Favorite Quotes on Books and Reading

"A book is a gift you can open again and again." Garrison Keillor

Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood.” Jane Yolen

"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." Oscar Wilde

"Books have furnished, burnished, and enabled my life." Julia Keller

Saturday, April 30, 2016

2016 Book 127: THE WAGES OF SIN by Nancy Allen

The Wages of Sin: An Ozarks Mystery by Nancy Allen 
ISBN: 9780062438768 (paperback - available June 14, 2016)
ISBN: 9780062438751 (ebook)
ASIN: B0166JUGPM (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 12, 2016 
Publisher: Witness Impulse 


In rural McCown County, Missouri, a young pregnant woman is found beaten to death in a trailer park. The only witness to the murder is Ivy, her six-year-old daughter, who points to her mom's boyfriend—father of the unborn child. County prosecutor Madeleine Thompson promises the community justice, and in the Ozarks, that can only mean one thing: a death sentence.
When Madeleine's first choice for co-counsel declines to try a death penalty case, she is forced to turn to assistant prosecutor Elsie Arnold. Elsie is reluctant to join forces with her frosty boss, but the road to conviction seems smooth—until unexpected facts about the victim arise, and the testimony of the lone eyewitness Ivy becomes increasingly crucial. Against Elsie's advice, Madeleine brings in the state attorney general's office to assist them, while cutthroat trial attorney Claire O'Hara joins the defense.
Elsie will not let the power of prosecution—of seeking justice—be wrested from her without a fight. She wants to win the case, and to avenge the death of the mother and her unborn child. But as the trial nears, Elsie begins to harbor doubts about the death penalty itself. Meanwhile, the child Ivy is in greater danger than anyone knows... 


A pregnant woman is viciously beaten and dies. Her boyfriend is the murderer. The pregnant woman's six-year-old daughter is a witness to the beating. Elsie Arnold, a prosecuting attorney in rural Barton City, McCown County, Missouri has the chance to try a death penalty case in The Wages of Sin by Nancy Allen.

Normally, Elsie Arnold, is the last person in the prosecuting attorney's office expected to assist in a death penalty case, but there are major issues within the prosecuting attorney's office that afford her this opportunity. The chief assistant prosecuting attorney had to recuse himself as he witnessed the defendant beat the accused at a campsite just a few days prior to the murder. Elsie's best friend and fellow assistant prosecuting attorney, Breeon Johnson, recuses herself because she doesn't believe in the death penalty. Elsie is relatively confident she can more than handle this case as second chair with her boss, prosecuting attorney Madeleine Thomas, until her boss decides to contact the States Attorney General's office for assistance, and enter Samuel Parsons. Just as things are heating up with Elsie's professional life (or so she thinks), her personal life is slowing down as her lover, Detective Robert Ashlock, has obtained custody of his fourteen-year-old son. Unfortunately for Elsie, she has to function as the liaison between the prosecuting attorney's office and Family Services on behalf of the six-year-old witness, establish a relationship with a six-year-old witness, and do all of the scut-work for the legal case against the murderer. It isn't until the actual trial begins, that Elsie begins to realize that all is not as it appears and there's a lot more to this case than meets the eye. Will she be able to determine all of the major players before it's too late for her witness and her case?

The Wages of Sin is the third book in the Ozarks Mystery series by Nancy Allen and the first book in this series that I've read. Fortunately, it isn't necessary to read the previous books in this series in order to understand what is happening in the current book, as each book seems to function as a standalone with recurring characters. I found The Wages of Sin to be a rather quick read. Ms. Allen provides plenty of colorful characters to keep things interesting (Elsie and Ivy are a riot!). Ms. Allen seems to capture the essence of rural life without being apologetic about the poverty, deprivation, or depravation. If you enjoy reading mysteries  or legal thrillers, then look no further as The Wages of Sin is equal parts mystery and legal thriller.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


Excerpt: THE WAGES OF SIN by Nancy Allen

The Wages of Sin: An Ozarks Mystery by Nancy Allen 
ISBN: 9780062438768 (paperback - available June 14, 2016)
ISBN: 9780062438751 (ebook)
ASIN: B0166JUGPM (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 12, 2016 
Publisher: Witness Impulse


