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'While Justice Sleeps' review: Well-paced legal thriller

The inner workings of the Supreme Court make

The inner workings of the Supreme Court make up Stacey Abrams' thriller "While Justice Sleeps." Credit: TNS/Doubleday

WHILE JUSTICE SLEEPS by Stacey Abrams (Doubleday, 384 pp., $28.95)

In addition to being a politician and voting rights activist, Stacey Abrams has written eight romantic suspense novels under the name Selena Montgomery. Abrams now debuts under her own name with "While Justice Sleeps," a straightforward legal thriller spiced with more than a dash of politics.

"While Justice Sleeps" is a behind-the-scenes look at the law, in this case, the Supreme Court. It shows what works and what falls short, and examines the seduction of power and greed. Abrams doesn’t break any new ground, but she keeps the story entertaining and the characters fairly believable, although occasionally the writing and plot are a bit dense.

Supreme Court Justice Howard Wynn is curt, rude and makes powerful enemies, including the president, because he won’t back down from his views. He also has an impeccable reputation for being ethical and honorable.

Before lapsing into a coma, Wynn left directives naming law clerk Avery Keene as his legal guardian and granting her complete power of attorney, leaving out his estranged second wife and adult son. The move stuns everyone, including Avery, who recalls the nicest thing Wynn ever told her was that she's "bearably brilliant."

Avery takes her duties seriously, trying to protect the justice from family members and others who want him off life support. She also wants to protect the integrity of the Supreme Court, as Wynn is the swing vote in a number of key cases.

Abrams keeps the plot churning, concentrating on the myriad power plays that go on behind the scenes as she brings in greed, a controversial merger between a biotech and a genetics firm, and self-centered politicians.

Those expecting Abrams to skewer only Republicans will be disappointed as she shows fault on both sides of the aisle. She keeps the action in check with the story, making each death matter, even those expected, while using chess moves, intricate puzzles and the musings of a French philosopher as plot devices.

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