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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

A Calamity of Souls

Narrators: MacLeod Andrews, Sisi Aisha Johnson, Kiiri Sandy, Cary Hite

ISBN: 978-1538765029

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Publication Date: 04/16/2024

Format: Other

My Rating: 5 Stars ++ (ARC)


Set in the tumultuous year of 1968 in southern Virginia, a racially-charged murder case sets a duo of white and Black lawyers against a deeply unfair system as they work to defend their wrongfully-accused Black defendants in this courtroom drama from #1 New York Times bestselling author David Baldacci. 

Jack Lee is a white lawyer from Freeman County, Virginia, who has never done anything to push back against racism, until he decides to represent Jerome Washington, a Black man charged with brutally killing an elderly and wealthy white couple. Doubting his decision, Lee fears that his legal skills may not be enough to prevail in a case where the odds are already stacked against both him and his client. And he quickly finds himself out of his depth when he realizes that what is at stake is far greater than the outcome of a murder trial.

Desiree DuBose is a Black lawyer from Chicago who has devoted her life to furthering the causes of justice and equality for everyone. She comes to Freeman County and enters a fractious and unwieldy partnership with Lee in a legal battle against the best prosecutor in the Commonwealth. Yet DuBose is also aware that powerful outside forces are at work to blunt the victories achieved by the Civil Rights era.  

Lee and DuBose could not be more dissimilar. On their own, neither one can stop the prosecution’s deliberate march towards a guilty verdict and the electric chair. But together, the pair fight for what once seemed impossible: a chance for a fair trial and true justice.

Over a decade in the writing, A Calamity of Souls breathes richly imagined and detailed life into a bygone era, taking the reader through a world that will seem both foreign and familiar.

My Review

Master storyteller David Baldacci returns following series The Edge (The 6:20 Man #2) and Simply Lies (Mickey Gibson #1) with his latest riveting standalone, A CALAMITY OF SOULS. Set during the desegregation of the South, a gripping courtroom drama of racial injustice and suspense combined with a gripping family drama that will leave you breathless until the final page is turned!

I have been a long-time fan of the author—whether a series or standalone, A CALAMITY OF SOULS is one of my favorites. Baldacci at his finest! 5 Stars + and Top Books of 2024!

Set in 1968, in Virginia, as the book opens, we meet a hardworking Black Vietnam veteran, Jerome Washington, husband and father, accused and arrested for the murder of his white employers, Leslie and Anne Randolph. They are two of the most prominent wealthy family members in the segregated Freeman County.

Jerome had been with the couple for many years and was washing their Buick. He entered the home to pick up his weekly pay when he found them covered in blood. He tried to help by moving them off the floor. Then, the cops arrived and handcuffed him immediately.

A setup? It appears he is taking the fall for someone; however, in this county, a Black man's word is no good. Who will believe him? He is beaten and already assumed guilty when he is innocent due to his color.

Miss Jessup (Black) was Ashby's maid, cook, and nurse (their lawyer neighbor), and everyone knew her. She was a relative of Jerome's family. Jack Lee remembered her when he was a boy delivering the paper. She reached out to Jack Lee to represent Jerome.

Jack Lee, who is just turning 33, is a young local white criminal defense attorney who agrees to take the case. He is unmarried, drives a Fiat, and is eight years out of law school. Lucy, his sister at 37, was born with a deformity after their mother was given a sedative due to an impacted wisdom tooth when she was unaware she was pregnant. He also had a brother, Jeff.

His family believed in kindness and respect, whether you're black, white, rich, or poor.

As Jack becomes engrossed in the case, everyone is against him with much prejudice, and he soon realizes he is out of his element.

However, his salvation came when Desiree DuBose, a Black lawyer from Chicago sent by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, arrived to assist Jack with the case. She is smart and has devoted her life to helping with the justice and equality of her clients.

The two lawyers begin working together to defend Jerome against an unjust and unfair town, fighting them at every turn. They work well together even though different. They have to put on their investigation hats and dig deep in a race against time when the local cops are not that helpful and want to hang Jerome.

However, they know he is innocent and has a family and daughters to get back to. Who is the real murderer, and why are they allowing an innocent man to take the fall? What was the motive?

Both Jack and Desiree are in danger, and the racists will stop at nothing to keep them from working on the case, even getting to the families. Jack learns to respect Desiree and admires her when he has barely left his state and has never flown. She has been everywhere representing those in need of a fair trial.

It is the two of them against an entire town of racial injustice and prejudice. After losing their office and other lives, rather than giving up, they are more determined to bring justice to the forefront and save Jerome.

Two lawyers, black and white, fight against a deeply unfair system as they work to defend their wrongfully accused Black defendant. However, there is a final twist and more surprises you do not see coming, which will leave your jaw dropping in this heartbreaking suspense.

A CALAMITY OF SOULS is a high-octane, action-packed, and moving legal thriller during the civil rights movement. Timely, critical, and essential reading. Even though fictional, the stories are real, then and now. I loved this book and its well-developed characters you care about and root for.

