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by Stacey Abrams
Doubleday, May 2023
356 pages
ISBN: 0593744225

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

A dedicated public servant, Stacey Abrams adds "consummate thriller writer" to her list of accomplishments. Ms. Abrams admits her first Avery Keene novel took years of "conceiving, writing, rewriting and reading." Happily this second Avery Keene thriller only took two years to produce.

In WHILE JUSTICE SLEEPS, Avery was essential to bringing down the presidency of Brandon Stokes when she finds evidence of his allegedly committing genocide, treason, and murder. Now Avery is the target of congressional hearings relating to the Stokes impeachment and being, to her dismay, one of the best-known individuals in the US.

Once again, the story starts quickly. First, the Prologue sets up a situation involving military and civilian courts ignoring witness testimony in an assault case that rankles the victim. And so, the action begins.

Formerly Stokes' right-hand man, William Vance, tells Avery that someone has infiltrated the federal court system with an assault scheduled just before the upcoming elections. Then, while attending a cybersecurity conference, law clerk Preston Davies approaches Avery and gives her proof that a judge was blackmailed into letting a man go who subsequently kills several people. Davies gives Avery a list of members of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that includes the judge in question whom her blackmailers killed, Davies claims. Davies believes Avery is the only person who will go after and find the influential people behind this tragedy.

When Davies rushes out, Avery tries to catch him but watches as he and his cab driver are murdered in traffic on the street in front of her.

Avery decides to take what she knows to FBI Agent Robert Lee, with the Office of Law Enforcement Coordination, including the file and the burner phone Davies gave her. Avery continues to dig, and patterns begin to emerge. Vance's suggested conspiracy seems to be gaining traction through other judges on the list Davies gave Avery. Moreover, the murder of another judge on that same list confirms Avery's suspicions regarding the vulnerability of the judicial branch of government.

Abrams crafts a chilling and intriguing thriller around using the judicial system to penetrate government, financial, and electrical power systems for personal reasons. The scheme's complexity is breathtaking, and the story's pace is impressive. In addition, the author's characters are well-developed. Stacey Abrams uses her experience to create a tale combining puzzle solving with a most challenging and twisty plotline. Readers will be eagerly awaiting Avery Keene number three.

Ruth Castleberry has worked as an investigator for Pinkerton's, a city desk assistant on the Charlotte News, free-lance writer, marketing/business strategy consultant, competitive intelligence practitioner and digital marketing consultant.

Reviewed by Ruth Castleberry, December 2021

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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