Her Kind of Case

What inspired you to write the novel?

I was a criminal defense attorney for thirty-five years and wanted to describe what it feels like to take a high profile murder case where the evidence, at least initially, seems insurmountable and then persevere until you get the best result possible. How much work is involved, how much strategic thinking. Most books about lawyers don’t describe the emotional toll it takes to defend someone whose life is in your hands. And the books aren’t funny, even though criminal defense attorneys have an extremely well-developed, black sense of humor; without it, they’d burn out in three or four years. When I was much younger than Lee, I represented a teenage boy accused of helping a group of skinheads kick a man to death. I didn’t end up trying the case like Lee, but I did my best for him and kept him out of adult prison, which was a great result. I think I saved his life. 

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Praise for Her Kind of Case

“A seasoned criminal defense attorney must draw on her experience to save a teenage client who doesn’t want to be saved. Over decades, Lee Isaacs has become one of Boulder’s top criminal defense attorneys, but lately she has a lot on her mind besides work. She’s about to turn 60, a number that gives her pause even though decades of taekwondo have kept her fit, if frequently bruised. She worries about her 84-year-old father. She misses her husband, Paul, who died five years ago. So when a woman begs Lee to defend her nephew Jeremy, Lee is initially reluctant. The 16-year-old is accused of—and confessed to—being part of a group of skinheads who stomped to death another young man when they found out he was gay. But as Lee gets information from her determined investigator, Carla, and then eventually from Jeremy, she thinks there may be a way to save Jeremy. Winer (The Furthest City Light, 2012), who was a criminal defense attorney for decades, brings vivid, insider knowledge of all things legal, from lawyers’ black humor to the importance of details to a jury. Unlike many dull legal novels, though, this is filled with witty dialogue, believable characters, and quick pacing (it’s a sure bet that the author never bored a jury). Lee is complex, funny, grouchy, and ambitious. It’s just plain fun to hang out with her and her two gay friends; it’s fun to listen as she and her dad talk late at night. And it’s seriously impressive to watch her as a lawyer. If she were real, Winer’s heroine would be your hands-down first choice if you got in trouble. But as a lucky and hopefully law-abiding reader, you have the right to buy her next adventure and remain silent for hours as you speed through the pages.”

—Kirkus, STARRED REVIEW

“Drawing on her own experience as a criminal defense attorney, Winer will keep readers riveted with a twisty plot and a realistic depiction of courtroom proceedings. Highly recommended for those who love emotion-filled legal dramas.”

Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Meet Lee Isaacs, Esquire, a criminal defense attorney in Boulder, Colorado. She’s approaching her sixtieth birthday, and she has decades of experience behind her. But, as she discovers in this very well written novel, no matter how old you are, you never really stop learning. Lee’s new case involves a teenaged boy who’s accused of murdering a gay man. You’d think the kid would be eager to have a veteran like Lee handling his defense, but no: he’s already confessed to the crime, and he’s not interested in fighting the charge in court. The obvious question is: what secrets could the boy be keeping, if he thinks a long stretch in prison for a crime he didn’t commit is his best course of action? Like Lee Isaacs, author Winer has spent decades as a criminal defense lawyer, and it shows: this is an author who knows whereof she writes.

Everything about the book feels just right. Lee is a terrific character, too, and we can only hope that this is the first of many novels about her.”

—Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Her Kind of Case is a deftly resolving mystery showcasing fully fleshed-out characters — and in particular the strong-willed and sharp-witted Lee, an older single woman who grieves the recent loss of her husband, but continues her daily routine of law and karate, fighting tooth and nail to prove her client not guilty. A simply riveting read from beginning to end, and laced with a very special flair for unexpected humor, Her Kind of Case will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community library collections.”

—Midwest Book Review

“Winer’s second novel is thrilling yet sympathetic, a uniquely humane portrait of the struggles LGBTQ youth face when exposed to religious intolerance, violence, and the sometimes unforgiving criminal justice system. A longtime criminal defense attorney herself, Winer makes the real life intricacies of criminal trials easy for any reader to understand, using her lively cast of characters as guides through the twists and turns of the litigation. Winer has the rare talent of making everything from negotiating plea deals to selecting a jury riveting. When you pick up Her Kind of Case, you’ll find it’s hard to put down. It’s fast paced, intelligent, and filled with dark humor that Winer expertly uses to illuminate the secrets that the LGBTQ youth in her novel are forced to keep.”

