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Anatomy of a Murder

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  1,297 Ratings  ·  163 Reviews
First published by St. Martin's in 1958, Robert Traver's Anatomy of a Murder immediately became the number-one bestseller in America, and was subsequently turned into the successful and now classic Otto Preminger film. It is not only the most popular courtroom drama in American fiction, but one of the most popular novels of our time.

A gripping tale of deceit, murder, and a
Paperback, 437 pages
Published March 15th 1983 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 1958)
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Sep 19, 2009 Tracey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, 5-star, hist-myst
I can't believe I've never seen this book's movie; I love James Stewart. But at least this way I had no idea what was going to happen next in the book; that was nice. And, funnily enough, I still had the odd little perk of being able to hear Jimmy's voice in my head for a lot of the lines. (Oh, and Lee Remick is perfect as Laura Manion.) I have a *cough* irresistible impulse to rent the movie. Soon. (Actually, the dvd might be in my mailbox now; I just can't get to it because of ALL THE SNOW.)

Mar 31, 2012 Stephen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery, law
A woman is raped at the gates of her neighborhood, but her cries for help register too late. By the time her husband, one Lieutenant Frederic Manion of the US Army, realizes what has transpired, the rapist has fled for the safety of the local bar...a bar which he owns. Undeterred, the Lieutenant enters the bar, calmly empties his Luger pistol into the man's chest, and leaves to deliver himself into the hands of the closest deputy-sheriff. Paul Biegler is a former prosecuting attorney with congr ...more
Feb 18, 2011 Judy rated it liked it
Recommends it for: fans of legal thrillers

At #2 on the 1958 bestseller list is this story of a murder and trial, set in a small town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The legal thriller has become a staple in current fiction but was a fairly new genre in the 1950s. Compulsion, a 1957 bestseller by Meyer Levin was the beginning, but Levin had a journalism background while Robert Traver had been a practicing lawyer and judge.

The writing is clunky and wordy but Traver goes quite extensively into all aspects of preparing a case, selecti
Thanks to a facebook friend for recommending I read this book for my read 50 books from 50states challenge. This book takes place in MICHIGAN! and I heard it is loosely based on real events.

Well I will say for a book written in the 1950's this was a topic I did not expect to be, and then I found out it was a very popular book and made into a movie.

A crime of rape and murder that is brought to a sensational trial. Most of the book is about the prep work for the trial and then the trial. Hey court
Nov 01, 2010 Devin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
I randomly picked this up off my grandparent's bookshelf of leather-bound Franklin books. I have to say that not only did I thoroughly enjoy the well written story, but I learned more about our legal system than in both my high school and college civics classes combined. This will absolutely be a re-read!
Daniel Villines
Jun 18, 2016 Daniel Villines rated it really liked it
Of the many constructs that have been invented by mankind to keep society whole, I see the invention of law as being the most important. It may have started with ancient chiefs and kings dictating their personal, passionate, and biased desires for justice. From there, councils took form, which somewhat normalized its application. And finally, the law became what it is today: words on paper that intend rule society with reason. As with every evolutionary process, there were diversions along the w ...more
Barry Bridges
Mar 13, 2013 Barry Bridges rated it it was amazing
This book really does not need another review but I must comment on the linguistic structure. Traver delivers straightforward literature; articulate, intelligent and expecting the same of his reader. His structures are immaculate, his word choice superb. The dry humor of his character delivers chuckle after chuckle. This book bumps into my top ten. Highly recommended as a stretch for younger readers - a challenge to read, with a dictionary close by. This is the kind of entertainment that is diff ...more
Jan 11, 2015 Carl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A classic

I had heard of this novel most of my life, and I finally decided to see what all the fuss was about back in its day. I was fascinated by the approach it took to a murder, knowing guilt at the outset, then truly hoping that innocence by means of insanity would be proven. We learn a lot about human nature, especially our own, by the time we reach the end. Equally fascinating is to compare that time, 50 years ago, to today. Maybe it's best I waited so long.
May 16, 2009 Hilary rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
It was interesting, and definitely edgy for 1958, but it was written in this pedantic, good old boys, kind of style that drive me mad. If you like courtroom drama, AND you don't mind a man's man type style... and you're not too hung up on getting to the story quickly, this will be a great book to read. If any of those things annoy you, stay away.
Dec 06, 2011 Christopher rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is a wonderful courtroom thriller that set the stage for an entire genre of books in the past fifty years since its first publication. Most of you will probably recognize this book from the famous 1959 movie of the same title, inspired by the book, directed by Otto Preminger, and starring Jimmy Stewart as defense attorney Paul Biegler and George C. Scott as the prosecuting attorney Claude Dancer. For the most part, the plot remains the same from the movie: a bartender allegedly rapes an arm ...more
Oct 15, 2011 Stacielynn rated it really liked it
Shelves: joi-de-livres
one of the first courtroom procedural dramas. read it because it was one of the top 10 best sellers of 1958. it was really long and sometimes a little long-winded, but it was ground-breaking for a few reasons: it was a courtroom procedural, it addressed rape in a straight-forward manner; and it used the insanity defense.

