Media Coverage and Reviews

“A unique collection of 15 wrongful conviction sagas bound to shake faith
in the American criminal justice system.” –Kirkus Reviews

Co-editors Laura Caldwell and Leslie S. Klinger are joined by exoneree Maurice Caldwell, author Laurie R. King and Linda Starr of the Northern California Innocence Project to talk about the book.


From Kirkus Reviews:
“In the past three decades, books about wrongful convictions have become so numerous that they form their own genre. The advent of DNA testing for law enforcement purposes validated the previously discredited statement that American prisons are filled with innocent inmates while the actual perpetrators remain unpunished. Few of the books, however, match this skillful anthology, assembled by Life After Innocence founder Caldwell (The Dog Park, 2014, etc.) and Edgar Award–winning mystery editor Klinger (editor: In the Shadow of Edgar Allan Poe: Classic Tales of Horror, 1816-1914, 2015, etc.), in which exonerated individuals tell their stories to high-profile authors, most of them known for their fast-paced crime novels. While the names of the exonerees may be unfamiliar to general readers, the names of the authors are better known: Sara Paretsky, Lee Child, Laurie King, and more. Scott Turow and Barry Scheck provide the introduction. Each of the 15 chapters is worthy. Perhaps the chapter combining the highest level of storytelling with the most gut-wrenching detail is Brad Parks’ account of Illinois exoneree Michael Evans, wrongfully convicted of the sexual assault and murder of a 9-year-old girl; he served 26 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Each chapter focuses on a specific aspect involved in these wrongful convictions. Parks’ account focuses on the jurors who reached the wrong decision, including the chairwoman of the jury, who felt all along that Evans was innocent. Other chapters emphasize dirty cops, craven prosecutors, flawed forensic evidence, mistaken eyewitness testimony, lying jailhouse snitches, noncompassionate judges, and more. One across-the-board theme is the hell of serving prison time while innocent, with seemingly no way out. A searing, unforgettable anthology, with valuable insights provided at the end of each chapter by the editors.”

From Publishers Weekly:
“With these stories, the authors and editors provide a list of symptoms for an illness that is plaguing the justice system, bringing desperately needed awareness to the issues involved in wrongful convictions.”

From New York Journal of Books:
“The stories in this collection will make you reconsider things that you thought you knew.”

From The Times (U.K.) Literary Supplement:
“[The stories] aren’t simply meant to convey the tragedy of what occurred, but to evoke the tragedy of what did not: the missed experiences and opportunities…. Bringing in thriller writers grants each story the narrative swagger of a crime procedural drama.”

From Booklist:
“The collection shines in its focus on people whose stories should be urgently told. Featuring a previously unpublished essay by Arthur Miller, this book will captivate readers interested in justice and the U.S. legal system.”

From The Big Thrill:
“Each story in Anatomy of Innocence is unique and compelling in its own right, but some common themes emerge. The living hell of prison. The loss of friends and family while incarcerated. The often fortuitous circumstances that lead to exoneration. But perhaps the most noteworthy is how often exonerees rejected bitterness and turned their focus toward the future and helping others.”

From Manhattan Book Review:
“A heartbreaking and important read, Anatomy of Innocence puts a crucial and underreported issue in the spotlight for all to see. Here’s hoping it leads to more exonerations in the future.”

From Library Journal:
“That wrongful convictions mar our judicial system with unnerving regularity is, alas, hardly news — but we’ve never seen this news delivered quite as it is here. A dozen innocent men and women exonerated after being convicted of serious crimes have their stories told by major mystery or thriller writers (e.g., Lee Child and Sara Paretsky), with whom they are matched. Editor Caldwell is the founder/director of the highly regarded advocacy program Life After Innocence at Loyola University Chicago and the author of 14 novels (e.g., Claim of Innocence), while Klinger is a leading expert on Sherlock Holmes, which suggests how this intriguing project got started.”

From Portland Press Herald:
“An unstated yet central premise of Anatomy of Innocence: Testimonies of the Wrongfully Convicted is that anyone – anyone – can be sent to prison for murder. In the United States, this injustice falls preponderantly on people who are black. But as the stories in this book underscore, no one is immune. The snare of wrongful conviction can steal years and decades from the lives of daycare moms, law students, small business managers, and people innocently sitting in their car watching the ocean.”

From Monster Librarian:
“Anatomy of Innocence brings to light perspectives we rarely see, of those wrongfully convicted, with powerful emotional impact. With the tensions in our criminal justice system today, it provides an opportunity for thoughtful reflection and compassion, in a time of anger, fear, and moral confusion. … Highly recommended.”

