Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Supreme Justice, by Phillip Margolin (hardcover, $25.99)

What Phillip Margolin does really well, in my opinion, is create believable characters. No matter how outlandish the action gets – shoot-outs in the Supreme Court, for instance – the good guys and gals maintain their everyman core. Nefarious characters fare less well and are generally just bad guys. Returning to the scene are the characters of Executive Privilege, primarily Brad Miller and Dana Cutler, with no less fantastic a scenario in this story than in that novel, but with their regular Joe and Jane personas intact. Their jobs and talents are anything but ordinary, but you can imagine them as your next-door neighbors. And, okay, their pasts are marred by violence, but you could borrow a cup of sugar from them, no problem.

Brad is now a clerk to a Supreme Court justice. When the judge is attacked and almost murdered in the parking garage, she asks Brad to investigate what she suspects to be the reason behind the attack. He draws in Dana Cutler's investigative skills, and the stage is set. Most of the action takes place in Washington D.C., but Margolin ties in his home state of Oregon with a case of a police detective who is accused – twice – of killing her boyfriend. Is the officer innocent and is there CIA or Homeland Security inappropriate behavior involved instead? What is the tie-in with the attempt on the justice's life?

Margolin also brings back some of the other honest folk from Executive Privilege. He also introduces a few more – there are a lot of people to juggle in this book – but Margolin makes them all … human. Margolin makes his characters blush and slump, he makes them keep or lose their cool, he makes them flash with insight or grind with frustration. The bad guys, however, are there to be bad guys. With the brief exception of learning a teensy bit about "the Swede," we don't really want to feel sympathy for them or wonder what they stick in the microwave at night. We just want them to get on with the job of being bad guys.

In meticulous fashion, Margolin takes us down an investigative path and lays the bricks of discovery one by one. I didn't see the end coming. Like gunshots on a quiet night, Margolin stuns us once, then again, disturbing our inner calm and false sense of completion. I looooved it. And that is what makes Margolin an award-winning storyteller: He tells one hell of a story.

No comments:

Post a Comment