In rural McCown County, Missouri, a young pregnant woman is found beaten to death in a trailer park. The only witness to the murder is Ivy, her six-year-old daughter, who points to her mom's boyfriend—father of the unborn child. County prosecutor Madeleine Thompson promises the community justice, and in the Ozarks, that can only mean one thing: a death sentence.
When Madeleine's first choice for co-counsel declines to try a death penalty case, she is forced to turn to assistant prosecutor Elsie Arnold. Elsie is reluctant to join forces with her frosty boss, but the road to conviction seems smooth—until unexpected facts about the victim arise, and the testimony of the lone eyewitness Ivy becomes increasingly crucial. Against Elsie's advice, Madeleine brings in the state attorney general's office to assist them, while cutthroat trial attorney Claire O'Hara joins the defense.
Elsie will not let the power of prosecution—of seeking justice—be wrested from her without a fight. She wants to win the case, and to avenge the death of the mother and her unborn child. But as the trial nears, Elsie begins to harbor doubts about the death penalty itself. Meanwhile, the child Ivy is in greater danger than anyone knows... 


Read an excerpt:

Oh my God. Let this be over, Elsie thought, doodling on the page of a legal pad. Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Elsie Arnold had been tied up in Judge Carter’s court for nearly two hours that morning, representing the State of Missouri in a preliminary hearing. The criminal defendant was charged with robbery in the first degree. Only Judge Carter, Elsie thought, would be coldhearted enough to subject her to a robbery prelim on the Tuesday after Labor Day weekend.
Public Defender Josh Nixon was grilling the bank president, Donna Hudson, in cross-examination.
"So you were present at the time of the alleged robbery?"
"Yes—I said so. In my office."
"But isn't it true that, if you were shut up in your office, you did not have occasion to hear whether the defendant threatened any harm?"
"The buzzer sounded. I heard it." The woman sat stiff, with righteous indignation in every wrinkle of her face.
"The alarm, right? But you didn't hear any statements made by the defendant, did you? Because you remained safely in the back of the bank."
"I saw the bomb."
A comical grin grew on the defense attorney's face; Elsie closed her eyes so she wouldn't have to see it.
"The bomb?" he repeated.
"The box. The box with the tape."
The criminal complaint filed by the prosecution did not allege that the defendant had threatened the bank employee with a bomb. The criminal charge stated that the defendant threatened the use of what appeared to be a bomb.
"Describe this box, please."
"It was a box, about this size," she said, making a rectangle shape with her hands. "And it was covered with duct tape."
"Did the defendant detonate this deadly bomb? This dangerous instrument you described?"
The banker eyed the defense attorney with resentment. "You know what happened."
"Tell me. For the record."
"The bank teller gave him the money. Everything in her drawer. He ran out, left that box on the counter."
"Then what happened?"
"The bomb squad came and took over."
"What did they do? If you know."
"They exploded it." The lines deepened around the woman's mouth. "They blew it up. And the mess went everywhere."
"Mess? What kind of mess?"
Elsie wanted to cover her ears to block out the answer that was coming.
"The chocolate, the cherries."
Josh Nixon leaned on the empty jury box, nodding sagely. "So the bomb was not a bomb at all? It was—what did you say?"
"A box of candy. Chocolate-covered cherries. Wrapped in duct tape."
"And for the record, Ms. Hudson: was the money recovered? The money from the bank teller's drawer?"
"Yes, it was. But—"
Before she could complete her sentence, the defense attorney turned his back to her, cutting the witness off. "No further questions," he said, and walked back to the counsel table. Nixon slid into his seat, stretching his long legs out in front of him and tucking his longish sun-streaked hair behind his ear. He hadn't bothered to don a tie.
Judge Carter, a slim man in his forties with prematurely silver hair, peered at Elsie over his glasses. "Redirect?"
Elsie stood at the counsel table, looking at the bank president with an encouraging face. "But did it appear to be a bomb? When the defendant threatened the teller with it?"
"Objection," Nixon said, sitting up straight. "The witness wasn't present, has no way of knowing other than hearsay!"
Elsie barked back. "You're the one who opened the door on this line of questioning. In your cross-examination."
