The Jury Master is a thriller that thrills but then falls flat.

When I read a thriller, I’m looking for several things. I hope the lead will grab me. I count on the author’s ability to build tension and suspense steadily throughout the book. And I look for settings and circumstances that engage my curiosity. After all, isn’t it reasonable to expect the characters to bear a reasonable resemblance to credible human beings? Robert Dugoni’s novel The Jury Master gets almost all of this right. But it comes up short in one crucial respect: the story’s conclusion is simply not believable. This is a thriller that thrills but falls flat in the end.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

As of 2018, Robert Dugoni has published 18 books beginning in 2004. The Jury Master is the first entry of five novels to date in his David Sloane series. Sloane, the protagonist, is a trial attorney specializing in wrongful death defense in San Francisco as the novel opens. Dugoni himself practiced law in the courtrooms of the same city for 13 years. When The Jury Master concludes, Sloane has moved to Seattle, where Dugoni now makes his home.

The Jury Master (David Sloane #1) by Robert Dugoni (2008) 449 pages ★★★☆☆

The story in this novel involves several intertwining threads and a half-dozen principal characters. To say that it’s complicated is an understatement. Dugoni does a fine job building suspense, and he manages to leave the resolution of the tale to the book’s final chapters. In fact, the resolution is what some readers might call “shattering.” I found it questionable. This is, indeed, a thriller that thrills only until the end.

If you read this book, be prepared to encounter an unnaturally gifted trial lawyer, a supersecret US military death squad, a right-wing Mexican revolutionary leader, and a White House Chief of Staff who is a heartless killer. In other words, I should have seen the ending coming.

This is one of 18 fascinating courtroom dramas.

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