The entertaining, fast-paced Supreme Justice, by the always reliable Max Allan Collins, centers around freelance investigator and security specialist Joe Reeder helping the U.S. government chase down conspirators who are murdering Supreme Court Justices. The story is intriguing because it takes place in a near future where Miranda warnings have all but been eliminated, Roe v. Wade has been overturned, and other major shifts to the right have taken place. In other words, the country has become a living nightmare for liberals and progressives.
As it's the conservative justices of the court who are being targeted, it soon becomes apparent that someone is trying to alter the balance of the court to try to get things shifting back to the left. The sitting president is a democrat, you see, and it's presumed he will appoint more progressive, left-leaning replacements for the murdered justices.
The politics of the novel aren't laid on as thick as the above may suggest. This is basically a well-told whodunit laced with some decent action scenes, as Joe Reeder and his main task force partner, FBI agent Patti Rogers, examine crime scenes, interview witnesses, and try to piece things together before more justices are killed. Sure, Joe is pretty liberal and doesn't like where the country's been headed, but he doesn't think the conspirators' methods of changing things is the way to go.
Introducing each chapter is a thoughtful quote from a famous historical figure- usually a past Supreme Court justice but not always- that make us think a little about the how's and why's of our justice system, and overall lend a little extra depth to the book. Actually, I wouldn't have minded a little more of this sort of thing, maybe in the form of more conversations between Joe, Patti, and the other task force members-- you know, the way Dan Brown often stops his stories mid-stream to have his characters talk about a scholarly subject for a while. Okay, maybe not, but one can't argue that that tactic hasn't worked for Brown!
Getting back to the subject at hand, the politics of the author are communicated with a little more emphasis near the close of "Supreme Justice", as it is pretty clear when the dust settles that Mr. Collins and his characters feel that many of the tragedies in the story could be pretty directly laid at the feet of the country's big shift to the right. Because my politics are pretty close to Mr. Collins', that didn't bother me, but- more importantly- it really shouldn't bother anybody else much, either. The plot, action, and characters are what really count here, all working together to deliver a bang-up page turner.
Monday, July 21, 2014
Want a great summer read? Blake Crouch's Wayward is a terrific follow-up to the first book in this series, Pines (see the previous review on this blog). I can't talk too many specifics without revealing the secrets of the first book and the fun stuff you should discover on your own in this one, but I can say this: after finally discovering the quite amazing secrets of the mysterious town of Wayward Pines at the end of book one, former U.S. Secret Service Agent Ethan Burke now has to figure out what to do with the information.
Specifically, is doing the right thing for himself necessarily doing the right thing for the people in town? Can he come up with a plan that's good for everyone? Or should he not do anything and just accept the uneasy but relatively secure and comfortable existence offered him if he fulfills his new role as town sheriff? These moral dilemmas mix nicely with Ethan's first assigned case: an old-fashioned murder mystery. How does the murder of a young woman tie into Wayward Pines' secrets, and the secrets within those secrets?
Like the first book, the dark, nightmarish stuff is balanced by a clever plot that keeps moving, a decent and memorable resolution, and this time even a little humor (I'm thinking of the secret cocktail party that serves the world's worst liquor). It's all very satisfying, and just like the first book, Pines, really made me want to read this second one, after finishing Wayward I'm all ready to jump into book three (and the apparent final chapter), The Last Town. Kudos to author Blake Crouch for a great, imaginative series. I really want to see where this whole thing is going. And, yeah, I still think the upcoming television adaptation (on the FX channel this fall) should be pretty great.