The bank president rose from her chair, the picture of aggrieved fury. "What I want to know," she said, "is who is going to pay? For that mess? The cleaning of the bank lobby?"
Judge Carter slammed the gavel. The bank president jumped, startled, and hopped back onto her seat on the witness stand.
"Ms. Arnold—further questions?"
"No."
"Any further witnesses on behalf of the defense?"
"No," said Nixon.
The judge turned to his clerk. "The court finds probable cause. Defendant is bound over to Circuit Court on the charge of robbery in the first degree. Arraignment to be held Friday at 9:00 A.M."
When the judge left the bench, Josh Nixon turned to whisper with his client, a long-haired young man with a bushy mustache. The president of Bank of the Hilltop, Donna Hudson, stormed off the witness stand and bore down on Elsie.
"How could I be treated this way in a court of law?"
"No one meant to mistreat you," Elsie said in a soothing voice. "It was just cross-examination—the defense attorney gets to ask questions. I explained that to you before."
"But I am the victim. My family owns the bank."
"That's right, Donna. But the defense has the right to confront the witnesses against him."
"Who gave that criminal the right to confront me? I am a taxpaying citizen."
Elsie backed up a step, angling to make a getaway. "The US Constitution. Sixth Amendment."
The banker's eyes narrowed; Elsie sensed that the woman didn't appreciate the finer points of the Bill of Rights.
"When will the court make him pay for the cleanup? The cleanup of the bank lobby?"
Edging closer to the door, Elsie shook her head. "Hard to say. You think this guy has any money?"
Mrs. Hudson's unhappy expression showed that the conversation wasn't over. But as she was about to speak again, Elsie's friend and coworker, Breeon Johnson, hurried into the courtroom and grabbed Elsie's arm.
"Downstairs," Breeon said.
"Now? Right now?" Elsie asked.
"Just one darned minute," Donna Hudson said. She opened a Louis Vuitton handbag and pulled out a Kleenex, rubbing furiously at her nose. Elsie eyed the bag with curiosity. It was probably the real article. Though as an employee of a rural county in the Ozarks, Elsie didn't have sufficient acquaintance with designer goods to distinguish the genuine product from a knockoff.
Elsie gave Breeon an inquiring look. "Can you wait a sec?"
Breeon tugged at her arm. "Can't wait. It's an emergency."
Elsie could see from Breeon's face that she was deadly serious. "Okay," she said. Looking back at the banker, Elsie spoke hastily. "The system is working, Mrs. Hudson. Your bank robber has been bound over; he'll be arraigned in Circuit Court, and his case will be set for jury trial. I appreciate your cooperation, and your testimony. But I have to get downstairs." She looked over to the door; Breeon had just vanished through it. "Something major is going on."
"But will he pay?"
The woman's voice rang in Elsie's ears, and she was tired of hearing it. Turning away, she said, "Yeah. Yes, Mrs. Hudson. He'll pay."
"How?"
"The old-fashioned way, I expect. With his liberty."
The banker protested, her voice shrill, but Elsie departed at a fast pace, and scrambled down the worn marble staircase of the McCown County Courthouse, catching up to Breeon at the back entrance to the Prosecutor's Office.
"What?" Elsie demanded, as Breeon punched the security buttons to access the private entrance. "What is it?"
Breeon shook her head in disgust. "Another murder. They found the body in a trailer home, right outside the city limits. Can you believe it?"
"Again?" Murder cases were rare in rural McCown County, a small community nestled deep in the Ozark hills of southwest Missouri. Elsie had handled a murder case over the summer, prosecuting a juvenile for the death of a bus driver. A second homicide, occurring within such a short period of time, would shake the entire community.
"Yeah, another woman," Breeon said, pushing the door open. "But a young one this time."
"Aw, shit," Elsie said.
Breeon gave her a look, righteous anger evident in her face. "She was eight months pregnant."
The news stopped Elsie in her tracks. "A double murder," she whispered.
© Nancy Allen



Author Bio:


Nancy Allen




Nancy Allen practiced law for 15 years as Assistant Missouri Attorney General and Assistant Prosecutor in her native Ozarks. She has tried over 30 jury trials, including murder and sexual offenses, and is now a law instructor at Missouri State University. Her first novel, The Code of the Hills, was published by HarperCollins in 2014. The Wages of Sin is the third book in her Ozarks mystery series.





