So I picked up a copy of this team's 2014 political suspense thriller, SUPREME JUSTICE, to relax with on a few summer evenings. In some ways the book is set in an uncertain future: The nation has its second African-American president; the court case protecting first-trimester abortion, Roe v. Wade, has been overturned; and with a right-wing-dominated Supreme Court, search and seizure provision of the USA PATRIOT Act thrive, overrunning traditional Constitutional protections.
Plunging into this situation is Joseph Reeder, an uncertain hero for sure. Reeder's action as a Secret Service agent in the past, taking a bullet to protect his President, made him nationally acclaimed -- but the public and especially his colleagues turned against him when he later quit his job, letting it be known that he couldn't keep supporting an administration that he felt obliged to criticize.
But a few people still believe in Reeder's skills, especially the set he has honed as a private consultant: his people-reading skills, which he now teaches as part of the field of "kinesics," noticing how people move and speak, and reaching conclusions about their intentions and actions. DC homicide detective Carl Bishop tags Reeder for a task force when a conservative Supreme Court Justice dies in a bar robbery gone bad. And Reeder's urgent task becomes convincing the layers of DC law enforcement that robbery was never the point of the crime -- changing the balance of the Supreme Court, though, was premeditated and intentional.
Reeder concluded: "You may say that hanging our entire investigation on my take on Judge Venter's body language is an incredibly foolish tack to take. And I would agree. ... But I will stake my reputation ... which isn't much of a bet in this company ... on being right."A new law enforcement partner, risk to Reeder's family, and enemies around him on the urgent task force ramp the tensions up quickly, and Collins's trademark pacing and dialogue (built effectively and cleverly over a story treatment he credits to Clemens) makes SUPREME JUSTICE a compelling and intriguing read, raising tough questions about our national government while knotting all the threads of plot and character into a classic action investigation.
Forget the falconry aspect of the protagonists -- Straka brings it in more as metaphor than anything else, although I gather his earlier books have used the bird skills a bit more. Instead, this is a traditional political thriller with good twists, especially in terms of motives and targets. It's a shorter book, closing at page 200, and is built mostly on dialogue, as well as the swift action pace. I found it a good read, and I'll be keeping an eye out for Straka's other titles. (This is book 6.) Straka also has an intriguing blog, which is easy to find from his author website (click here). Two small final details: I was impressed with the quality of editing for this book, especially considering it's from a small publisher, where my expectations are lower; and second, ignore the title -- it's a total misfit. Let me know what you think when you have a chance to read this one.