The Amendment Killer (Brooks/Lotello Thriller #1), by Ronald S. Barak

Nine stars

I chose to re-read this piece after reading the series prequel, oddly released AFTER this book. Highly recommend doing things in that order, as this novel offers new and rich additions with the understanding of ‘The Puppet Master’.

Ronald S. Barak presents readers with a sensational novel that delves into the world of US constitutional politics, kidnapping, and a developing courtroom drama. When a girl is taken from off the street on her way to school, no one seems to notice. The country’s attention turns towards Washington, D.C., more specifically the US Supreme Court, where a monumental case is about to be argued before the nine justices. The premise surrounds the introduction of the 28th Amendment to the US Constitution, which seeks to tighten the responsibilities of congressional members. The controversy surrounds not only the content of the amendment, but that it was not introduced by Congress and the state assemblies. The National Organization for Political Integrity (NoPoli) chose to hold a constitutional convention with delegates of its fifty state branches, crafting and passing the aforementioned amendment. Having made its way through the lower courts, it is now time for the nine justices to rule not only on the right of Congress to sue on constitutional grounds, but also on the content of the 28th Amendment. With such an impact on the future of America, the case is being carried live on television for everyone to see, as it develops. During the Chief Justice’s opening remarks, Justice Arnold Hirschfeld’s cell phone buzzes with a text; his granddaughter, Cassie, has been kidnapped and the only way she will be returned safely is when the amendment is quashed. Panicked, Justice Hirschfeld must follow the rules laid out for him, but makes some veiled contact to ensure that his family is aware of the situation. While not wanting to tip his hand to what’s going on, Justice Hirschfeld reaches out to have an investigation commenced, though the burner phones being used and lack of substantial clues makes finding Cassie all the more difficult. Lawyers for NoPoli and Congress battle it out, exploring what the Founding Fathers might have meant with Article 5 of the US Constitution and trying to parse out a modern day solution, all in a compacted oral argument setting, where justices openly hurl questions at the attorneys, who seek to maximise their allotted time. While arguments continue in the Court, Cassie is being kept in a secluded location, unsure why she’s been targeted. What she does know is that her diabetes will not remain under control if this lasts much longer. Bonding with her captor, Cassie is able to soon learn that her grandfather’s role in the current set of legal arguments could lead to her freedom, or untimely demise. Working off the radar while media outlets start sniffing around, Metro Homicide Detective Frank Lotello tries to craft an agreement to ensure that Cassie is released and Justice Hirschfeld can sway his colleagues. However, the constitutional arguments are compelling, forcing many to wonder why oral arguments show Hirschfeld speaking against everything he appears to hold dear. In the shadows, someone is trying to push for this amendment nullification, but at whose request? Will the Court rule properly on this monumental case and allow young Cassie the freedom she deserves? Barak has stitched together this wonderful novel that captures the reader’s attention from the outset and does not release its grip until the final pages. Highly recommended for those who love legal thrillers with a constitutional flavour, as well as the reader who find crime thrillers to their liking.

A friend of mine recommended this book to me the first go round, feeling that I might enjoy both its legal and criminal aspects. I had it sitting on my TBR list for a while, wanting to find myself in the right mood before diving in. Why I waited so long I will never know. As stated above, this book really should be grabbed after its more recently released prequel, in order to get the full impact. Barak is able to pull the reader into the middle of this book, whetting an appetite for detailed discussion of constitutional practices, as well as using the US Supreme Court as a central tool to deliver some of the important impetus to keep the narrative flowing. Barak utilises the subplot of Cassie’s kidnapping to keep the story balanced and allow the reader to enjoy a well-rounded piece, as though to dilute some of the legal and constitutional arguments that fill many chapters. Barak effectively crafts a set of characters who mesh well together, but whose individual stories come together in a seamless manner. This gives the reader the chance to better understand those they find interesting and push aside those who do not pique their interest. In a story full of legal tangents, Barak keeps the reader guessing and wondering how things will resolve themselves. Fast-paced with a narrative benefitting both short and longer chapters, Barak paces the story well with time stamps, showing the slow (and quick) progression of the case before the Court’s expedited decision. With Cassie’s life on the line, the reader will surely push through this one to discover the monumental finality of this first-rate novel, as well as all the hints peppered throughout relating to the previous novel.

