. Meanwhile, Pierman had a hard time shaking the feeling that Nate McQueen, a Vietnam veteran and cable repairman, was hiding a secret of his own. Several weeks into the investigation, a courthouse janitor was killed, just as Grable’s murderer was caught rifling through Pierman’s case files. Then, Pierman’s partner abandoned him—leaving him to face Holoce’s most wanted criminal alone. Gastineau’s murder mystery is thrilling, and Holoce County and its inhabitants spring to life through vivid imagery (“He was short-haired and freshly shaved, so much so that one of the pimples he’d raked off his chin still oozed”). Complex characters drive the story with emotionally charged and revealing dialogue (“Boys, let’s get a dog and a chopper in here and stop fucking around,” says state cop Purcell as he expresses frustration with Calkins’ investigation). Gastineau never fails to keep readers on their toes, and the final pages will fly by as readers eagerly search for answers. Thriller fans and mystery junkies will particularly love this twisted adventure in a not-so-quiet town, although they may feel a bit shortchanged by its abrupt ending.

An exciting whodunit that will keep readers guessing until the very end.  

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:


NonfictionHELTER SKELTER by Vincent Bugliosi
by Vincent Bugliosi
NonfictionIN COLD BLOOD by Truman Capote
by Truman Capote
FictionSHARP OBJECTS by Gillian Flynn
by Gillian Flynn