While Justice Sleeps: A Thriller (Avery Keene)

by Stacey Abrams

Paperback, 2022




Anchor (2022), Edition: Standard Edition, 544 pages


Fiction. Suspense. Thriller. HTML:From celebrated national leader and bestselling author Stacey Abrams, While Justice Sleeps is a gripping, complexly plotted thriller set within the halls of the U.S. Supreme Court. "Brilliant and mesmerizing. Abrams follows in Dan Brownâ??s footprint with this masterfully plotted thriller that unfolds like the ultimate chess matchâ??bold move to bolder move with lives hanging in the balance."â??Lisa Gardner    "Stacey Abrams is a true novelist, and While Justice Sleeps is a first-class legal thriller, favorably compared to many of the best, starting with The Pelican Brief, which it brings to mind. Itâ??s fast-paced and full of surprisesâ??a terrific read."â??Scott Turow Avery Keene, a brilliant young law clerk for the legendary Justice Howard Wynn, is doing her best to hold her life togetherâ??excelling in an arduous job with the court while also dealing with a troubled family. When the shocking news breaks that Justice Wynnâ??the cantankerous swing vote on many current high-profile casesâ??has slipped into a coma, Averyâ??s life turns upside down. She is immediately notified that Justice Wynn has left instructions for her to serve as his legal guardian and power of attorney. Plunged into an explosive role she never anticipated, Avery finds that Justice Wynn had been secretly researching one of the most controversial cases before the courtâ??a proposed merger between an American biotech company and an Indian genetics firm, which promises to unleash breathtaking results in the medical field. She also discovers that Wynn suspected a dangerously related conspiracy that infiltrates the highest power corridors of Washington.   As political wrangling ensues in Washington to potentially replace the ailing judge whose life and survival Avery controls, she begins to unravel a carefully constructed, chesslike sequence of clues left behind by Wynn. She comes to see that Wynn had a much more personal stake in the controversial case and realizes his complex puzzle will lead her directly into harmâ??s way in order to find the truth. While Justice Sleeps is a cunningly crafted, sophisticated novel, layered with myriad twists and a vibrant cast of characters. Drawing on her astute inside knowledge of the court and political landscape, Stacey Abrams shows herself to be not only a force for good in politics and voter fairness but also a major new talent in suspense fiction. With an audio-exclusive Original Introduction… (more)


½ (187 ratings; 3.8)