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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Review of PRETTY GIRLS by Karin Slaughter

Now Available in Paperback


Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
ISBN: 9780062429070 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780062430878 (large print)
ISBN: 9780062429063 (ebook)
ASIN: B00VES8D6K (Kindle version)
Publication Date: April 26, 2016 (paperback edition)
Publisher: William Morrow



#1 internationally bestselling author Karin Slaughter returns with a sophisticated and chilling psychological thriller of dangerous secrets, cold vengeance, and unexpected absolution, in which two estranged sisters must come together to find truth about two harrowing tragedies, twenty years apart, that devastate their lives.
Sisters. Strangers. Survivors.
More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia's teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that's cruelly ripped open when Claire's husband is killed.
The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.
Powerful, poignant, and utterly gripping, packed with indelible characters and unforgettable twists, Pretty Girls is a masterful thriller from one of the finest suspense writers working today.  



Claire Scott is the perfect wife and is married to the perfect husband. At least she thought she was married to the perfect husband until he was murdered and she finds he was keeping plenty of secrets from her. Lydia Delgado is far from perfect, but she has turned her life around and continues to struggle to do the best for herself and her daughter. These two sisters come together to search for the truth in Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter.

Claire Scott and Lydia Delgado are sisters that have already lived through one tragedy. Their oldest sister, Julia, disappeared twenty-four years ago and that disappearance ripped their family apart. Lydia was already on her way to becoming a wild child, experimenting with drugs before succumbing to addiction. Claire was the quiet, perfect child that grew into the quiet, unassuming, perfect adult. Claire's life is torn apart when her husband is killed at the hands of a mugger. Just when she thinks things can't get any worse, she arrives back at her home after her husband's funeral to find out there was a burglary attempt. While trying to find documentation on the valuables in the home, she uncovers some truly nasty porn on her husband's computer. Shocked and shamed, she does the only thing she can think of and turns it over to the police. But the local police chief tells her it is only a "snuff" film and not a very good one at that. Claire doesn't quite believe him and turns to her sister Lydia for assistance. What they discover leads them to believe these "films" are linked to current and possibly past abductions/disappearances. Why is the FBI involved in a local murder case? What exactly was Paul Scott involved in before he was murdered? Can Claire and Lydia find out the truth before it is too late?

I found Pretty Girls to be a fast-paced and engrossing read. The story is just as much about the abduction/disappearance of Julia and how a family survives without closure, as it is the present murder of Claire's husband and the current abduction/disappearances. Ms. Slaughter has crafted a hauntingly beautiful story about family, secrets, betrayal, and survival. The characters are realistic and well-developed. The storylines (and there are stories within stories within stories presented) are wholly believable. There are good guys, not-so-good guys, and really bad guys, and times when it is difficult to determine who the really bad guys are from the not-so-good guys (much like life). Claire is presented as "perfect," but she is just as flawed as Lydia. I liked that they were able to overcome their past and come together as sisters in the present. Obviously, there's a lot more going on in this story, and no I'm not going to reveal everything (buy the book!). Just in case you can't tell, I thoroughly enjoyed Pretty Girls and can highly recommend this to anyone that enjoys reading suspense-thrillers. If you've never read anything by Ms. Slaughter, Pretty Girls is an excellent place to start.

Read an excerpt from Pretty Girls here.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss and a print copy via BookSparks PR. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

This review originally posted on 12/25/2015 as part of a BookSparks PR blog tour.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Book Showcase and Giveaway: THE ADVOCATE'S DAUGHTER by Anthony Franze


The Advocate's Daughter


by Anthony Franze


on Tour April 2016



The Advocate's Daughter by Anthony FranzeA Washington, D.C. lawyer and a frequent major media commentator on the Supreme Court, Anthony Franze delivers a high-stakes story of family, power, loss and revenge set within the insular world of the highest court of our country.

#1 New York Times bestseller Lee Child called The Advocate's Daughter "smart, sophisticated, suspenseful, and written with real insider authenticity." Suspense Magazine hailed it as "the 'best of the best' when it comes to suspense." And Library Journal said it "gives readers an inside peek at the world of the Supreme Court, and tossing in an intriguing mystery only adds to the thrills."


* * *

Among Washington D.C. power players, everyone has secrets they desperately want to keep hidden, including Sean Serrat, a Supreme Court lawyer. Sean transformed his misspent youth into a model adulthood, and now has one of the most respected legal careers in the country. But just as he learns he's on the short list to be nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, his daughter, Abby, a talented and dedicated law student, goes missing. Abby's lifeless body is soon found in the library of the Supreme Court, and her boyfriend, Malik Montgomery, a law clerk at the high court, is immediately arrested. The ensuing media frenzy leads to allegations that Malik's arrest was racially motivated, sparking a national controversy.

