Review: Former secret service agent Joe Reeder — nicknamed "Peep" by his supervisor for his ability to uncannily read people — is called in to assist as an advisor to the FBI when a Supreme Court justice is shot during a robbery in Supreme Justice, presumably the first in a new series featuring this character by Max Allan Collins.
In reviewing the security footage of what happened in the bar that was being robbed, Reeder comes to the conclusion that Associate Justice Henry Venter — a staunch conservative on the court — wasn't just an accidental victim, but was murdered, the target of an assassin's bullet. Reeder, who isn't given much respect by his colleagues after taking a bullet for the President he was guarding while at the same time publicly criticizing his policies, isn't taken seriously at first, but when a second associate justice, another conservative, is gunned down in his backyard, his theory about the motive begins to make sense: someone is trying to get the current liberal President to nominate two like-minded justices to the Supreme Court, effectively altering the political balance of the most powerful and influential court in the land.
The action in Supreme Justice takes place in an alternate-reality contemporary setting, and the overall storyline isn't too demanding; it's pretty obvious within the first few chapters to conclude who is responsible for the coordinated attacks on the two justices, and to even make an educated guess as to the why. The irony, of course, is that Joe "Peep" Reeder doesn't see it for himself until well into the second half of the book. What is so difficult to come to terms with, however, is how politically one-sided the story is. Conservatives are portrayed as evil, liberals as saints. There is no middle-ground. Reeder — one of the "saints", though admittedly one of the more level-headed ones — is frequently described as the man who "had taken a bullet for a president he despised." That President is the fictional Gregory Watson Bennett, but the initials clearly indicate who the author is referring to, and about whom the author presumably feels the same way. Indeed, most of the fictional conservatives are very thinly disguised as real people, including the two dead justices and a third justice, who is targeted late in the book; liberals are less easily identified with any particular public figure, and are painted in generic glowing terms. There might be some underlying message here about how governing from the extreme, either left or right, isn't in the best interests of this country, but the message lacks credibility given that it comes from one of those extreme positions.
As a first in series, this entry is completely forgettable both from a whodunit perspective and its radically political point of view. But Reeder, as a character, is actually quite interesting and the scenes in which he is using his talent are, for the most part, riveting. More of him and his abilities would be welcome, but absent the highly charged political environment he finds himself in here.
Acknowledgment: Thomas & Mercer provided an ARC of Supreme Justice for this review.
Review Copyright © 2014 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
What Doesn't Kill Her
Thomas & Mercer (Trade Paperback), September 2013
ISBN-13: 9781612185293; ISBN-10: 1612185290
Location(s) referenced in Supreme Justice: Washington D.C.
— ♦ —
Supreme Justice by Max Allan Collins — A Joe Reeder Thriller
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: July 2014
List Price: $14.95
— ♦ —
Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
Mysterious Reviews is a Division of
The Hidden Staircase Mystery Books
and a Business Unit of the
Omnimystery Family of Mystery Websites