A female justice scheduled to review a landmark case is threatened with blackmail.
In Chicago, a civil jury awards $100 million in compensatory and punitive damages after a smoker dies of cancer. The damages are to be borne equally by the company, Icarus Tobacco, and its executives. It’s a seminal case in that liability has been conferred not only upon the organization, but also upon its principals, which could make employment in the industry a crime. In D.C., the U.S. Supreme Court convenes and agrees to “grant cert”—i.e., judicial review—of the case Icarus v. Burke, which, in the words of one justice, sets a “dangerous and pernicious precedent.” The nine justices are of various ages and persuasions, including a Hispanic chief justice and the court’s first African-American female justice, Aurora Sims. President Cray, assisted by his henchmen, does his unethical best to ensure a pro-tobacco resolution. The greatest pressure is on 39-year-old Aurora, whose personal history yields some compromising photos that make her an ideal target for blackmail. But Icarus’ benefactors may be flying too close to the sun. The story is crisp and well-written, and the legal analysis of the case, along with the motivations and proclivities of the justices, has a ring of truth. Aurora, whose quiet beauty and gentility mask the steel beneath her skin, isn’t going down without a fight. Pacing is even, as the author touches on each of the justices, as well as the actions of an opportunistic intern. There’s plenty of material to mine, including sexual harassment, an extramarital affair, emotional and mental instability and betrayal. On the downside, the character of scheming President Cray approaches caricature; the surname of a minor character changes from page to page; and at times, closing quotes are omitted in the dialogue. Still, the story is strong, particularly its theme that a woman’s indiscretion carries much more weight than her male counterpart’s.
A tight, gripping tale with a few flaws and an authentic Supreme Court setting.
A highly organized, informative discussion of the immigration system in the United States.
In this politically charged environment, Afrasiabi manages to broach the volatile issue of immigration in a well-rounded, surprisingly effective framework that combines case studies, historical research, statistical analysis and personal anecdotes to detail the current issues and propose solutions. Invocations of Kafka, “The Twilight Zone” and “Alice in Wonderland” prove warranted as illustrations of the often surreal circumstances that confront immigrants facing deportation. Immigrants usually lack access to quality legal representation, while their situation can be made doubly difficult due to language barriers and significant cultural differences. Afrasiabi incorporates his work with colleagues and students at the Chapman University School of Law to deftly weave together the facts of several compelling cases and their underlying legal issues, with a genuine sense of suspense as readers wonder if justice will be truly be served. Occasionally, though, the narrative becomes overwrought—two federal laws passed in 1996 are “dark storm clouds depositing their sleet”—although, considering the life-changing effects of court decisions, it’s difficult to overstate the ramifications: extralegal rendition of individuals with pending cases and the de facto deportation of native-born children whose parents are deported. Afrasiabi also addresses the legacy of various anti-alien laws in California, as well as marriage equality for same-sex couples when one partner is a noncitizen. As the subtitle asserts, Afrasiabi employs his additional experience in the field of property law to contrast the stark differences between immigration judges and constitutional judges, like their qualifications, vetting processes and even the oaths they take. His arguments culminate in seven concrete reforms proposed in the conclusion. In order to make the immigration system more just and effective, Afrasiabi claims the solutions are closer than we may think; we can implement procedures and safeguards already in place within the constitutional courts.
A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.
Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.
Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.
Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.