Stacey Abrams rise to national political prominence during the 2020 election and then her efforts in the Georgia run-offs had nothing to do with why I wanted to read her novel, When Justice Sleeps. What drove me to wanting to read it is what drives me to reading a lot of the books I read. It was promoted by another writer I like. This time it was Michael Connelly who gave one of the blurbs on the back cover of the novel, and, let’s face it, lawyer, turned politician, turned novelist is the career path of John Grisham and while I have never read one of his novels I do enjoy the movies.
So, how was the book? It was a legal thriller full of political intrigue. It was a mix of James Patterson and Harlan Coben with a little bit of the DC flair of George Pelecanos thrown in. The beats were familiar to any long time reader of the genre and it had that excellent twinge of city as character that ends up missing from most thrillers not set in LA.
It had the elements from Patterson of the mystery going all the way to the top and putting our characters in imminent and constant danger. Danger they often don’t realize they are putting themselves in. It had the elements of Coben of characters far outside their depths messing around in situations they don’t understand and only making matters worse, but instead of ending in tragedy it ends in triumph where all is set right with the world.
I will say it was a tad political with the main antagonist being an egotistical, charismatic GOP president who is good with doing a genocide. However, it has Democratic characters that don’t come off great putting the campaign trail and raising campaign finances ahead of the good of the country. When Justice Sleeps is also highly critical of the media and its creation of convenient narratives and rapidity in jumping to conclusions with often a lackadaisical effort at finding the truth.
Overall it is a legal and political thriller. It isn’t much different than most of the legal and political thrillers on the market but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. Any longtime reader of a particular genre understands that there aren’t any original stories. There are just different ways of reorganizing familiar ones, and the way Stacey Abrams organizes her legal thriller is close to brilliant. There are twists and turns, narrow escapes and close misses until it is all wrapped up in the surprising Columbo style courthouse reveal.
When Justice Sleeps was well worth the time it took to read it. If Stacey Abrams wasn’t Stacey Abrams this would still be one of the best legal and political thrillers published in recent memory.