While the Serrat family works through their grief, Sean begins to suspect the authorities arrested the wrong person. Delving into the mysteries of his daughter's last days, Sean stumbles over secrets within his own family as well as the lies of some of the most powerful people in the country. People who will stop at nothing to ensure that Sean never exposes the truth.


Book Details:


Genre:      Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

Published by: Minotaur Books


Publication Date: March 22nd 2016


Number of Pages:  320


ISBN:   1250071658 (ISBN13: 9781250071651)


Purchase Links: Amazon  Barnes & Noble  Goodreads


Excerpt:


CHAPTER 1


Washington, D.C., Suburbs
Present Day
There should have been a sign. A feeling. Some sense of impending doom. But Sean Serrat's day started like any other.
"Daddy, guess what?"
Sean always felt a tiny rush of emotion when his children called him Daddy, a word that was fading to extinction in his home.
"Daddy," Jack repeated. Sean glanced at his son, who was perched on a stool at the granite kitchen counter shoveling Cheerios into his mouth. Sunshine cut through the window and a shadow fell across the seven-year-old's round face. Jack's teenage brother, Ryan, sat next to him crunching a bagel.
"What is it, buddy?" Sean stood near the stove, bowl in one hand, spoon in the other, trying not to drip on his tie.
"I told my friend, Dean, about our family Money Jar."
"Yeah?"
"I told him that some families have Swear Jars where you have to put money in if you say a bad word. But we have a Money Jar that has money in it and you say bad words into the jar." Jack cupped his orange juice glass over his mouth and demonstrated with a muffled, "Butt, poop, ass."
Ryan blurted a laugh, spattering flecks of bagel over the countertop.
Sean tried to hold back a smile. "I don't think you should tell your friends about the Money Jar," he said. "And maybe let's not tell Mommy about—"
"Don't tell Mommy what?" Emily said, strolling into the kitchen. She wore black yoga pants and a T-shirt and her skin glistened from her morning jog. The boys snickered and Sean reached for the coffee pot and poured Emily a cup.
Emily's eyes narrowed. "What are you boys up to?"
"Us? Up to something?" Sean said, handing her the coffee.
Emily gave a sideways look: Silly boys. She smelled the coffee, smiled, and took a sip. "You look so handsome," she said. She set the mug on the counter and adjusted the knot on Sean's tie. "The new suit looks great. Are you excited for your first day?"
Sean gave a fleeting smile, trying to look sufficiently enthusiastic, something he knew his wife would see through. The job change had been Emily's idea. No, her demand.
"Hey Dad," Ryan said, "what's with the suit? I thought you were gonna be the boss, so doesn't that mean you can just wear jeans or whatever you want?"
"It's a big law firm, kiddo, and I'm not the boss. And anyway, I don't take fashion advice from eighth-graders who need a haircut and can't keep their pants pulled up."
"Seriously, go with jeans," Ryan said. "Set the tone. Show a little confidence."
"Leave Dad alone," Emily said. "He's going to be the talk of the ladies at the office." She clasped Sean's chin in her hand and pressed his cheeks together. "How often do you think a tall, dark, and handsome man walks into that stuffy law firm?" She tippy-toed and gave Sean a soft kiss.
"Guys, please." Ryan lifted a hand to shield his eyes.
Sean grabbed his wife's bottom to torture his fourteen-year-old.
Ryan shuddered. "Really, stop."
"You and Jack go get your backpacks together for school," Sean said. "Unless you want us to make out a little first." He wrapped his arm around Emily's waist and pulled her to him.
"I'm out," Ryan said. Hands on his temples like horse blinders, he marched out of the kitchen. His little brother imitated the move and followed after him.
"You said you might see Abby today?" Emily asked.
"Yeah. I'm going to a reception this afternoon at Georgetown for Justice Malburg's retirement. Jonathan told me she'd be there."
"Did Jon say how she's doing?" Emily opened the refrigerator door. Its face was a collage of family photographs and Jack's artwork held in place with magnets. Under one of the magnets, a bumper sticker: STAND UP FOR WHAT'S RIGHT, EVEN IF YOU'RE STANDING ALONE.
"He says Abby's the star research assistant of all his students."
"Tell her to call me. And that she'd better come to dinner tonight. She missed last week, and tonight's a celebration."
Sean nodded. "That reminds me," he said, "did she talk with you yesterday?"
"No, why?"
"I missed her call when I was at Brooks Brothers. She left me a voice mail that she wanted to talk about something, but with all the running around to get ready for today, I forgot to call back."
"Did she sound okay?" Emily asked. Her smile lines were always more pronounced when she was worried. "I haven't heard from her in a couple days."
"It didn't sound urgent. And she didn't call back, so I'm sure she's fine. I'll see what she needs today at Georgetown."
Distorted music whined from the kitchen counter. "Who Knew" by Pink. Last summer Abby had changed her mother's ringtone as a joke, and Emily never figured out how to switch it back. Abby and Emily both now walked around with Pink blaring from their phones whenever someone called.
"Maybe that's her." Emily scanned the iPhone, then tapped on the screen, sending the call to voice mail. "Just Margo," she said with a frown.
"Abby's fine. I'll tell her to give you a call."
Sean kissed his wife and called out good-byes to his sons. On the walk to the subway he thumbed a text to Abby. She didn't reply.

