Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Tenth Justice by Brad Meltzer

The last crime-related novel that I read that I will admit to liking is The Rainmaker by John Grisham. As you can tell by my reading list from this year I'm not exactly a literature snob (as most of my books are embarrassing) but I loathe the formulaic writing that the crime genre is known for and therefore stay away from it when possible. My Criminal Procedures professor (whose name is also Chilton) decided that for our class he would have us read a fictional novel about the Supreme Court and then write a paper on it to see if we could catch what was and was not accurate about the Court inside of Meltzer's work. Fair enough, I guess.

The Tenth Justice's protagonist, Ben Addison, is bright and ambitious, making his way straight out of Yale into the position of a Supreme Court clerk for the fictional Justice Hollis. When Ben starts out, Hollis is in Norway vacationing for the last month of summer. On his second day there, a big death penalty appeal lands in his and Lisa (his co-clerks lap) and in the middle of their scurrying to figure out the perfect solution, a man calls claiming to be an old clerk of Hollis' named Rick offering his welcome and extending the opportunity to give advice. After helping Ben with the appeal, Ben falls into trusting Rick and incidentally slips him the outcome of a huge merger case weeks before the decision becomes public, which leads to a stock scandal. When Ben realizes that Rick has pulled a fast one on him, a wild goose chase begins for Rick, who has disappeared with the exception of occasional threats delivered to Ben, Lisa, and Ben's roommates, who have all managed to get involved and put themselves on the line for Ben in trying to help him. Eventually, Rick returns, trying to bribe Ben into becoming his partner and giving him the results of another decision involving rezoning expensive historical property. There's a lot of violence and carrying on while Meltzer drags his feet trying to figure out how to close the novel, where eventually the good guy wins but not without a slap on the wrist for breaking the Court Code of Ethics, of course.

The only likable character in the book is one of Ben's roommates, a goof off named Ober that doesn't belong at his job at the Senator's office at all and is constantly scheming up business ventures such as starting the first non-Jewish deli which he would name Christ! That's a Good Sandwich. In the middle of all the ridiculous wire tapping and lie detector test taking that fills up this book, Ober decides he's a failure and hangs himself. This did not make me happy. Without his antics and laughable suggestions for solving Ben's problems the rest of the book was irredeemable.

I read the book while working a football security shift for the school on Halloween and between an angry girl dressed as a cowgirl getting in my face and having drunk locals (read: scary rednecks) try to sneak into the building it kept me entertained enough, I guess.

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