—Mardi Moore (she/her/hers), Executive Director, Out Boulder County

Her Kind of Case is all about homophobia, religious intolerance, and aging (with a protagonist pushing 60). It’s a terrific novel—intense, entertaining, and funny.”

—Dr. Glenda Russell, one of the nation’s leading scholars on LGBT rights movements and counter-movements and host of KGNU Radio’s “Outsources”

“Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be inside the mind of a brilliant criminal defense lawyer? Her Kind of Case offers you this opportunity, along with many other reading pleasures. Jeanne Winer’s protagonist Lee Isaacs is the lawyer any of us would want if we were in serious trouble with the law (as well as the lawyer many of us may wish we could be). But she’s no superwoman, and her occasional moments of doubt and sadness lend her successful professional life a poignant quality that elevates this absorbing tale from courtroom thriller to literature. Dissemble or find another profession is the advice Lee was given as a young defense lawyer, and Winer offers us an unsparing portrait of a woman who craves authenticity but has nevertheless learned to steer her course by that star, and to live with the cost.”

—Marianne Wesson, best-selling author of the legal novels Render Up the Body, Chilling Effect, and A Death at Crooked Creek

Her Kind of Case is readable, thought-provoking, and entertaining, and Boulder readers, especially, will enjoy the many not-so-hidden local Easter eggs tucked throughout the novel … Winer makes frequent references to Boulder places and things, from Spruce Confections to Flagstaff Mountain… Many will also appreciate her periodic pokes at the kind of lofty, affluent culture that has come to dominate Boulder… No less engrossing than the plot is Winer’s candid portrayal of how the American legal system tends to work behind the scenes. It’s not very pretty.”

—The Daily Camera (Boulder, CO)

“Jeanne Winer has done it again. An entertaining story with immense heart, Her Kind of Case takes the jaded reader by surprise. The lawyer who cares, and a client who initially doesn’t, connects with the humanity in us all.”
—Stephanie Kane, best-selling author of Extreme Indifference and Seeds of Doubt, and winner of a Colorado Book Award for Extreme Indifference

“In her well-written novel, Jeanne Winer describes the hard work and creativity of a criminal defense attorney representing a teenage boy who has confessed to a savage murder. The telling of his story, and of the struggles of an aging attorney concerned she may have continued to practice law beyond the right time to quit, is immensely engaging. And Winer, unlike many authors, gives a completely accurate description of court proceedings.”

—Jean Dubofsky, former Colorado Supreme Court Justice

“Criminal defense attorneys are a breed apart. Standardized personality tests bear that out; a particular outlook on the world and life is in step with the work of criminal defense. For many years, in the search for good books about crime, accountability, trials and redemption, I have found myself tripped up, second guessing, saying “Oh, come on…. Really?” The melodrama and inaccuracies make me stop, reconsider, and often put down the book. Her Kind of Case by Jeanne Winer is a remarkable exception. While it is a legal drama, it is also an understated celebration of the art of criminal defense. It is beautifully written and is built around a gradually resolving mystery, fully developed and fleshed-out characters, realistic legal and courtroom scenes, and a particularly sharp-witted and strong-willed protagonist, Lee Isaacs. Winer (The Furthest City Light, 2012) was a criminal defense attorney in Boulder for 35 years, and brings insider knowledge, legal detail, excellent writing, and a black humor commonly found in those who deal with issues of crime and punishment and human suffering.”

Peggy Nelson, former public defender, defense attorney, and retired New Mexico District Court Judge, writing in For the Defense, a publication of The New Mexico Criminal Defense Lawyers Association

“An elegantly crafted page-turner and the perfect bedside suspense novel. Readers will look forward to disappearing into the deeply intelligent ecology of its humor, the remarkable legal mind and self-restraint of its protagonist, and the humane integrity that drives the narrative toward its unlikely conclusion. Thank you, Jeanne Winer. I beg for a sequel!”