in an era when everyone has seen a billion tv shows or movies about the legal system, some of the explanation and background in this book may feel cumbersome, but when it was wr
Debbie Maskus
Oct 27, 2010 Debbie Maskus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Of course, I have seen the movie version with Jimmy Stewart, and will now need to revisit the movie. I thoroughly enjoyed this book by Robert Traver. The story vibrates with life and images. Laura Manion throbs with sexuality and her husband, Frederic Manion, simmers with jealousy. Paul Biegler, alias Polly, relishes spending all waking hours fishing, until he decides to defend Frederic Manion on a charge of murder. The story centers on the trial preparation and the trial. One of my favorite quo ...more
Sandra Stiles
Jul 28, 2009 Sandra Stiles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, adult
John D. voelker was a Michigan Supreme Court Justice. He wrote Anatomy of a Murder based on a 1952 murder case, under the pen name of Robert Traver.
In this novel Paul Biegler is a lawyer who was formerly the prosecuting attorney. He takes on the case of an army lieutenant name Frederic Manion. He has been charged with shooting a bartender who his wife said raped her. Manion returns to the park after the murder and gives his gun to the park attendant and waits for the police.
The problem is, how d
May 28, 2014 Donna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This book was brought to my attention by its appearance on a "best mystery" list. I have, however, shelved it under fiction since the only mystery is whether the jury will agree with the defense's argument in the case. The case is murder charged against a man whose wife was raped by the deceased. The defense is temporary insanity. The prosecution tries every means to keep the rape out of the evidence.

But this is a wonderful book, especially for those who might be thinking about law school. Thoug
Kathleen Hagen
Anatomy of a Murder, by Robert Traver, A. borrowed from Library of Congress, Library for the Blind.

This is one of the kind of classics I love-50’s, noire, and, in this case, written by a lawyer about a case, where you get to see all of his machinations, the court dialogue with his thoughts thrown in, and a case against a man who admits that he killed a bar owner, and which looks impossible for anyone to defend. Also a lot of the Upper Peninsula scenery and Lake Superior as a mysterious backgroun
Dec 12, 2007 Katie rated it really liked it
Based on a true story, this novel is the first of its kind in the genre of legal thrillers. It is set in a resort town in the Upper Penninsula of Michigan near Lake Superior, and the protagonist is Paul Bieglar (Polly), a former D.A. who is struggling to find his place in life with regards to his career and personal life. He is approached by Lt. Frederic Manion, who hires him to defend him against the charge of murder. Frederic admitted killing Barney Quill after Barney brutally raped and beat h ...more
Dec 19, 2007 John rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this book - though at nearly 400 pages it took me forever. I'm not the fastest reader, and I usually only read before falling to sleep at night, so I had to renew the book beyond the normal 3 weeks available from the library.

Grew to love the characters and hated to see the story end. Interesting look at a small town attorney thrust into a big murder trial. Lots of ups-and-downs, and very good, protracted, court room scenes.

As a law school grad, you have to love any book that talk
May 09, 2008 Channelle rated it really liked it
I have been wanting to read this book for a couple years, ever since a law school professor that I greatly respected recommended it. I am so glad that I finally got to read it. The true intrigue in thsi story is trying to figure out whether the guy truly did it or not. The best part about it is that it's not until the last few pages that you finally figure it out. Paul Biegler tries a great case and he is a wonderful character/attorney. This book is written very well and it gives you the behind ...more
Mar 20, 2015 Chrissie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 04, 2009 Alan rated it really liked it
I read this book right before starting law school. This is a great courtroom thriller because not only is the story interesting, but you are included in the formulation of the courtroom strategy. I especially like the surprise twist at the end.

I also recommend the movie adaptation, starring Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remick, and George C. Scott. A bonus is the musical score by Duke Ellington, who also makes an appearance. A phenomenal film.
Ace Martin
Apr 10, 2015 Ace Martin rated it it was amazing
Great book - my husband received a signed copy of the from his father. Turns out my father-in-law was playmates with the author's daughter, while growing up in Michigan. Inside the book was a news clipping from the local paper announcing that the book would be made into a movie. What a treasure!
Antonina Sh
Jul 13, 2014 Antonina Sh rated it liked it
No special turns of the plot, no unexpected twists, but solid detective writing, and if you are passionate about lawyers' work, this could be a hit.
Oct 18, 2014 Melanie rated it really liked it
Great Book! Enjoyed the intricacies of the strategy of the case. Now off to watch the movie!
Edward Covington
Dec 10, 2013 Edward Covington rated it it was amazing
A must read for those in the field of law- but anyone would enjoy this book. Great characters and language, plus some twists that are far from predictable. The anti-Grisham.
Feb 24, 2013 Bettie☯ rated it really liked it
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Wanda
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 27, 2013 Steven rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hervorragende Übersetzung eines amerikanischen Klassikers.
Sep 14, 2015 Dsqueri9 rated it it was amazing
Traver is a master. This is a true classic and a must read for any fan of the genre.
May 13, 2017 Realini rated it it was amazing
Anatomy of a Murder, based on a novel by John Voelker, with James Stewart

A different version of this note and thoughts on other books are available at:

- and

This excellent work of art was included by The New York Times on its list of Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made:


This fabulous film was directed by Otto Preminger.
He is the director of other important movies, one of which I had the pleasure
Mar 03, 2014 Judy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novel
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 27, 2016 Dancall rated it really liked it
A good book, but slightly dated, and also slightly over-long. It's interesting as one of the first crime stories with a lawyer as the hero, but not essential.
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2015 Reading Chal...: Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver 2 18 Mar 07, 2015 02:17PM  
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Robert Traver is the pseudonym of John Donaldson Voelker who served as the Prosecuting Attorney of Marquette County, Michigan and later as the 74th Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. He wrote many books reflecting his two passions, the law and flyfishing, Troubleshooters, Danny and the Boys and Small Town D.A.
More about Robert Traver...

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“Plot these days is anti-intellectual and verboten, the mark of the Philistine, the huckster with a pen. There mustn't be too much story and that should be fog-bound and shrouded in heavy symbolism, including the phallic, like a sort of covoluted charade. Symbolism now carries the day, it's the one true ladder of literary heaven.” 6 likes
“animals are strictly dry, they sinless live and swiftly die, but sinful, ginful, rum-soaked men, survive for three-score years and ten.” 0 likes
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