by Joseph Finder takes an occurrence and uses it as a jumping
off point. He has a knack for having an incidental event magnify
into a riveting conspiracy mystery.
Finder noted, "I met a judge socially
and spoke with her about the pressures she faces. I started
to think, what would happen if her children get into trouble,
or what if she gets many speeding tickets? I interviewed five
women judges practicing in Boston for this book. The sense
I got was that they went through a lot to become a judge,
having to go through interviews and making sure they do not
step on toes as they climbed the ladder. Then I thought about
how vulnerable judges are in the courtroom. Unexpected and
explosive things could happen. It is almost as if they are
all alone and on their own."
The plot begins with the protagonist,
Judge Juliana Brody, in a rare error of judgment, having a
one-night stand at a legal conference in Chicago with Matías
Sanchez, who claims he's a businessman from Buenos Aires.
Because of this incident, her life will swell out of control.
Sanchez is not who he made himself out to be, but is one of
the lawyers for a defendant on a high-profile sex discrimination
case Brody is presiding over. To make matters worse, he threatens
to blackmail her with a video of their encounter unless she
rules in the defendant's favor. It becomes clear that personal
humiliation, even the possible destruction of her career,
is the least of her concerns, as her own life and the lives
of her family are put in mortal jeopardy. She discovers her
adversaries include powerful and ruthless criminals who will
kill anyone who stands in their way. Brody decides to investigate
her enemies and to play their game, becoming cunning and fearless.
"I wanted to write Juliana as
a kickass. As a former prosecutor, she is tough and persistent.
At the beginning of the story, Juliana is someone who always
followed the rules but now is willing to break the law to
achieve a greater good. I like writing about ordinary people
who are suddenly caught up in something extraordinary. There
is a Russian word that bests describes this story, kompromat
It means compromising materials. The Russians are very good
at blackmailing people. This includes the oligarchs who are
dangerous and should not be trusted."
Brody is someone readers will connect
to and root for, especially after it is revealed that she
is fighting those in the Russian oligarchy. Finder has Brody
wonder if the Russians are working on their own or puppets
for Putin. She is an admirable person who has always played
by the rules and had no sympathy for those who do not. Yet,
after her one lapse in judgment, she realizes way too late
that the attempt to cover up is often regarded as even more
reprehensible than the original deed.
This briskly-paced story explores
how those in positions of power can be susceptible to blackmail.
At every turn, the reader takes a journey with Brody as she
becomes involved in double-crosses, espionage, financial impropriety,
corporate corruption, and sexual harassment.