Media reviews

While Justice Sleeps is a thriller, an “airport novel” in the very best sense of the term—it’s fun, fast-paced, absurd, designed to be inhaled in the space of a single flight. It’s also a revealing window into its author’s political imagination—what she wants, what she believes, what
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she’d do in a position of power....In spite of the novel’s dramatic tone and deliberately absurd elements, While Justice Sleeps ultimately allows its characters little growth. The heroes emerge heroic, the villains are dragged away in infamy, and the political system that Justice Wynn describes as spiraling into “intellectual torpor” and “hubris and narcissism”—a political system crying out to be drowned in a “righteous flood”—remains unaltered. It’s striking that Avery has overcome so much adversity and reached the pinnacle of accomplishment for a new lawyer but has no clear ambitions beyond cashing in at a corporate law firm. After paying off her loans, what next?
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“While Justice Sleeps” features a boatload of colorful characters, including a resentful wife, an estranged son, law associates, FBI and Homeland Security agents, media personalities, high-tech engineers, and a female chief justice. As the stakes rise, and murderous villains lurk, readers
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come to understand that horrific moral and ethical boundaries have been crossed. The unfolding morality tale, “the labyrinthine game the law demanded,” plays out in the final fireworks scene at the Supreme Court. Abrams plays it to the hilt.
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...explicitly partisan politics plays little role, and Abrams stints on judicial ideology. Still, her enterprise impresses on several counts: that she is willing to risk the jaundiced eye of readers unsympathetic to her public career; that she has the stuff to assay fiction in a new and challenging
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genre; and that amid an exceedingly busy life she cares enough about the form to undertake the demanding business of turning an idea into a novel. So the only fair question is not what she might have written, but whether she succeeds on the terms she set herself.... Readers searching for dimensional characters whose inner lives inform a consistently credible narrative won’t find them in this book; its climactic events, and the behaviors of the principals, require a particularly willful suspension of disbelief. Nor do Abrams’s corridors of power exude a sense of real-life verisimilitude — they, too, exist to serve her humming machine. But those desirous of perils and surprises will encounter them in abundance. On that score, Abrams has realized what surely was her chief ambition — not to enlighten, but to entertain.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member Clara53
To me it was a pleasant surprise: that an active politician who (even though having written political non-fiction) had the ability (time and talent) to write quite an impressive political/legal thriller - and NOT after retirement and with the cooperation of professional writers like the Clintons
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did - which I salute nevertheless! - but in the midst of her political career (even though it did take 12 years), a thriller of the likes by Dan Brown. The novel's premise is shocking, alarming, the plot is riveting, the writing is quite good, not your dry Grisham... Quite a page turner. I was really impressed. I wonder if there will be a sequel?... I will certainly look forward to that.
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LibraryThing member juju2cat
What amazing talent Ms. Abrams has! I was very impressed with the writing; kept me on my toes throughout the book.
LibraryThing member mysterymax
It's quite the page turner, and a bit scary when she so vividly paints the picture of how much unchecked power Homeland Security has, and how much information the government collects on every citizen. I'd love it if she turned this into a series with law clerk Avery Keene as the protagonist.
LibraryThing member froxgirl
Is there anything Stacey Abrams can't do (hopefully Nobel Peace Prize soon)? She sure can write a damn good political thriller! Taking on the mysteries of the Supreme Court is a challenging task, and this one succeeds at every level. Characters are fascinating: an ill and irascible justice, his
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estranged son who shares the same fatal genetic disease, and our heroine, a biracial clerk to the dying justice, and her addicted mom, And then there's a venal president and his dangerous henchman. And raging, out-of-control biotech executives who have figured out how to do Bashar al-Assad one worse with their own financially valuable ethnic cleansing potion. Abrams spins it all, controls the tension, provides simple explanations when the going gets muddy, and makes the complex plot smooth and pleasurable to follow. Highly recommended!

Quotes: " The members of the Senate loved the sound of their own voices, but the House had a different job. They had to actually talk to people."
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LibraryThing member nyiper
What a TERRIFIC BOOK!! I am totally impressed! I had no idea Stacey Abrams has written so MANY books but this, as she said, work that took her 12 years---what an accomplishment...especially amid all of the other things she is doing with her life! So involved and detailed---truly a political
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thriller. Avery is just a winner of a character, followed close behind with the Judge and his son. Great book!!!
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LibraryThing member MaggieFlo
Avery Keene is a young, bright, mixed race attorney working as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Howard Wynn. When he suffers what appears at first to be a stroke, she discovers that he has assigned her the role of Power of Attorney for his physical and mental health.
The plot involves the
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President of the US, a rogue Homeland security operative, companies vying for dominance in the gene/DNA manipulation and pharmaceutical research for nefarious purposes, murders of public servants, legislative manoeuvres and other silly plot twists.
This story is way too long, too many plot twists to make sense to be enjoyable.
It went off the rails about half way through when I lost interest in the plot and the characters.
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LibraryThing member ethel55
Supreme Court law clerk Avery Keene has a lot on her plate when she is told comatose Justice Howard Wynn has made her his legal guardian and POA. Avery is a smart heroine, and her photographic memory comes in handy more than once. She has a problematic mother who is always threatening to derail her
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life. The mystery goes between DC and India as various genetic companies vie for information about a rare brain disease. Some of it got a bit technical with all the medical jargon, but all in all, it was an engrossing read.
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LibraryThing member kcshankd
I normally wouldn't have read this novel, but my mother sent it to me because of the author.