CHAPTER 2
Sean made his way down the escalator into the concrete arches and dim light of the Metro. The station smelled of smoldering rubber, and his tie blew over his shoulder in the push of air from a train entering the platform. He waved his SmarTrip card over the scanner at the gate and stepped into the train car just before the unforgiving doors clamped shut.
The orange vinyl seats were filled, and Sean gripped the metal handrail, trying not to lose his footing as the train jerked and jostled. He looked about the subway car. It was the usual cast: college students hypnotized by their phones, tourists wearing flip-flops and studying their travel guidebooks, and government workers with laminated security badges dangling from cords around their necks, the quintessential Washington status symbol. He caught one of the government types stealing a look at him. The man's gaze dropped back to the Washington Post. Sean wondered if the guy recognized him from the story in that morning's paper. Sean had already received several e-mails from friends about the piece: Nice photo—smile much? Don't forget us little people. Mr. Big Shot, and the like. The story, and others like it over the past two weeks, speculated that Sean had resigned from the solicitor general's office in anticipation that the president would soon nominate him to the Supreme Court; that Sean needed some daylight between himself and the controversial abortion and privacy cases that the office would handle next term. As is often the case in Washington, the truth was more pedestrian. The two Fs: family and finances. Heading the appellate group at a large law firm meant he'd have dozens of junior lawyers at his disposal—a large staff would allow him to be home more for the boys. And the firm paid ten times what he made at the solicitor general's office, ending his constant worries about surviving in overpriced D.C. on a government salary.
For most lawyers, the prospect of being on the short list for a Supreme Court nomination would be thrilling, an actor's Oscar nomination. For Sean, though, the newspaper story was unsettling. Not because of the job. After years of representing the federal government before the Supreme Court, he could do the job. History had shown that several justices had been dummies, and they'd gotten by. It was the attention. A nomination meant public scrutiny. A vetting. Which meant a deep look into his past. And that was something he didn't want or need.
The train pulled into Dupont Circle. Sean stepped aside to let an elderly woman totter out. It was then that he felt a hard shoulder bump from behind. It wasn't a brush-by—it had some energy to it. Purposeful. He watched the man with greasy hair and flannel shirt push roughly out of the subway car into the crowd on the platform. As the train doors started to close, the man twisted around and looked Sean in the eyes.
"They know, Sean," he said. "They know."
Sean did a double take. Did he just say my name? The train pulled away from the station, and Sean watched through the window as the man vanished into the sea of commuters. Sean must've misheard. Then it dawned on him. That damn story in the Post. But the guy said, They know. All the attention was making him paranoid.
The train hit Sean's stop at Farragut North, and he walked the two blocks to the Harrington & Caine building. In the lobby, he paused for a moment and took it all in. A glass and steel atrium spiraled up twelve stories, each floor occupied by more than a hundred lawyers. Three women in headset mikes sat behind a sleek reception table. Copies of The Wall Street Journal were neatly folded beside leather chairs in the waiting area. The setting was a stark contrast to the ornate fifth floor of the Justice Department building where Sean had spent most of his career. No portraits, no crown moldings, no American flags or other pretentious symbols of the Office of the Solicitor General and its important work representing the United States before the Supreme Court. Harrington & Caine had a modern, ruthless design. A fitting metaphor, Sean thought, for his move from the self-important government sphere to the rainmaking-obsessed planet of Big Law.
As Sean checked in at the front desk, his phone vibrated and he read the text message from Emily:
Good luck today! I love you!
p.s. still no word from Abby :(

