The Outsider, by Anthony Franze

Nine stars

Yet another powerful legal thriller by Anthony Franze that left me rushing to review it. This novel pulls readers into a story that centres around the U.S. Supreme Court in all its glory. After graduating from a fourth-tier law school and saddled with enormous debts, Grayson ‘Gray’ Hernandez was lucky enough to secure a job as a Messenger within the U.S. Supreme Court. While he has always aspired to argue before the nine Justices, he finds pleasure in being able to surround himself with the history and regal (as well as legal) nature of the marbled halls. When he stumbles upon an assault in the Court’s underground parkade, Gray does all he can to help the victim, who ends up being the Chief Justice Edgar R. Douglas. As a thank you for the heroics, Chief Justice Douglas offers Gray a coveted spot on his staff, as a fifth law clerk. Forced to acclimate to the quick pace of the Court, Gray is shunned by his co-clerks, but soon proves his worth through hard work and dedication to the Court’s business. Meanwhile, the FBI is investigating the attack at the Court and a handful of homicides that might be related. Further digging leaves Special Agent Emma Milstein wondering if the perpetrator might come from within the Court, based on random items left around the crime scenes. Milstein approaches Gray to help with their investigation, hoping to crack the case wide open, tapping into his experience working within the hallowed halls. Gray accepts, adding this to the laundry list of things he must accomplish, most notably learning the ropes of his clerkship while not alienating his family and friends. Remembering his roots, Gray tries to live in both worlds and appease everyone. With a serial killer on the loose with a penchant for the Court, Gray is fingered as being a potential culprit, forcing him into hiding. However, Milstein stands by his innocence and scrambles to uncover the vast conspiracy, which might cost someone a reputation, or even a life. Rich with history and a quick-paced narrative, Franze has successfully offered the reader another winner. Perfect for crime fans who enjoy a little history peppered throughout, this is one not to put too far down the ‘To Be Read’ list!

Franze has the ability to breathe new life in the Court and all that it represents. The reader is not only treated to a wonderful setting on First Street Northeast, but much of its history comes to life as the characters develop throughout the novel. Key cases adjudicated before the Court find themselves mentioned and the reader cannot help but learn from the background provided. Pulling on a number of different personalities, Franze develops strong characters who clash at key moments, only adding to the dramatic effect of the overall reading experience. While the premise, murder, is by no means unique, Franze layers it and keeps the excitement building until the very end, pushing his protagonist to the limits to profess his own innocence. Some have drawn strong parallels between Franze and other authors in the genre, to which I firmly believe there is much merit. Captivating and full of nuances that the non-attentive reader will miss, Franze is sure to be one author many readers will discover and love, given the chance.

Kudos, Mr. Franze for another wonderful Supreme Court thriller. You pull out all the stops and leave the reader with a fabulous story in which they easily become enthralled.