Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Anatomy of a Murder” as Want to Read:
Anatomy of a Murder
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Anatomy of a Murder

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  2,165 ratings  ·  270 reviews
Librarian's note: An alternate cover edition can be found here

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 popul
Paperback, 437 pages
Published March 15th 1983 by St. Martin's Press (first published December 1958)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.04  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,165 ratings  ·  270 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Anatomy of a Murder
Sep 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hist-myst, 5-star, mystery
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 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: law, mystery
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
May 16, 2009 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. ...more
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
Feb 18, 2011 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
Mar 01, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In my opinion the 1958 fictionalized true-crime story ANATOMY OF A MURDER is a good book that made a near-great movie. (Note that the publisher even issued a later paperback edition with a movie-poster reproduction as its cover.) Travers wrote this book meticulously, but practically all the plot incident wound up in Otto Preminger's equally meticulous 1959 movie with its never before, never again cast (including Jimmy Stewart, Arthur O'Connell, Lee Remick, Ben Gazarra and Eve Arden).

Barry Bridges
Mar 13, 2013 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
Many consider it the greatest legal thriller/courtroom drama of all time (with strong dissent from fans of Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution). This iconic thriller involves a suspenseful murder trial that could go either way. I find it especially interesting because the story was inspired by an actual case handled by the author in his other life as a criminal defense lawyer. I wonder if that was why John Voelker wrote under the pseudonym Robert Traver. —James Grippando (https://www.b ...more
Jan 11, 2015 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.
Steven Starry
May 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'd give this book 6 stars if I could. I haven't read many books in this genre other than To Kill a Mockingbird, but if they're all as good as Robert Traver's, I'll be reading more of them soon. The author's personal experiences as both a prosecutor and defense attorney lend it an undeniable air of authenticity. Simply excellent! My question now is, "Amazon/Audible, where's the audiobook version?" I would love to have listened to it. ...more
Nov 01, 2010 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! ...more
Russell Atkinson
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
This classic courtroom drama was made into a blockbuster movie in 1959 starring Jimmy Stewart as the main character, defense attorney Paul Biegler. The facts of the killing are well-known from the beginning. The defendant's wife, Laura, was raped by the local innkeeper and the defendant, an army lieutenant, took a gun, went to the bar, and shot the rapist dead. He reported that he had done so and was taken into custody. It becomes Biegler's duty to try to get him off. The plot revolves primarily ...more
Paul Gaya Ochieng Simeon Juma
Inspired by Lt. Coleman A. Peterson's case who on July 31, 1952, shot and killed Maurice Chenoweth in Big Bay, Michigan. Voelker was retained as defense attorney a few days later. The trial started on September 15, 1952, and Assistant Attorney General Irving Beattie assisted Marquette County Prosecuting Attorney Edward Thomas. Voelker used a rare version of the insanity defense called irresistible impulse that had not been used in Michigan since 1886. The jury deliberated for four hours on Septe ...more
Mar 06, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It takes the reader through the entire process of a murder trial, seen through the eyes of the defense attorney. Interesting to see everthing that goes into the process, but all that detail left me feeling a bit exhausted. 
Srini V Srinivasan
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A Brilliant book. Though a slow start, it gathered speed as the trial commenced, and finished in an excellent crescendo.
Daniel Villines
Jun 18, 2016 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
Kate S
Apr 10, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, 2018-uno
This was a great example of an early courtroom drama. Reading this could very easily be compared to watching early Perry Mason episodes. There is no Hollywood glamour associated with the lawyers or other 'heroes' of the story. Set in a small Midwest town in the mid or late 1950s, the pace is laid back, there is no desperation to this tale.

