J159 by Renee Logan

J159

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A man isolated from the world in a new jury system slowly learns that the innovation may be criminal in this thriller.

Eddie is J159, in the midst of his three-to-five-year term as a juror. Psychiatrist Dr. Joyce Wyndham created the Pure Juror System to ensure potential candidates weren’t swayed by social media or unsubstantiated news. Selected jurors receive compensation, hotel-style accommodations, and guarantees that their jobs (or better ones) will be waiting. The downside, Eddie realizes, is seclusion from everyone, including other jurors, spending the majority of hours locked indoors and soon losing track of the days. During the jury’s latest case (the murder of rap star Teddy “One Man” Phillips’ younger brother), Eddie catches a glimpse of Simon, the son of Eddie’s friend and neighbor Jack. He’s convinced Simon’s subtle nods to the cameras (as Eddie’s watching on a screen in his abode) are a signal, and sure enough, a message from Jack finds its way to Eddie. It seems Eddie’s been in longer than the five-year maximum, with later messages implying that the Pure Juror System is rather dodgy. Unfortunately, his time may be running out—the end of much more than his term. Logan (Circles All Around, 2016, etc.) aptly conveys Eddie’s isolation; he savors his hearty meals, watches pre-2000 films he’s already seen, and stares at the indicator light by the door (green means he gets some fresh air). The narrative, too, turns more colorful once Eddie, believing he’s in danger, gets decidedly more agitated: “The once rhythmic drumming of my fingertips on the table, turned to a stiffly clenched fist.” At the same time, the story subverts potential monotony by making the trial a subplot (and a riveting one, with the rapper’s wife as the defendant) and imbuing scenes with anticipation, like the possibility of a plumber finding one of Jack’s notes that Eddie’s stashed. The windup offers resolution, though Logan wisely lets a dash of uneasiness linger.

A bizarre but utterly appealing fusion of dystopian tale and courtroom drama.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-5451-2877-0
Page count: 246pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
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