A keen, lively deconstruction of the American legal system’s seemingly countless flaws.

A sweeping, vituperative examination of how the United States, a nation that prides itself on the rule of law, has devolved into an essentially lawless country.

“It’s not only possible, but likely, that all three branches of government are controlled by criminals,” writes Gibney (A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America, 2017), a former lawyer who is now a venture capitalist. “At a minimum, it cannot be proved otherwise, for the simple reason that no one truly knows what the criminal laws of the United States contain. The U.S. Department of Justice, charged with enforcing federal criminal law, can’t even count the number of criminal provisions.” Consequently, most nonlawyer citizens—and even many lawyers—cannot know precisely when they have crossed the line into criminal activity. In the early portion of his outside-the-box yet cohesive diatribe, the author constructs a philosophical foundation for his thesis. Then, chapter by chapter, he eviscerates the American criminal justice system, including police, prosecutors, public defenders, private defense attorneys, law professors, and judges. Gibney also focuses his penetrating gaze on the maze of noncriminal law, slamming arbitrary presidential powers, executive branch rule-making, trial and appellate courts, and the privatized proceedings known as arbitration. Regarding the presidency, he writes, “the greater executive power becomes, the larger the possibility for error. After decades of expansion, the presidency has become a near-impossible job, reposed in one beleaguered and often unstable person.” Throughout the readable text, the author illustrates his criticisms by skillfully employing relevant analogies and metaphors, and his humor is subtle and mostly effective. Defenders of the alleged rule of law in the U.S. often point to the concept of American exceptionalism; Gibney effectively attacks this idea with examples showing how laws are administered more clearly in other nations. At times, the book is eerily timely, as when the author discusses alleged national emergencies invoked by occupants of the White House.

A keen, lively deconstruction of the American legal system’s seemingly countless flaws.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-47526-6

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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