CHAPTER 3
The morning at Harrington & Caine was a haze of computer training, tax and benefit forms, and lots of people whose names Sean would never remember. By early afternoon, he was eager to see some familiar faces at the reception for Justice Malburg.
He took a cab to First Street and walked to the Georgetown Law campus. A small fleet of black Cadillacs were parked along First, which Sean assumed was the security detail for the Supreme Court justices attending the event. A clock tower stood under a cloudless April sky, cutting a narrow shadow over the only patch of grass on the urban campus.
"Sean," Cecilia Lowenstein called to him in her husky voice. She gave him a cheek-to-cheek kiss. He'd once told her that he hated the faux European greeting, but that only encouraged Cecilia. Sean scanned the queue at the entrance of the Hotung International building. The line was filled with Washington's upper echelon: the Supreme Court Bar. A group of insufferable blowhards. Intellectual elitists. Terrible dressers. His people.
"Well, if it isn't the 'modest superstar' I've read so much about," Cecilia said, flapping a copy of the Washington Post.
Sean frowned and shook his head. "Let's not…"
"You're no fun." Cecilia adjusted her skirt and wobbled slightly in heels that seemed taller than she could handle. "So how's your first day in private practice? Realized how much it sucks yet?"
"They're still just showing me where the restrooms are and how to turn on my computer, so I haven't had to deal with billable hours yet."
"Ugh, don't get me started about billables. We were spoiled at OSG." Cecilia, like most of the Supreme Court community, spoke in abbreviations and acronyms. It wasn't the Office of the Solicitor General, it was OSG. It wasn't Justice Robert Reeves Anderson, it was RRA. A case wasn't dismissed as improvidently granted, it was DIG-ed. There was the GVR (granted, vacated, and remanded) and the CVSG (the court calling for the views of the solicitor general), and the list went on. An ivory tower version of annoying teenage text-speak.
Cecilia scrutinized the line ahead of them. "Most of these schmucks charge a thousand bucks an hour for lower court appeals, but will take the Supreme Court cases for free just so they can get oral arguments. With the justices hearing fewer and fewer cases every term, times are tough, my friend. And your law firm's gonna be so starstruck the first year that they won't give you grief that you're not pulling in much money, but that'll change."
Sean had heard this a million times from Cecilia, who'd left OSG two years ago to head the appellate group at Beacher & Bishop. She was right that getting Supreme Court cases in private practice wasn't easy. At OSG, they were part of a small band of elite government lawyers whose sole job was to represent the United States government in cases before the Supreme Court. The office was so influential with the nine justices that the solicitor general often was called "The Tenth Justice." They didn't have to go out and hustle for work; the cases came to them. The court accepted only about seventy out of seven thousand petitions requesting review each term, so in private practice the competition for a piece of that 1 percent was fierce. It was an open secret that when the court granted certiorari in a case, even the most prominent Supreme Court lawyers would engage in the distasteful practice of cold calling or e-mailing the parties offering to take the case for free. Still, it gave Sean solace that despite her gloom and doom, Cecilia already had racked up seven arguments while in private practice.
"Thanks for the pep talk," Sean said wearily. "I can always count on you, Cel."
"So, you really don't want to talk about this?" Cecilia flapped the newspaper again.
Sean rolled his eyes.
"You know I hate modesty," Cecilia said.
"I'm hardly being modest. We all know who's getting the nomination." Sean's gaze cut to Senator Mason James, who was at the front of the line.
Cecilia wrinkled her nose. "Maybe you're right. Those dumb shits on the Hill are determined to get one of their own on the court—even if it means a schemer like James. But clients will still be impressed, so you should take advantage of the attention." All nine of the current justices had been federal judges at the time of their appointment, something a block of senators had criticized as a departure from history that left the court too detached from the policy implications of its decisions. Senator James, the former attorney general of Virginia and a brilliant legal mind, offered the best of all worlds, they said. But Sean considered James as nothing more than a politician.
At the entrance, the dean of the law school and Professor Jonathan Tweed greeted guests.
Cecilia scowled at the sight of Professor Tweed. "Your buddy seems to be relishing the attention as usual."
"Can you be nice today?"
