Sunday, January 24, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: The Hanging Judge

When a drive-by shooting in Holyoke, Massachusetts, claims the lives of a Puerto Rican drug dealer and a nurse at a neighborhood clinic, the police arrest a black drug dealer. With no death penalty in Massachusetts, the US attorney shifts the double homicide out of state jurisdiction into federal court so that he can pursue the death penalty.

The Honorable David S. Norcross, who has been on the federal bench only two years, now presides over the first death penalty case in the state in fifty years. He must contend not only with an ambitious female prosecutor and a brilliant veteran defense attorney, but with a citizenry outraged at the senseless killing of a white hockey mom — not to mention the pressures of the media, anti-death penalty protesters, vengeful gang members, and the million other things that can go wrong in a capital trial.

Michael A. Ponsor takes readers into the courtroom and beyond, presenting with great sensitivity the points of view of the defendant and his wife; the victims’ families; law enforcement officers; witnesses; and the judge who, while still coming to terms with the death of his wife, begins a relationship with a woman he is not sure he can trust.

M & J's Review:

This was one of the most intense, fast-paced satisfying legal thrillers I've read in a long, long time!  I see why it was critically acclaimed and made the New York's Best Sellers List.  Can you imagine you're out in the morning going about your business, and just before you go inside your place of work, you see the cutest little dog tied to a telephone pole sitting patiently waiting on its owner?  As you bend down to pet the cute four-legged little pup, that would be the last thing you ever see?  Hmm, imagine that?  You're a nurse by day and a wife and mother thinking today isn't any different than any other day you've started.  What could possibly go wrong?

Factor in there's a Puerto Rican drug lord who just kissed his girlfriend and rubbed her very pregnant belly carrying their son who is about to head off to the store to pick up some things for the party they are about to have, while across the street the nurse is bending down petting a dog, someone in a gray Nissan strolls by and shots fire out in the distance.  When the smoke clears, there are two people dead where they once stood, in a crimson pool of their own blood.  How does this happen?  But a better question is to ask who did this and why?

United States District Judge David Norcross sits on the bench for the Western District of Massachusetts.  He's seen many defendants stand before him, as well as countless lawyers who depend on him to make harsh decisions and decipher the law in an unbiased manner and keep Lady Justice as honest as he can.  Two citizens of Holyoke, Massachusetts are dead and the case has landed square on Judge Norcross's desk.  While the legal system is navigating its course, the prosecutor has her sights set on a guy named Clarence "Moon" Hudson as executioner of the nurse and drug lord.  Moon is an African-American male in a dead-end job, trying to make a way for his wife, Sandra, and infant child, Grace.  Sure, he used to belong to a gang called The La Bandera, but he abandoned that life to go straight. Unfortunately, the life has a way of never letting go, so when he and his wife were suddenly ripped from their sleeping bed to find Holyoke's finest tearing their happy home apart searching for whatever they can find to arrest Moon, his wife makes a mistake through all the mayhem.  She asked her husband a question in front of police enforcement that will later be used against her.  Keep in mind, there's a reason why people are Mirandized.  Also, there's a reason why when things like this occur, it's always best to keep your mouth shut.

The U.S. Attorney has her man, Moon Hudson, for the charges of murder.  But, did Moon commit the crimes in question?  As you go through this maze of legal-eze, the reader soon finds out that things are not as they appear and what you thought you knew, you'll quickly discover you do not.  This had all the spice of a great Law & Order episode.  It starts off strong and finishes even stronger.  The characters are so believable and the law is spot on.  If you're a person who loves a great legal novel, this is the one for you.  What sets this legal novel apart from others is that the reader gets to see what the law is like from a judge's point of view.  Most always, legal thrillers usually deal with the attorney's point of view, but Michael did an exceptional job showing you what police officers deal with, as well as the judge and the attorneys.  You're pulled in their lives and go through everything they deal with.  These characters are very real and make you want to know more about their lives and very important jobs they hold.

The occupations these characters do make you realize that life isn't as simple as we bystanders and onlookers think.  It's so easy to read what the media spins for us, and of course, we all have an opinion, but Michael takes you inside what each of these individuals have to deal with.  I could not put this book down and got angry when I had to.  As soon as I got a second, I was reaching for the Kindle to finish where I left off.  This was an exceptional read!  Mello & June gives this novel five stars and beyond.  Like I said, if you think you know all there is to know, buckle up 'cause you're in for one hell of a bumpy ride.  The ending is superb!  Enjoy!


Kimberly Ranee Hicks, Author/Poet/Reviewer

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