Mystery Fiction Goes to Court: Legal Dramas in Books and Movies

Day of Week: Tuesday
Course Length: 10 weeks
Starting: 09/10/2024
Ending: 12/03/2024
Period of Day: Period 2 In-Person
Time: 11:30 - 1:00
Course Fee: $100

Course Description:

If any profession is dominating the news nowadays, it’s the law. Is it because we’re a litigious society at heart? Or that our view of the US as a “nation of laws” is being challenged? Or just the sheer drama of the courtroom? Come join our classes (in two parts!) and explore these and related topics. One fact is not in dispute: the law, lawbreakers, and their defenders and prosecutors make for some very compelling storytelling.

Over the 10 weeks, we will read and discuss a book one week, a film (to be viewed at home) the next. We WON’T be comparing the print and film versions of the same works. We WILL be looking at related topics in the book-movie pairings. We think it’s important that class members encounter the topics first in books, so while you’ll know the books in advance, we won’t reveal the movies until the week before. Because there are so many great books and films under the broad heading of “legal thriller,” we have decided to offer the topic in two parts, Part 1 in Fall 2024, Part 2 in Spring 2025. Each 10-week course will present different books and films.

Books will be readily available through the Minuteman Library system or as inexpensive used books on Amazon. Films will all be available as rental CDs, free on Kanopy, or at small rental fees from major streaming services or YouTube.

Books and Other Resources:

The following is a list of books under consideration for Part 1, Fall 2024. We will hold back the movie list as we prefer to have the class members encounter the topics first in the books.


Scott Turow: Presumed Innocent

John Grisham: The Runaway Jury

Lisa Scottoline: Mistaken Identity

David Dow: Confessions of an Innocent Man

William Landry: Defending Jacob

Course Leader Bio(s)

Sandy Grasfield

I was a middle school librarian and media specialist for thirty years. I have taught several courses at LLAIC and elsewhere, including The History and Politics of Food, The Plays and Memoirs of Lillian Hellman, and Great Photographs and Photographers of the Depression Era.


Dana and I have presented four successful courses focused on mystery novels and a lecture class on the Gilded Age in American history. We also ran a monthly summer book group, “Food and Memories,” focused on culinary memoirs.


Dana Kaplan

: I had a varied career as a marketing and sales promotional writer and manager of creative teams. My focus was business-to-business. I have been an avid reader of crime/mystery fiction my whole life, beginning (of course) with Nancy Drew. I enjoy approaching these books the same way I do all fiction worth reading: for plot, narrative progression, description, character treatment, and above all, the author’s underlying themes.


In addition to the mystery classes presented with Sandy, I collaborated with Lois Novotny on a course reading and discussing culinary memoirs.