I like Sharyn McCrumb's mysteries and I've liked the few of the non-mysteries Ive read, but not this one. The Devil Amongst the Lawyers is one of her Ballad Novels, about an event in Applachacian history. Erma Morton, a college-educated young woman, is being tried for the murder of her father. This event has caught the imagination of newspaper readers all over the country, and they've sent reporters to cover the trial. Only problem is that the big-city reporters are determined to slant the story to find the girl innocent and they don't care how many lies they write to do it. Carl, a young small-town reporter, is more interested to find the truth. He believes his secret weapon is his young cousin Nora Bonesteel, who has the gift of Sight, and hes counting on her to find something that will give him an edge. Nora is a recurring character in several of McCrumb's novels.
This would be a good story if McCrumb had actually told it. What we get instead is chapters from the POV of all these folks. Only Henry Jernigan's flashbacks to Japan are emotionally gripping. We don't learn anything new about Nora Bonesteel we didn't know from previous books, and Nora's involvement in the story seems mostly for atmosphere; she doesn't do anything to help or hinder Carl. We aren't given enough information to become invested in Erma's innocence or guilt. We learn something about Erma's brother (no spoilers) but McCrumb doesn't take it anywhere. We are told but not shown that Carl's reporting is endangering his job, and in the end he finds out nothing; no emotional involvement for the reader there. We are, however, beaten over the head every page or so with the information that big-city newspapers (mainstream media, anyone?) make up the facts to tell the public what they want the public to know.
McCrumb always does a good job with setting time and place, and at the end of the novel there's a few codas about what happens to the people in the story, which is nice. Still, a very dispassionate and un-engaging story. I thought perhaps McCrumb has some sort of axe to grind here but she sure didn't get it very sharp. In my opinion a reader new to McCrumb would wonder what the fuss is about; best to go back to her earlier mysteries.