Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Hanging Judge; Michael Ponsor

The Hanging Judge; Michael Ponsor
Open Road Media - 2013

I was initially attracted to the novel because the story takes place in Western Massachusetts, an area I grew up in. It's a debut novel that examines the death penalty in a state where the death penalty has long been abolished and a double homicide murder trial that just may warrant such a sentence. The case has been moved to the Federal Court system so that a death penalty sentence, if convicted can be imposed.

Federal US District Court judge, David Norcross with just over two years in the position, presides over the murder trial. The trial involves a gang related drive by shooting in Holyoke, MA., which kills a Hispanic drug dealer and an innocent bystander, a white nurse on her way to work.  The shooter is identified as an African American former gang member, and now stands trial.

As with true court television dramas, the novel has a full cast of characters: attorneys, witnesses, police, court clerks, family members of the accused and even a romantic interest of the judge. The story gives the reader plenty to think about, including a true death by hanging case from some 200 years earlier in Massachusetts history. For the most part the characters felt convincing, except for when the author explored the pro-death penalty argument. In my opinion, the individuals did not feel very intelligent or convincing. Overall, I was very happy I gave this legal thriller a try, it's a tad long, but worth reading if you enjoy procedural law.

The author has been a Senior US District Court judge in Western Massachusetts, and in 2000 presided over the first capital murder case in Massachusetts in fifty years.
4/5 stars
(review copy)

7 comments:

  1. Diane, thanks for sharing your thoughts about this debut novel. It does sound thought-provoking.

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  2. This sounds like an interesting novel. I enjoy legal thrillers now and then.

    It's too bad the pro-death penalty portion wasn't better executed. I like it when novels like this are well balanced when tackling controversial issues.

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  3. I like court cases, procedures and I think this will be good for me as well.

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  4. Hm, sounds like there is quite a bit going on, but the death penalty does interest me (ok, it often disgusts me) so I'll have to look for this one. Our last state execution went very poorly.
    A side note. I went to a party with the director of food at our max prison and he is in charge of all the last meals. I monopolized him for a full hour asking questions. He was so open about how his views had changed over the years. He should write a book!

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  5. Despite it's flaws on the pro-death argument side this sounds like an interesting book. I like when it feels like the author really knows what they're talking about and I love when history (fictional or not) is mixed in with present day events. Thanks for sharing!

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  6. I can see how this would be a though provoking read. Great review!

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  7. This book appeals to me. I like a good legal thriller and I especially like that this has been written by an experienced judge. I'll have to find this one.

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