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by Mark de Castrique
Poisoned Pen/Sourcebooks, October 2023
320 pages
ISBN: 1728258332

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This riveting, deftly plotted Supreme Court thriller from Mark de Castrique features his new protagonist, retired FBI agent Ethel Crestwater, who goes into an investigative mode when her tenant, Brook Chaplin, is seriously injured in an attack that also kills Robert Finely, both Supreme Court clerks.

A clerk to Supreme Court Chief Justice Clarissa Baxter, Robert's backpack, containing court papers, is stolen during the attack. Brook, the niece of Detective Frank Mancini, lies in a coma in the ICU, unable to answer questions. When Frank's business card is found on the body of a homeless man just hours after the attack, detectives speculate he could be the attacker, except the backpack is still missing. Close examination of the body shows none of the typical indicators of living homeless except for his clothes.

When Chief Justice Baxter is notified, she heads to the court, and Supreme Court Marshal Daniel Ventana begins investigating the attack to determine if court documents are involved. In the meantime, Ethel searches Brooke's room and finds her diary and notes on her court work.

When FBI Director Rudy Hauser becomes involved in the investigation, Ethel suggests that there might be a connection between Ronald Drake, the dead homeless guy, and a paramilitary group. Senator Joseph Mulberry is eager to speak with Brooke they are working on a secret project mentioned in her diary.

Ethel reaches out to Chief Justice Baxter, and they arrange to meet. One topic they discuss is a critical case involving the Department of the Interior's approval of a lease for lithium mining on federal land. This is creating problems due to using techniques that negatively impact the environment. Chief Justice Baxter stays for dinner and a lighter conversation before going home.

Ventana follows the Chief Justice from the court, and when Ethel takes her home, Ventana parks on the street outside the Chief Justice's home. He spots another car parked with the driver waiting, and when he approaches it to see who it might be, the Chief Marshall is shot and killed.

De Castrique constructs a complex story with intriguing connections and fascinating twists. The pace never stops as information is revealed, political connections are disclosed, and the Chief Justice becomes a target. ROGUE JUSTICE by Stacey Abrams establishes the benchmark for a best seller about the Supreme Court. DANGEROUS WOMEN provides an engrossing tale that easily rivals Abrams' absorbing book.

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, October 2023

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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