Anthony Franze debut novel, The Advocate’s Daughter, was so good that it made my best books of 2016 list. I always worry about the so-called “sophomore slump” – writers generally have years to work on their first novel and a much, much tighter timeline for the second. I’m happy to report that The Outsider is a terrific legal thriller as well. And with the Supreme Court in the news, it’s also timely.
Franze is an attorney who has argued before the Supreme Court, and that’s where he sets his thrillers. He offers a wonderful backstage tour of our highest court, complete with notes at the end so you know what is true and what is made up. Plus his stories are riveting, as is the case here.
The “outsider” is Grayson Hernandez, a young man who graduated from a non-Ivy League law school and is working as a messenger in the Supreme Court building. Hernandez grew up in a poor part of D.C., and his best friends really related with S.E. Hinton’s Outsider. In fact, Hernandez’s nickname was Pony Boy.
The day he stumbles onto an assault against the Chief Justice in the parking lot changes his life – in more ways than is at first obvious. Hernandez saves the Chief Justice but the attacker escapes. Shaken, the Chief Justice decides to offer Hernandez a clerkship, the most sought after position for law school graduates.
Most, if not all, the clerks are from top tier law schools, the brightest of the brightest. Hernandez is bright, but had to stay home to help run his family business so those opportunities didn’t come his way. And then the Justice offers him some perks along with the job; his apartment in Georgetown, which comes with a new Audi. Hernandez is overwhelmed but the justice convinces him to accept the offer.
Hernandez loves his new job, discussing law with these brilliant scholars and the smartest one of all, the beautiful Lauren Hart. He has a hard time fitting in, of course, but the Justice offers advice from time to time and eventually he finds his place.
Meanwhile, it appears a serial killer is at work in the D.C. area, and the murder sites all have one thing in common; a feather quill pen, a gift that the justices present to all attorneys who come before them, is found at all the crime scenes. Hernandez is approached by the FBI to help, and he quickly gets in over his head.
There are enough plot twists to keep the pages turning and the suspense just keeps ratcheting up until the final denouement. If you’re a fan of legal thrillers, or just fast paced adrenaline reads, you won’t want to miss this one.
3/17 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™
THE OUTSIDER by Anthony Franze. Minotaur Books (March 21, 2017). ISBN 978-1250071668. 320p.