Kudos, Mr. Barak, for such an impactful story. I will have to find some of your other work and devour it in short order. I’m eager to see what else you can bring to life with your superior writing style.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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The Puppet Master (Brooks/Lotello Thriller #0.5), by Ronald S. Barak

Nine stars

In a prequel novel to his legal thriller series, Ronald S. Barak offers readers a high-impact piece that spans the entire police procedural and legal processes. When a prominent US senator is murdered, the D.C. community takes notice. Metro PD Detective Frank Lotello is assigned the case and begins a thorough investigation. Lotello, a recent widower, is still struggling with the loss of his wife and must redefine his job as he raises two children. After two other people with ties to America’s financial fortunes are slain, people begin to wonder if there is a spree killer on the loose. Even more baffling is the message left about the victims deserving to die as ‘Ryan’ did. When a man is seen uttering similar messages around the Capitol, he is taken into custody and eventually charged with the murder. However, things are not as cut and dry as they seem. U.S. District Judge Cyrus Brooks soon learns this, having been assigned the murder trial. When the Public Defender advocates a justifiable homicide defence, many look shocked, though the constitutionality soon becomes apparent. While awaiting the trial, Detective Lotello is contacted anonymously with information that may shed some light on the murders, something that could provide significant reasonable doubt. While dubious in its ethical nature, Lotello and Brooks converse, applying pressure to allow additional investigations. Could there be someone else behind the killings, using the accused as a patsy? Once the trial begins, Brooks takes control in the courtroom, allowing strong arguments on both sides before he tosses the case to the jury. It is here that things get even more interesting. Brooks, Lotello, and many others await the decision of the twelve, whose verdict could have high-reaching results. Barak does well to create a thriller whose slow development acts as a great marinade before delivering a impactful final twist. Recommended for those who love legal thrillers, particularly the reader who found Barak’s first novel (which follows this one chronologically) to their liking.

Ronald S. Barak crossed my radar a while back, when he introduced readers to his Frank Lotello/Cyrus Brooks duo. This legal thriller series, while still in its infancy, has some great plots, enveloped in great police work and supported by wonderful narration. Barak steps back from his previous publication to offer the reader a better look into the lives of his two protagonists. Lotello is a man who is still reeling from his wife’s death, something the reader can ascertain as he has numerous conversations with her throughout the case. Lotello balances work with raising a family on his own, though does not let either task hamper the other. With an acute sense of all aspects of a criminal investigation, Lotello is like a dog with a bone, chasing leads and following up on sketchy people of interest as he seeks to uncover the truth. His diligence may not always pay-off, but Lotello’s impact can be felt throughout the novel. Lotello is contrasted nicely by Judge Cyrus Brooks, a man whose legal training has led him to create a no-nonsense courtroom. Brooks knows the rules and sticks to them, usually, while also realizing that not all defendants (or their counsel) are created equally. A fan of explaining every step of the legal process to the jury, Brooks educates the reader alongside them, as the case progresses. His handle of the court will likely impress the reader as they meander through all the evidence on offer. The story here is quite well developed, advancing on many levels through chapters of different lengths. Some are simple phone conversations while others are thorough explorations of the courtroom developments, through banter between counsel and witnesses. Barak keeps the reader captivated throughout, as the evidence mounts and the jury is presented with much. By the time the case goes to the jury, the reader likely has their own impressions. Little is left to chance while being sequestered, with a wonderful exploration of deliberations before a final set of twists to end the case. I’ll surely re-read the follow-up novel to get the full impact of the series, happy to have found another author who knows how to write comprehensive legal/courtroom thrillers that leaves no stone unturned.

