“Behind the Robe” by Barbara Sattler.

BookBaby. $14 paperback, $9.99 Kindle.

With just eight years under her belt as a public defender, Lourdes Velasquez is gobsmacked by her appointment to an Arizona Superior Court judgeship. A Latina Democrat without political connections, she hadn’t seriously entertained this as a possibility when, pressured by her husband, she applied for the post. She isn’t even sure she wants to be a judge — she identifies as a public defender, not as a token in the majority conservative, Anglo male judiciary. But the die is cast, and Lourdes gamely embarks on a judge’s steep learning curve, juggling daily professional challenges with personal worries about her imploding marriage, aging parents, and a newly sober friend’s struggle to stay on the wagon. Lourdes is a likable, thoughtful character — smart, yet vulnerable — and it’s easy to care about her. But it’s the behind-the-scenes look at the legal system that makes this such an enjoyable read.

A 30-year veteran of the courts as a criminal defense lawyer and judge, Tucsonan Barbara Sattler is an expert witness when it comes to a richly detailed courtroom portrayal, right down to the cost of a justice’s robes (pricey, but the first one is free). The Tucson setting, filled with local landmarks, will please Old Pueblo readers.

Helene Woodhams

Arizona Daily Star 12/1/19