Cecilia didn't respond. When they reached the receiving line, she skipped by Tweed and greeted the dean with a hug.
Tweed gripped Sean's hand. "I see some things never change," Tweed said, shooting a glance at Cecilia.
Sean shrugged.
"No wait, I take that back," Tweed said. "Things do change. I thought you'd never sell out and join the private sector."
"Maybe if law schools didn't pay professors so much, we parents wouldn't have to change jobs to afford the tuition."
"You obviously haven't seen my pay stub," Tweed replied.
Sean grinned and then eyed the bandage that ran from Tweed's left temple to the middle of his cheek. "I hope the other guy looks worse."
"If only my life was so exciting," Tweed said. "Biking accident—hit some gravel in Rock Creek Park. I was on a date, so it was a little embarrassing."
"Hard to keep up with the nineteen-year-olds, I guess," Sean said.
"Don't be ridiculous," Tweed said, scanning for who was in earshot. "She was twenty."
Sean emitted a small, dry laugh.
Tweed said, "I'll come by and chat in a bit. And, hey, you're in private practice now, so you need to actually say hello to people and be friendly."
"Is Abby here?" Sean asked.
"I haven't seen her. But you don't think she'd miss out on being the envy of her classmates, do you?" Tweed pointed up. Windows lined the second-floor atrium overlooking the reception area. Law students were pressed against the glass gawking at the assemblage of legal elite.
Sean smiled. "I suppose she wouldn't. If you see her before I do, please send her my way."
Tweed nodded, already shaking hands with the next person in line.
"Get you a drink?" Cecilia asked. She plucked a cracker with olive tapenade from a silver tray offered by a server. Sean looked about the room. All clans accounted for. The former solicitor generals, the legal giants who got the best Supreme Court cases in private practice, mingled near the bar. At the boundaries, huddled in groups of three or four, the current staff of OSG. They talked in whispers and studiously displayed their non-alcoholic drinks. And at the center of the room, the VIPs: the dean, Supreme Court justices, members of Congress. Circling them were the nakedly ambitious. Sean saw Senator James chatting with Justice Scheuerman. The senator let out a big laugh at whatever the justice had said. Sean was sure it wasn't that funny.
Cecilia clutched Sean's arm. "There's Justice Carr, let's say hello."
"I'd really rather just wait for the program to start." Carr was the newest member of the high court, confirmed just a few months ago. He was the only member of The Nine whom Sean had never met. From what he knew, though, Thaddeus Dupont Carr—"T.D." or "Touch Down" to friends—was one of those guys you loved to hate. College football star (thus the nickname), editor of the Stanford Law Review, and the youngest judge appointed to the Ninth Circuit until he breezed through the Supreme Court confirmation process.
"Come on, you'll like him. He's got a dry sense of humor, like you," Cecilia said. "You're coming."
Cecilia soon had Justice Carr laughing. She was famously profane and didn't censor herself for anyone, Supreme Court justices included. Carr finally turned to Sean and said, "I don't envy you."
Sean gave an apologetic smile and said, "Oh, Cecilia's harmless, you just have to get used to her lack of a filter." He'd spent a career apologizing for Cecilia.
The justice chortled. "No, I meant this morning's story in the Post. I remember when the press was speculating about my nomination. Reporters actually dug through the trash cans at my house."
Sean furrowed his brow. "Seriously?"
"Dead serious," Justice Carr said. "Be careful."
Sean nodded, not sure how to respond. After a few seconds, he opted for changing the subject. "My daughter met you recently."
"Oh yeah?"
"She's a law student here. Jon Tweed brought a group of his students to the court in January. Abby said your talk was 'inspirational.' Her word."
The justice laughed. "Oh, to be young and so easily fooled."
Senator James brushed by. Justice Carr's eyes traced James's path.
"Want some free advice?" Carr asked.
"From you?" Sean said. "Of course."
"When I was being considered for the nomination, someone wisely told me to always keep an eye on the competition."
Sean nodded.
"But in your case," Carr tilted his head toward Senator James, "you might want to get a food taster."
Cecilia was right. Sean was starting to like Justice Carr.

Copyright © 2016 Anthony Franze.


Author Bio:


Anthony Franze

ANTHONY FRANZE has garnered national praise for his work as a lawyer in the Appellate and Supreme Court practice of a major Washington D.C. law firm. The New York Times, Washington Post, and other prominent news outlets have quoted or cited Franze concerning the Supreme Court, and he has been a commentator on high-court issues for The New Republic, Bloomberg, and National Law Journal. He lives in the Washington D.C. area with his family.




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