Kudos, Mr. Barak, for your stellar writing. I hope others find this series in the coming months. I must ask… why release the prequel after the series debut? This piece is so full of important information that is relevant what ended up being the debut. I am baffled!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Amendment Killer, by Ronald S. Barak

Nine stars

Ronald S. Barak presents readers with a sensational novel that delves into the world of US constitutional politics, kidnapping, and a developing courtroom drama. When a girl is taken from off the street on her way to school, no one seems to notice. The country’s attention turns towards Washington, D.C., more specifically the US Supreme Court, where a monumental case is about to be argued before the nine justices. The premise surrounds the introduction of the 28th Amendment to the US Constitution, which seeks to tighten the responsibilities of congressional members. The controversy surrounds not only the content of the amendment, but that it was not introduced by Congress and the state assemblies. The National Organization for Political Integrity (NoPoli) chose to hold a constitutional convention with delegates of its fifty state branches, crafting and passing the aforementioned amendment. Having made its way through the lower courts, it is now time for the nine justices to rule not only on Congress’s standing to sue based on constitutional standing to create amendments, as well as on the content of the 28th Amendment. With such an impact on the future of America, the case is being carried live on television for everyone to see, live and as it develops. During the Chief Justice’s opening remarks, Justice Arnold Hirschfeld’s cell phone buzzes with a text; his granddaughter, Cassie, has been kidnapped. As Hirschfeld tries to remain stoic, he is informed that the only way she will be returned safely is when the amendment is quashed. Panicked, Justice Hirschfeld must follow the rules laid out for him, but makes some veiled contact to ensure that his family is aware of the situation. While not wanting to tip his hand to what’s going on, Justice Hirschfeld reaches out to have an investigation commenced, though the burner phones being used and lack of substantial clues makes finding Cassie all the more difficult. Lawyers for NoPoli and Coingress battle it out, exploring what the Founding Fathers might have meant with Article 5 of the US Constitution and trying to parse out a modern day solution, all in a compacted oral argument setting, where justices openly hurl questions at the attorneys, who seek to maximise their allotted time. While arguments continue in the Court, Cassie is being kept in a secluded location, unsure why she’s been targeted. What she does know is that her diabetes will not remain under control if this lasts much longer. Bonding with her captor, Cassie is able to soon learn that her grandfather’s role in the current let of legal arguments could lead to her freedom, or untimely demise. Working off the radar while media outlets start sniffing around, Metro Homicide Detective Frank Lotello tries to craft an agreement to ensure that Cassie is released and Justice Hirschfeld can sway his colleagues. However, the constitutional arguments are compelling, forcing many to wonder why oral arguments show Hirschfeld speaking against everything he appears to hold dear. In the shadows, someone is trying to push for this amendment nullification, but at whose request? Will the Court rule properly on this monumental case and allow young Cassie the freedom she deserves? Barak has stitched together this wonderful novel that captures the reader’s attention from the outset and does not release its grip until the final pages. Recommended for those who love legal thrillers with a constitutional flavour, as well as the reader who find crime thrillers to their liking.

A friend of mine recommended this book to me, feeling that I might enjoy both its legal and criminal aspects. I had it sitting on my TBR list for a while, wanting to find myself in the right mood before diving in. Why I waited so long I will never know. Barak is able to pull the reader into the middle of this book, whetting my appetite for detailed discussion of constitutional practices, as well as using the US Supreme Court as a central tool to deliver some of the important impetus to keep the narrative flowing. Barak utilises the subplot of Cassie’s kidnapping to keep the story balanced and allow the reader to enjoy a well-rounded piece, as though to dilute some of the legal and constitutional arguments that fill many chapters. Barak effectively crafts a set of characters who mesh well together, but whose individual stories come together in a seamless manner. This gives the reader the chance to better understand those they find interesting and push aside those who do not pique their interest. In a story full of legal tangents, Barak keeps the reader guessing and wondering how things will resolve themselves. Fast-paced with a narrative benefitting both short and longer chapters, Barak paces the story well with time stamps, showing the slow (and quick) progression of the case before the Court’s expedited decision. With Cassie’s life on the line, the reader will surely push through this one to discover the monumental finality of this first-rate novel.

Kudos, Mr. Barak, for such an impactful story. I will have to find some of your other work and devour it in short order. I’m eager to see what else you can bring to life with your superior writing style.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons