Get Blog Posts Via Email

View RSS Feed


Posts Tagged ‘federal judge’

THE ONE-EYED JUDGE by Michael Ponsor: Book Review

The title of Michael Ponsor’s second novel, The One-Eyed Judge, is a perfectly designed tease to pique the interest of any mystery reader.  And the book does not let you down, for it’s a fascinating look into our legal system with all its benefits and flaws.  The book’s title comes from a serious eye injury that Judge David Norcross suffered in the first book of the series, The Hanging Judge.

As this novel opens, Amherst College English professor Sidney Cranmer receives a UPS package and signs for it.  He has only managed to slit open the outside envelope when a tremendous pounding is heard at his front door.  He puts the package in his desk drawer and answers the door; in come several FBI agents who are part of a sting operation.  When an agent opens that drawer in the professor’s desk, he sees the recently arrived package and opens it completely.  Inside is a DVD of child pornography, the possession of which carries a minimum five-year sentence in a federal prison.

Cranmer’s specialty is nineteenth-century English literature with an emphasis on the works of Charles L. Dodgson, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll.  Dodgson has long been reputed to have been a pedophile, something that Cranmer believes is “preposterous,” and he and his intern have been doing research into the subject.  Cranmer admits to viewing pornography but tells his lawyer he has no memory of ordering this DVD, although he admits that since the recent death of his mother he hasn’t been totally aware of everything going on around him.

The case comes before David Norcross, the federal judge for the five western counties in Massachusetts; it is a federal one because interstate mail was used to deliver the package.  In the midst of the initial hearing David gets a note saying he has an urgent phone call from his brother’s office.  Norcross’s brother was on a fact-finding mission to Croatia with his wife when their plane went down.  Mrs. Norcross died on impact, Norcross’ brother is in critical condition and unable to travel home.  That leaves the judge with the responsibility for his nieces in Washington, two girls with whom he has has spent very little time.

David has been dating Claire Lindemann, a colleague of Cranmer’s in the college’s English Department.  He and Claire have become serious over the last few months, and he has proposed without getting an answer.  A major issue is that she wants to have children and he, given the ugliness he sees on a daily basis in his courtroom, does not.  And now Claire’s belief in Cranmer’s innocence and her determination to help him has added additional stress to their relationship.

Michael Ponsor, a sitting federal judge, has created an excellent new series with a terrific protagonist.  David Norcross is an intelligent, sensitive man who recognizes that he is sitting in judgment over the future of a person’s life, a responsibility that he does not take lightly.  The novel’s plot is believable, the characters are realistic, and the seriousness of the subject of child pornography makes The One-Eyed Judge a fascinating read.

Full disclosure–I had the pleasure of hearing Judge Ponsor a few weeks ago at BOLLI (Brandeis Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) and speaking with him briefly after his presentation.  He is an outstanding speaker with a wonderful sense of humor, and it was obvious to me that the audience was very impressed by his discussion of his two careers–a federal judge and a two-time mystery novelist.

You can read more about Michael Ponsor at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.