2018 Killer Nashville Claymore Award Finalist


(Ruhl of Law Series: The Ben Joel Story Book #1)

Kansas state judge Ben Joel catches a death penalty case involving a local drug dealer with ties to a Mexican cartel.

When Ben’s sister is abducted three days before the trial, Judge Joel is told what he must do to save her—cut the defendant loose utilizing a seldom-used judicial tool known as a judgment of acquittal. A call to law enforcement would expose a conflict of interest that would disqualify him from the case and get his sister killed, so Ben plunges into the trial of his life by day, and the dark underworld of the drug trade by night, with the aid of only a few trusted allies.



"A fast-paced and exciting work of crime fiction" - Kirkus Reviews

Excerpt from Chapter 5


*   *   *

I woke belly down on a rumbling floor, tasting mud. My eyes opened to slits. Looked like the back of a cargo van from what I saw. No windows or seats in sight—a rolling metal box that smelled of grease and gasoline. My right cheek vibrated against the cool steel floor. Mud and muck churned in the wheel wells and a pulse kicked like a mule inside my skull. After a few seconds I could make out a man in a dark ski mask sitting on the floor, leaning back against the wall of the van opposite me in the darkness. A pistol hung loosely in his hand, his wrist draped over his knee. He was looking toward the driver.

My kids. Keri. Ashley. Where were they? Were they alive? Panic flickered through me. Beads of sweat popped on my head. I let my eyes open further. I scanned the van as best I could without moving my head. It was just me with the ski mask in the back. Good. Maybe they just wanted to kill me. Leave my family out of it. If that was the case, Keri would eventually walk the quarter mile down Seventieth in the rain when I didn’t return and find… what? Not me. Could be that’d already happened—I didn’t know how long I’d been knocked out. Perhaps Keri was standing next to my truck right now, dialing 911.


I hoped. The ski mask grabbed at his crotch like he was adjusting his balls. Maybe I was looking at a mad husband from one of my divorce cases. But that didn’t compute.

My left hand was right in front of my face. Shit, my hands were free. I wiggled my fingers, watching the ski mask as I did. A man’s voice from the front of the van said something. In Spanish. The ski mask caught something thrown from the front of the van. More Spanish. The image of Eddie D on the spit flashed through me. That didn’t make any sense either.

The ski mask went to his knees and slipped his pistol into the drop-leg holster on his thigh. He inched closer and held zip ties in front of his face as if to see what he was working with in what light there was. That pistol was right in front of my face. The hammer was cocked. Looked like it might be a 1911. Pops carried a 1911 in Vietnam. All the Marines did. Pops still owned four of them.

When he reached down for my left wrist, I thrust up from the floor…

Praise For The Book

“[Ruhl’s] writing is gritty and authentic.”

“Best book of the year . . . Unique story line. Never slows down.”

“Ruhl writes with the emotion of Burke, the legal precision of Turow, and the wit of Chandler.”

“If you like Jack Reacher, Travis McGee, or gritty violence ala the early Mike Hammer—make this book your next read.”

“If John D. MacDonald wrote a Jack Reacher novel, this would be it.”

“Ruhl’s character has Jack Reacher’s savvy, and joins it with Travis McGee’s depth and soul searching conversations.”

” . . . an incredible first book by a new author.”

“Ever since Turow wrote Presumed Innocent I have been fascinated with legal thrillers. Mr. Ruhl does not disappoint.”

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