by Kermit Roosevelt is part mystery and part historical fiction.
Best-selling author Jeffery Deaver once said, "A thriller
asks what is going to happen and a mystery asks what happened."
begins with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Caswell "Cash"
Harrison was all set to drop out of law school and join the
army until he flunked the physical. Instead, he's given the
opportunity to serve as a clerk to Supreme Court Justice Hugo
Black. He and another clerk stumble onto a potentially huge
conspiracy aimed at guiding the court's interests. Then Cash's
colleague dies under mysterious circumstances, and the young,
idealistic lawyer is determined to get at the truth.
Although the front cover displays pictures of Japanese American
interned during WWII that places a very secondary role to
the murder mystery. Anyone picking up this book to learn more
details about the shameful period in American history might
be a bit disappointed.
What Roosevelt (Teddy's great-great-grandson) does brilliantly
is to allow the reader to understand what are the duties,
attributions, and tribulations of a Supreme Court Justice.
Being a professor of constitutional law at the University
of Pennsylvania Law School, and having clerked for DC Circuit
Judge Stephen F. Williams and Supreme Court Justice David
Souter he allows these experiences to contribute to the storyline.
The gathering of facts, writing of briefs and oral arguments
before the court are described in meticulous detail. The author
has included an extensive note at the end of the book pointing
out where fact ends and fiction begins for each of the supporting
characters mentioned in the story. This coupled with his use
of actual transcripts, makes for informative reading.
There are appearances by many historical characters including
J. Edgar Hoover and his number two man, Clyde Tolson, Hugo
Black and Felix Frankfurter of the Supreme Court, Attorney
General Biddle, and various members of the Department of Justice
and Department of War. Readers will feel as the story progresses
that they can get a glimpse into the world of Supreme Court
Justices, specifically those mentioned above. Roosevelt commented,
"I learned as much as I could about Justice Black. After
doing the research I came to admire these men, but realized
they also had flaws. For example, Black did have clerks over
to his house, cooked dinner for them, and played tennis with
them. In fact, the tennis scene in the book is based on the
time I played tennis with Justice Scalia."
is a good read for anyone who wants to understand the relationship
between a Supreme Court Justice and his clerk. Within that
there is a mystery and resolution.