Quick Review: WHILE JUSTICE SLEEPS by Stacey Abrams (Harper/Doubleday)

AbramsS-WhileJusticeSleepsUKA twisty political thriller, set in the halls of the Supreme Court and corridors of power in DC

An explosive secret

When legendary Washington judge Justice Wynn falls into a coma and puts his law clerk, Avery, in control, Avery’s world is turned upside down. Because Justice Wynn had a secret. One that nobody wants to come out…

A life in the balance

As Wynn lies in hospital, Avery begins to unravel a sequence of clues, and realizes the puzzle will lead her directly into danger.

A showdown that will change everything

But how high a price can you put on the truth? And is Avery brave enough to expose the White House itself?

I’ve been looking forward to reading this ever since it was announced. I was lucky enough to get an advance review copy, and dove in as soon as I could. I’m very glad to report that it is great: an excellent example of the genre, well-written and gripping.

Avery is an interesting and engaging protagonist. A clerk at the Supreme Court, gifted with a prodigious memory and intellect, she is a dedicated employee and assistant to an irascible curmudgeon of a Justice. She’s also something of an outsider, someone who looks different to many of the other clerks, with wildly different life experiences. When Justice Wynn falls into a coma, and she is thrust into the spotlight as his unsuspecting and surprise advocate, Avery must navigate a multitude of obstacles as the story unfolds: the Justice’s estranged wife determined to get her hands of Wynn’s fortune and also done with him; a shadowy group operating out of the White House with their own agenda and secrets; an image-conscious Supreme Court; a hostile and muck-raking media; a suspicious FBI agent; a critical public; and a junkie mother who keeps popping up at inopportune moments. For someone who’s spent much of her life trying to stay under the radar, Wynn giving Avery power of attorney truly upends her life.

AbramsS-WhileJusticeSleepsUSNot only this, but the task bestowed upon her by Justice Wynn is also rather bizarre and complex. His medical condition leads many to think he’s suffering from paranoid delusions, but nevertheless Avery embarks on a twisty mission to unravel the secrets Wynn has eluded to and laid breadcrumbs for. Abrams does a great job of using Avery’s memories of her interactions with Wynn to explain why she was chosen.

Gathering about her a small group of allies, each of whom helps Avery navigate the aforementioned obstacles, While Justice Sleeps is an entertaining and page-turning mystery. All the while, there’s an ongoing debate and battle about the nature of the Supreme Court, it’s incredible power and influence in American politics, and the proscriptions related to replacing and/or appointing a new Justice should one become incapacitated (interestingly, it’s one of the only clauses that is absolutely clear — but, one that has become a potential minefield were a Justice to become indefinitely incapacitated). On top of this, the issues at the heart of the battle for the SCOTUS offer some interesting commentary and questions about medicine, science, and their abuse and relationship with politics. (I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll leave it at that.)

It’s worth mentioning the way Abrams has woven the politics into this thriller: it’s extremely well done. This might seem a bit strange to highlight, given that it is obviously a political thriller. However, one thing that’s often bugged me about novels that include politics is the tendency to Pause for Politics — the thriller/contemporary fiction equivalent of an info-dump, I suppose. An author will, effectively, pause the story to make their point. Abrams doesn’t do this — instead, the politics and issues are expertly woven into the story. The characters’ dialogue is natural, and the flow of the story is never disrupted when a conversation turns to politics or ideology.

While Justice Sleeps is a twisty, intriguing and gripping political thriller. It features a strong cast of characters, a propulsive plot, and will keep readers on the edge of their seats as they root for Avery. If you’re a fan of political thrillers, then I definitely recommend you check this out. I really enjoyed this, and can’t wait to read more by the author.


Stacey Abrams’s While Justice Sleeps is due to be published by Harper Collins in the UK, on May 27th; and it’s out now in North America, published by Doubleday.

Follow the Author: Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

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