Sawnie Morris, author of Her, Infinite, co-author of The Sound a Raven Makes (winner of the New Mexico Book Award for Poetry),  and the Inaugural Poet Laureate of Taos, New Mexico

“This book did everything right, from plot to characters to voice. Ms. Winer grounded her narrative in her characters, all of whom were incredibly three dimensional. I found myself falling in love with all of them, even those who were secondary characters. She treated each of them as real people, and I never was under the impression that any were there just to fill a seat. Lee in particular was absolutely delightful; her fear of growing old coupled with her quiet sense of confidence created a believable conflict that was introspective without ever becoming tiresome. Ms. Winer wove together all the different facets of Lee’s personality in an organic way that created a sympathetic character who was also flawed. Watching Lee struggle and grow was a big part of what made the book so deeply enjoyable for me. Because of the strength and diversity of her characters, it never felt as if Ms. Winer was using plot as a crutch to maintain the momentum of the narrative. Oftentimes, authors in mystery/suspense genres will rely on shock value in their plots to shore up their weak characters. However, Her Kind of Case never falls into this category because Ms. Winer allows her characters to drive the plot forward. It never feels as if the plot is drowning out the characters; rather, the characters inform the plot. This creates a narrative that transcends genre. Ms. Winer also infused this book with a wonderful voice. Her use of dry humor complemented the thoughtful, introspective tone of the book, and often made me laugh aloud. It made Her Kind of Case even more of a joy to read, because I was always waiting to hear Lee’s wry take on the current situation. However, this humor was always perfectly placed; it was never overbearing. It never felt as if it was trying too hard, which is something I’ve seen other books do. After reading Her Kind of Case, I really hope Ms. Winer plans to write another Lee Isaacs book. This one was deeply charming and written with such strong attention to craft that it would be a shame not to continue Lee’s story. The plot was thoughtful, original, and relevant; the characters were dynamic and interesting; and Ms. Winer’s voice was confident and funny. I can only hope she will continue to write, because reading her work was truly enjoyable. Five out of five stars.”

Timothy S Stewart II, writing on amazon.com

“Loved this book! A heartbreaking, inspirational, page-turning legal thriller. The protagonist, a former public defender, faces the dark conundrum of an LGBT hate crime and her ethical belief in the right of every accused person to receive a vigorous defense. Winer had me twisting and twisting until the end. It was amazing.”

—Diane Fanning, Edgar-nominated crime writer and author

“A young man’s life and Isaacs’s career all ride on the result of this case, making Her Kind of Case a compulsive read. While the book might take a few chapters to truly get rolling while we gain more insight into Isaacs’s character, once we’re in the courtroom, we are bound to stay close to Isaacs to see what fearless move she’s going to make next.”

Johanna DeBiase, freelance writer (Taos, New Mexico)

“Loved it!! Highly recommend!!”

Joni Gheen, LadyJ’s Bookish Nook, McConnelsville, OH

Her Kind of Case is my kind of book. The story is built around a slowly resolving mystery that captures the reader’s attention and won’t let go, but there’s more to it than a good courtroom drama. It is a joy to see Lee Isaacs’ personal story unfold. Lee is an older single woman who has achieved career and personal success. She’s still mourning the death of her husband, but she fights the good fight each and every day: taking on cases that interest her and doing her best to win them, going to the dojo to keep her skill in martial arts honed, and staying in touch with an interesting and supportive group of a few friends. Lee is an introvert and very self-contained, and that black belt in martial arts means that she’s used to pain and not showing it—a very useful tool in the courtroom. Her dry sense of humor is delightful. Yes, the story is a very good one, but she is the real reason why I had to keep turning those pages. Lee brings readers right into the heart of what it means to be the type of lawyer that all those bad jokes are not about. Her Kind of Case does involve social issues that confront us today, and one of the best things about the book is how the author treats the character of Jeremy, the teenage boy accused of the murder of a young gay man. Not only do readers’ opinions of the boy change as the story progresses, but so do the attitudes of the characters around him. When I finished reading Jeanne Winer’s book, the first thought in my mind was, ‘I hope she’s writing another. I want to see more of Lee Isaacs!’”

—Cathy Cole, Amazon Top 500 Reviewer & Kitling: Books Blog

“If forced to describe Her Kind of Case in quick short terms, I’d say it’s smart, extremely well written, a much different and compelling courtroom drama, and much more. The main character is female defense attorney, Lee Isaacs, who is almost sixty. She takes on a murder case that looks like an impossible win–the defendant, who is only 17, is so drowned in guilt he doesn’t want to be proven innocent. The crime is the killing of a gay man. When the gang discover that one of their own is gay, they kill him in front of the defendant. Besides how well-written the novel is, it is filled with great and unusual characters, a most unique and clever plot, and just a darn good read. Probably not one I would have picked for myself, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to read it. Five out of five stars”

