Kate’s Review: “While Justice Sleeps”

Book: “While Justice Sleeps” by Stacey Abrams

Publishing Info: Doubleday, May 2021

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Book Description: Avery Keene, a brilliant young law clerk for the legendary Justice Howard Wynn, is doing her best to hold her life together–excelling in an arduous job with the court while also dealing with a troubled family. When the shocking news breaks that Justice Wynn–the cantankerous swing vote on many current high-profile cases–has slipped into a coma, Avery’s life turns upside down. She is immediately notified that Justice Wynn has left instructions for her to serve as his legal guardian and power of attorney. Plunged into an explosive role she never anticipated, Avery finds that Justice Wynn had been secretly researching one of the most controversial cases before the court–a proposed merger between an American biotech company and an Indian genetics firm, which promises to unleash breathtaking results in the medical field. She also discovers that Wynn suspected a dangerously related conspiracy that infiltrates the highest power corridors of Washington.

As political wrangling ensues in Washington to potentially replace the ailing judge whose life and survival Avery controls, she begins to unravel a carefully constructed, chesslike sequence of clues left behind by Wynn. She comes to see that Wynn had a much more personal stake in the controversial case and realizes his complex puzzle will lead her directly into harm’s way in order to find the truth. While Justice Sleeps is a cunningly crafted, sophisticated novel, layered with myriad twists and a vibrant cast of characters. Drawing on her astute inside knowledge of the court and political landscape, Stacey Abrams shows herself to be not only a force for good in politics and voter fairness but also a major new talent in suspense fiction.

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novel!

Back in November of 2020, when it was clear that Georgia was going to go into a run off for their senate seats in January of 2021, my parents were expressing hesitance that Georgia could possibly go blue. While I didn’t want to get my hopes up, of course, I just kept saying ‘don’t underestimate Stacey Abrams’. I then got to tell them that not only is Abrams a political dynamo, but that she is also a published author of romance novels (as well as a fan fiction writer too, because she is also a great big nerd, which is great). Shortly thereafter, I saw that Abrams had a new book coming out, but this time it was going to be a thriller. I was VERY interested in seeing what that was going to be like, and assumed that at the very least it would be well written and entertaining, as well as a fun read given how well versed in the ups and downs of the political world she is.

Abrams takes it even further than I anticipated, and what I found was a very complex and intricate legal and political thriller. Given that I don’t usually gravitate towards thrillers that involve politics (sometimes I’ll go the legal route, if it’s soapy enough), “When Justice Sleeps” was a fairly new experience for me. I’m glad that it was Abrams’s vision and story that took me down this road, because I think that had it been in anyone else’s hands I may have given up. But the biggest strength for this story for me was our protagonist, Avery Keene. For one, it’s always nice to see a woman protagonist in stories that perhaps have gravitated more towards male characters in the past. For another, Avery is a biracial woman whose merits and talents are sharp just as her personality and personal life have relatable highs and lows. Watching her have to not only deal with her boss and mentor be suddenly thrown into a coma, but also have to deal with the scrutiny of being a young, biracial woman thrown into the spotlight because of being named his power of attorney, was riveting in and of itself. She is very easy to root for, and works well as an entry point for the reader to take on some really complex issues in the legal world, the political world, and the medical world.

In terms of the plot and the mystery that Avery has to take on, it’s a doozy. We have a lot of different components, from corporate mergers to the reaches of the Supreme Court to genetics testing to the White House to chess metaphors. As mentioned above, I wasn’t expecting it to be as complicated as it is, and keeping all of the moving parts in order was, at times a little hard for me to do. But Abrams always veers us back on track, bringing in reveals at the right times and finely connecting all of the puzzle pieces, no matter how far flung they are from each other. For someone like me, who doesn’t usually take on this kind of carefully and masterfully woven conspiracy thriller, it was a lot, and it led to brain overload on more than one occasion. But for someone who loves these kinds of wide reaching and well oiled conspiracy thrillers that dabble in lots of themes (like my Dad, for instance)? This will probably hit all the right notes for that kind of reader. I am considering looking into some of her romance work, because my guess is that it is also super well done, which just solidifies the point that Stacey Abrams is an amazing human being who can really do just about anything.

I definitely recommend giving “While Justice Sleeps” a go if you like political and legal thrillers. If you’re like me and are not as versed, you will still find things to like, even if you have a hard time keeping up. Now which of her romance novels should I try on for size?

Rating 7: A complex and intricately crafted thriller that has a deep conspiracy theme, “While Justice Sleeps” was a little too serpentine for me, but almost assuredly will be a hit for political and legal thriller fans.

Reader’s Advisory:

“While Justice Sleeps” is included on the Goodreads lists “Mysteries/Thrillers by BIPOC Authors”, and “Reading Women Challenge 2021 #17: Women in Politics”.

Find “While Justice Sleeps” at your library using WorldCat, or a local independent bookstore using IndieBound!

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