From AuthorLink:
“This eye-opening, cautionary collection should be read by everyone.”

From Night Owl Suspense:
“Amazing book by exonerees and authors. Don’t let this one go by.”

From the Independent:
“It’s not a justice system, it’s a human sacrifice system. So long as someone gets put away for the crime we don’t really care who it is. Round up the usual suspects. Find a scapegoat, practically anyone will do. Preferably black.”

From the American Bar Association Journal:

“Mystery and thriller writers tell the stories of the wrongfully convicted in new book”

From The New York Times:


From Bookish:
Staying on Track and Surviving Incarceration: Anatomy of Innocence excerpt of exoneree Ginny Lefever, as told to Sarah Weinman

From The Strand Magazine:
The Trip to Doty Road: Anatomy of Innocence excerpt of exoneree David Bates, as told to Sara Paretsky

From the New York Public Library:

From Criminal
Q&A with Laura Caldwell and Leslie S. Klinger

Podcast, Speaking of Mysteries:

Podcast, Northern California Mystery Writers of America:

Podcast with author Phil Margolin:


KSCO radio interview:


Poisoned Pen Bookstore event:


What the Authors Say….

“When I was a prosecutor, one of my biggest concerns was convicting the wrong person. Later when I was a judge, one of my biggest concerns became sentencing the wrong person. In our world, both events happen. It’s a privilege to be working with people who are trying to right grave wrongs.”
–John C. Sheldon

“In my international suspense novels, I write frequently about injustice. It’s an honor to contribute to Life After Innocence, where justice gets a second chance.”
–Gayle Lynds

“Working on a chapter for Anatomy of Innocence has been one of my most meaningful and rewarding experiences as a writer. The plight of the exonerated is a topic that has concerned me for much of my adult life, and I’m so grateful to be part of a project that tells so many necessary stories, and that in turn will allow for even more voices to be heard.”
–Sarah Weinman

“It’s not only been a pleasure but an eye-opening experience to participate in this collection of essays about the exonerated. You’re soberly reminded that for some, often those without the resources or wherewithal to mount proper defenses, once the attention of the criminal justice system has determined an individual is culpable, how hard it is to reverse what might well be a false or incomplete narrative. From headline cases such as the Central Park Five involving coerced confessions of minors to those on death row for decades finally freed due usually to DNA results, we as a society must not only demand competent public safety measures from the authorities, but the fair and impartial application of these apparatuses of law enforcement and punishment.”
–Gary Phillips

“It was a privilege to take part.”
–Lee Child

“I am often asked about the high point in my career as a criminal defense attorney, and the answer is easy. I represented 30 people charged with homicide but the two men I remember most were the two men I was hired to represent after they were sentenced to life in prison for murders they had not committed. It took me four years to free each man, and the emotional toll on me was very heavy. But I was always free and I could not imagine what it was like to be caged for life for something you never did. I hope Anatomy of Innocence helps people with no connection to this type of situation get some understanding of the horrors faced by the unjustly incarcerated.”
–Phillip Margolin

“When I was a journalist who sometimes covered cops and courts, it was easy to become inured to the assembly-line style justice that so often prevails in America today. That’s what makes the stories in this book so powerful. It’s not that they’re unusual. It’s that they’re a chillingly typical experience of our criminal system — right until the point where you learn they got the wrong person. That Michael Evans was able to survive that nightmare for 26 years is an astonishing testimony to his family and his faith. Still, there were times when I found myself listening to Michael, looking back on my own journalism career, and wondering, ‘Did I ever cover a Michael Evans and not realize it?’”
–Brad Parks

“As a former attorney, working on Anatomy of Innocence drove home the point that lawyers hold in their hands the lives of the people they represent. Howard Joseph, the attorney who represented Antione Day in overturning his conviction, was truly an angel who appeared seemingly out of nowhere and changed many lives. Meeting and working with Antione, who has surprisingly little bitterness over what happened to him, taught me the true meaning of forgiveness. I’m honored to have worked with him and with Life After Innocence.”
–Jamie Freveletti

“As the citizen of a great country, I want to believe that our system is built upon justice.  I also believe that when the system fails, it has failed us all, and it is the duty of all to speak for the voiceless. It was an honor to help tell the story of one man failed by our system and exonerated by those who spoke up.”
–Laurie R. King

“I’m so proud to be a part of this worthy effort, which benefits the After Innocence program — a nonprofit that helps the exonerated to face the huge challenges that await them. The experience of participating in Anatomy of Innocence was one of the most moving of my life. No exaggeration.”
–Jan Burke