—Marilyn Meredith,  A Vine Voice writing on amazon.com

“I just finished reading Jeanne Winer’s Her Kind of Case and now I don’t know what to do with myself. You know how it is when you read a really good book and you just want to keep hanging out with those characters in that place, and you know you might have to read a less-than-wonderful book before you get to another really good one, and you hope like hell that the author is hard at work on her next book in this series. Or any next book at all. I love this book, for its details make the story so alive. I love the details about preparing for a criminal trial and pleading for a client. Jeanne spent 35 years as criminal defense lawyer in Boulder, and she’s a brilliant writer, weaving legal explanations with a story that is compelling, even the parts that are uncomfortable to read. The characters in Her Kind of Case are real, and they drew me in, even the ones I didn’t like. The lead character, Lee Isaacs, starts as a tightly folded origami that gradually opens into a lovely and intricate figure. She’s difficult, compassionate, contrary, and ultimately open for whatever her life holds next. My hope is that Jeanne Winer’s life holds next a whole slew of more Lee Isaacs stories.”

—Verna Wilder, reviewing on amazon.com

“As a practicing criminal defense attorney for over 40 years, I’ve been inside of too many jails to count. I’ve represented people from the truly innocent to the POOBG (Plain Old Ordinary Bad Guy), including many normal citizens who erred, and including many who committed ‘real crime.’ Jeanne Winer has captured the wit and spirit along with the pathos of the criminal defense world. Her novel’s world is populated by characters who are believable. The real item has been brought to life in the pages. Add to that a fantastic story and a great sense of humor, and you end up with a 5 star, worth the time to read, book. In addition to being written for all, a real treat for ‘civilians,, I would add this to the reading list in law school. Her Kind of Case offers more than a glimpse of the crazy roller coaster of criminal defense. It takes you for the ride. The real people, the great and the less great, are captured. I love this book! Five out of five stars.”

—Leonard Frieling, Former Colorado Judge and Longtime criminal defense attorney

Her Kind of Case is about lawyering. The story-mystery is very interesting and contemporarily relevant, but it is only the framework for showcasing the intricacies of criminal defense, and the intense focus and stamina required of successful lawyers in this specialty. Given that successful criminal defense involves a significant amount of ‘luck,” the defense lawyer in the case described in the book shows herself to be a master at finding and exploiting ‘luck.’ The book is well written in a comfortable, natural, authentic style. It describes the whole criminal case process that includes both in-courtroom and out-of-courtroom activity, and integrates this draining process into the personal life of the defense attorney. The attorney struggles with the anxieties associated with aging and the uncertainties of the future when and if she decides to end her more than three decades of law practice, which has defined her. In my view, the course of the trial in the book could have taken different paths with different outcomes, and this would not have diminished the exceptionally clear picture of lawyering presented, which is what the book is about. I highly recommend Her Kind of Case to all readers who enjoy good writing. (I’m not a lawyer.)”

—David J. George, PhD,  is a clinical toxicologist, general pharmacologist, and author of Poisons: An Introduction for Forensic Investigators

“At first, I didn’t think this was my kind of book, but it grew on me. Starred Review!!”

My Father Reads Too Many Books (Blog)

“This novel defines page-turner. Lee Isaacs is a seasoned defense attorney who can kick butt both in and out of the courtroom. But she’s also wounded, with the figurative and literal scars to prove it. Her Kind of Case has so much insight into the struggles and triumphs of being a defense lawyer. And it’s a portrait of the moral qualms all defense attorneys suffer when defending someone accused of a despicable crime. Looking forward to Jeanne Winer’s next novel. Five out of five stars”

Kristin Marra, Author, 78 Keys

“A sure-fire page turner! Suspense, laughter and self reflection– lots to engage you in this book. Great characters and settings. I felt like I was back in Boulder rooting for the defense team. It’s refreshing to have strong, well-rounded middle-aged female protagonists in crime fiction, and I sure wouldn’t want to spar with Lee Isaacs!”

—Elenie Opffer, Communications Professor, College of the Canyons

“How could one not fall in love with Jeanne Winer’s masterly crafted, brilliant, and fabulously entertaining page-turner? Congratulations to the author for so skillfully drawing forth from rich life experience a true masterpiece. What a gift this book is! May a sequel follow soon.”

—Dr. Jonathan D. Stoler