I appreciated the pure view of the American judicial system. The back and forth between the lawyers, the interjections from the judge, and the beauty of the p
Dec 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
The book is not always better than the movie. In this case the Jimmy Stewart movie made from this is a distillation of the best of the novel, or put another way, the book is like a deeper immersion into the film. The movie is five stars; the book maybe only 3 1/2, because of some dull passages. Still, well worth reading.
Jul 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have mixed feelings about this book. It started out feeling overly stuffed with colorful similes and analogies at the expense of the story but once I got to the courtroom scenes the tension pulled me along. It is clear that the author understands the law and how a trial works. The descriptions of the trial are detailed and could have been tedious but are not. It is a good story with some interesting wrinkles but I don't think I would choose this author again. (I bet the movie is good though.) ...more
Michael Adamchuk
Mar 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Attorney Paul Biegler is hired to defend Lt. Manion who is accused of killing a local businessman. Manion's wife told him that he raped her. a brilliant, suspenseful and exciting courtroom procedural with a Hitchcockian twist. ...more
I'm so glad I'm studying law at the time when the discovery process exists.

Proper review to come eventually.
I got this hardcover 1958 edition for free from the library today! It's so gorgeous! It makes my old soul happy, but my already large TBR very unhappy. ...more
A good novel that covers the courtroom drama well and in detail; however, it could have definitely been shorter.
DeAnna Knippling
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
The best sort of courtroom drama, in which you feel a real trial is going on and yet are still gripped. Not a masterpiece, but definitely entertaining drama. It did annoy me about all the loose threads at the ending, but I can see where it could also leave people with pleasant arguments to take on afterwards--What about Mary indeed.
Dec 06, 2011 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
Sandra Stiles
Jul 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult, mystery
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
Debbie Maskus
Oct 27, 2010 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
Oct 15, 2011 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
Jeff Mayo
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Author Robert Traver is the pen name for Michigan Supreme Court Justice, and avid fly fisherman, John D. Voelker. His protagonist, Paul Biegler, is a former prosecutor in private practice who spends much of his time fly fishing. A woman is raped. Her husband, an army lieutenant, gets a gun, goes to the bar owned by the rapist, and shoots and kills him. He then waits for the police. His wife hires Biegler to defend him. Using a temporary insanity defense, the case does not go well at first. The p ...more
Dec 12, 2007 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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
2015 Reading Chal...: Anatomy of a Murder by Robert Traver 2 19 Mar 07, 2015 02:17PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • A Fine and Pleasant Misery
  • Advise and Consent (Advise and Consent, #1)
  • After Dachau
  • American Holocaust: Columbus and the Conquest of the New World
  • Seven Days In May
  • A Stranger Here Below (Gideon Stoltz #1)
  • The Paper Chase
  • The Library of Legends
  • Divorcio en Buda
  • The Peppermint Tea Chronicles (44 Scotland Street, #13)
  • The Best People: A Tale of Trials and Errors
  • Confess, Fletch (Fletch, #2)
  • The Second Deadly Sin (Deadly Sins #3)
  • The Return
  • The Caine Mutiny
  • Voices in the Snow (Black Winter, #1)
See similar books…
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.

Related Articles

We asked Alice Bolin, author of Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession, and journalist-turned-crime novelist Laura...
100 likes · 49 comments
“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
“The prosecutor’s by obligation is a special mind,” he had written, “mongoose quick, bullying, devious, unrelenting, forever baited to ensnare. It is almost duty bound to mislead, and by instinct dotes on confusing and flourishes on weakness. Its search is for blemishes it can present as scars, its obligation to raise doubts or sour with suspicion. It asks questions not to learn but to convict, and can read guilt into the most innocent of answers. Its hope, its aim, its triumph is to addle a witness into confession by tricking, exhausting, or irritating him into a verbal indiscretion which sounds like a damaging admission. To natural lapses of memory it gives the appearance either of stratagems for hiding misdeeds or, worse still, of lies, dark and deliberate. Feigned and wheedling politeness, sarcasm that scalds, intimidation, surprise, and besmirchment by innuendo, association, or suggestion, at the same time that any intention to besmirch is denied—all these as methods and devices are such staples in the prosecutor’s repertory that his mind turns to them by rote.” 0 likes
More quotes…