THE JUST AND THE UNJUST by James Gould Cozzens


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There's faint flavor of The Last Adam (Cozzen's best book, in this reader's opinion), more in the sureness of his understanding of the undercurrents of village thought and way of life than in character. The setting is a county seat during a murder trial; the characters are primarily the lawyers on the case, with the ramifications of their families, and with but slight touching upon the principals of the trial or the jury. And yet all fit together into a pattern that -- in the final analysis -- shows how even the fumblings of the law and the trial by jury processes work together to some sort of result. One feels, in the main characters, a new grouping of personalities in a community :-they are Abner, acting as prosecuting attorney, as, presumably a step towards filling his superior's shoes in the next election, -- Bonnie, to whom he is engaged in a typically New England offhand way, -- Jesse, small time boss, whose control of his fate irks the independent Abner, and Harry Wurts, attorney for the defense, glib, clever, smart alecky. Abner is prickly and difficult and outwardly unappreciative of the human values of his relationships, but learns -- in a series of small shocks to his ego, and in the culmination of the trial with his totally unexpected defeat in the jury's verdict, that life must be one of adjustment and compromise. The story is not the trial -- it is the town, the interweaving of the trial with the daily round, the afterhours and social "doings" -- and as such it comes alive. There is no character drawn so satisfactorily in the round as the doctor in The Last Adam. One gets less convincing a picture of the community. But the use of the trial as a lever is fresh --and its subordination to other aspects of life make it different from such books as Inquest or The Bellamy Trial.
Pub Date: July 23rd, 1942
ISBN: 0156465787
Page count: 444pp
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1942


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