Gripping, character-driven, and plot-driven, with intense courtroom scenes, it is a stellar blending of historical, legal, psychological, and family drama. Baldacci fans will devour, as well as Grisham, Connelly, Turow, Eskens, Hart, and Dugoni fans.

Thank you, David, for telling this moving story, which has been a long time in the making. No one could have said it better. The author's expertise as an award-winning author. former lawyer, and growing up in the area during this period, shines through on each page, making the characters come alive.

A CALAMITY OF SOULS is exceptional and would make a superb movie or TV series. I hope we see more of Jack and Desiree in the future. Ideal for book clubs and further discussions. I highly recommend it!

Thank you, Grand Central Publishing and NetGalley, for a digital early reading review copy. I also pre-ordered the audiobook and cannot wait to listen with narrators MacLeod Andrews (favorite), Sisi Aisha Johnson, Kiiri Sandy, and Cary Hite. The hardcover is a must for your home library! A classic.

@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks

My Rating: 5 Stars +

Pub Date: April 16, 2024

My Rating: 5 Stars +

Top Books of 2024


"A Calamity of Souls by David Baldacci is the immovable object of history slamming into the irresistible force of truth. An examination of a fractured place and time where the mores of the past were confronted by the implacable ferocious tenacity of justice. A tour de force."

―S. A. Cosby, bestselling author of ALL THE SINNERS BLEED and RAZORBLADE TEARS

“A Calamity of Souls, the story of a murder in southern Virginia in the mid-1960’s, may be the best novel David Baldacci has ever written, which is saying a great deal. It has a gripping plot and a shocking ending, and even better than that, is also a perfect evocation of a difficult time in America’s history, propelled by deep and moving characters and beautiful writing. It captured me completely from the very first page.”

―Scott Turow, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

"This is David Baldacci at his best. Using the law and the courtroom as the stage for a searing parable on race and the cost and courage to do the right thing."

―Michael Connelly, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“Baldacci deftly weaves together legal thriller and historical drama—a tale of high tension, false assumptions and stubborn humanity, where the law is a crucible for who we imagine ourselves to be and how much effort still lies ahead.”

―Stacey Abrams, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“A high-octane legal thriller anchored by a family drama that will break your heart.”

―Ken Follett, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“From its disturbing opening onwards, I couldn’t stop turning the pages, fascinated, moved, horrified. Packed with a richness of detail and prose so evocative it works like a time-machine, effortlessly transporting you to a troubled time in U.S. history; with characters that linger in the mind long after you have finished the book. An instant classic, I will be recommending this to everyone I know. Not just a great American crime story; this is a great American novel.”

―Alex Michaelides, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“David Baldacci vividly recreates Virginia in the throes of the civil rights movement, when the laws had moved forward, but the people had not. A Calamity of Souls is a big-hearted page-turner about fighting for what’s right in a world filled with wrong.”

―Jeannette Walls, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“This is the book David Baldacci was meant to write. Of course it’s filled with rich characters and a mystery at its core, but what makes this novel such a standout is the way Baldacci pours his own past into it. Terrifying, dazzling, and a true reckoning, A Calamity of Souls is a time machine that proves the Civil War never ended—and that the only way out is together.”

―Brad Meltzer, #1 New York Times bestselling author

"A Calamity of Souls is a modern masterpiece, a court room drama set in 1968 in a divided Virginia, a fraught powder keg in the American south. A young, inexperienced white attorney, Jack Lee, and his client, Jerome Washington, a hardworking black man beloved by his family, is falsely accused of murder. Jerome is in a fight for his life in a courtroom where he has been condemned before the gavel hits. This page turner is resplendent, timely and surprising, written in glorious prose that will captivate and enthrall readers. Nothing in Jerome and Jack's world is what it appears to be. There are secrets, and a shocking buried history among the families trapped in a legal system calcified in racism. In Baldacci's hands, this story is personal and the reader feels its urgency. This lustrous, atmospheric novel takes us back and moves us forward in one riveting read. An instant classic from America's favorite storyteller."

―Adriana Trigiani, New York Times bestselling author

"Baldacci on top form - a tragic, gripping and intensely believable thriller."

―Peter James, Sunday Times bestselling author

"Bestseller Baldacci’s stirring latest... generates satisfying tension from Jack and Desiree’s clashing personalities, and his real-life experiences both as an attorney and as a child in 1960s Virginia lend the proceedings an air of uncommon authenticity. This ranks among the author’s best." ―Publishers Weekly

“A nuanced portrait of a time and place, brought to vivid life by a writer at the top of his game… Ever-popular Baldacci at his best will have his legions of readers flocking.”


About the Author

DAVID BALDACCI is a global #1 bestselling author, and one of the world's favorite storytellers. His books are published in over forty-five languages and in more than eighty countries, with 150 million copies sold worldwide. His works have been adapted for both feature film and television. David Baldacci is also the cofounder, along with his wife, of the Wish You Well Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting literacy efforts across America. Still a resident of his native Virginia, he invites you to visit him at and his foundation at







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