It was surprising good, a splendid read as long as you accept it as the thriller it is. Four stars due to its ultimate implausibility, but if you like stories like the Nicholas Cage movie National Treasure,
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you'll love this.
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LibraryThing member Lemeritus
Comes before this reader a novel of government intrigue which might have gone without note except for the author. The pedigree of its writer aside, this is not a political revelation but it does have an interesting, if at times convoluted, plot that sees the reader comfortably to its resolution.
LibraryThing member chasidar
Convoluted and hard to follow
LibraryThing member EllenH
I must admit political thrillers aren't my chosen genre, but this one is very, very readable. Hard not to roll my eyes at the implausible plot line at times, but still a good read. Interesting characters and story.
LibraryThing member rosalita
It’s not as far out of left field as you might think for Stacey Abrams — who lost a close election for Georgia governor in 2016 and who has since kept herself busy more or less saving democracy in the state since — to write a legal thriller. Abrams has written several nonfiction books about
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politics, most recently Our Time is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America. And she has long had a not-so-secret secondary career as a writer of romances under the pen name Selena Montgomery. But While Justice Sleeps (2021) is her first attempt at combining the two genres, crafting a political thriller centered on the Supreme Court and cutting-edge medical research.

Avery Keene is a baby lawyer, serving as clerk to Supreme Court Justice Howard Wynn, a populist whose longstanding feud with conservative President Brandon Stokes has recently boiled over in a public confrontation at a university graduation. So when Justice Wynn falls into a coma just before the Supreme Court will rule on the merger of two U.S. and Indian biotechnology firms — a case that the president has a personal stake in — tensions are high all over Washington, D.C. And when it’s revealed that Wynn secretly named Avery as his legal guardian before falling ill, shadowy forces are determined to make sure she’s unable to fulfill the justice’s final wishes.

As thrillers go, While Justice Sleeps is pretty well paced. I can’t speak to the plausibility of the biotech aspect, but the idea of a coverup becoming worse than the original crime is a familiar one. I also can’t speak to the authenticity of the way that Wynn leaves clues for Avery disguised as chess commentary, but it didn’t seem outlandish. The main weakness for me was the writing. It’s certainly not unreadable, but the pedestrian and sometimes clunky prose and dialogue were not on a par with the brisk plotting or deft characterization.

I also appreciated the graceful way that Abrams populated her story with a diverse set of characters who inhabited their roles without calling undue attention to the specifics of their identity. It’s a fine example of the adage “Show, don’t tell.”

One of the best scenes in the book is a flashback to a conversation between Justice Wynn and his clerk, which in retrospect is laying the foundations for Avery to be able to follow the clues he will leave her to uncover the scandal surrounding the merger case. Once again, chess is the language through which Wynn communicates:

"That’s when the queen became the most powerful piece, but still in service to a king. What do you think of that?”
“Of what, sir?”
“Of the queen being responsible for saving the king, but that only his life is sacred. Should offend your feminist sensibilities, no?”
Avery grinned. “My feminist sensibilities are not offended. In a game of strategy, the king is a figurehead, unable to save his own life without the aid of others. The queen is powerful and dynamic. She will protect the king, but not because of weakness. It’s because that’s what she’s supposed to do.” She added, “It was in the tenth century that the queen replaced the vizier on the chessboard. Vizier meant leader, and in the next five hundred years, she became the most powerful piece on the board. A nice evolution.”

Political thrillers these days have a tough row to hoe. The outlandish plots that normally capture the imagination of the reading public can seem like small beer in the face of our extreme contemporary politics. I’m not convinced that Abrams has succeeded in overcoming that reality, but if nothing else, it is certainly a relief to read about a horrifying situation that isn’t true.
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LibraryThing member slsmith101
With so much going there was no room for character development in this book, but it was a fun, entertaining read!
LibraryThing member Citizenjoyce
This is Stacey Abrams's first novel published under her own name. I haven't read any of her romances but gave this one a go because it was about the supreme court. The plot is very complicated with rare brain diseases, genetic engineering, a truly evil president, evil Homeland Security agents, and
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too many games and puzzles for me to figure out. She said she wrote it first when Bush was president, but no one would publish it because the premise of a president so evil was too unbelievable. The premise was perfectly believable to me, but there were way too many twists for me to keep up. Also, the goal of the genetic engineering didn't make sense. I did like the characters, though.
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LibraryThing member SmithfieldJones
If i could give it six stars I would so consider it done. Characters you would love to meet, especially Avery Keene, the young law clerk who works for Supreme Court justice Howard Wynn who has suddenly fallen into a coma. Having named Avery, without her knowledge, his legal guardian with power of
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attorney, Avery finds herself in the middle of a planned merger of an American biotech company and an Indian genetics company who, it appears, may unleash an unbelievable new medical process into an unsuspecting world. The American biotech company and the Indian genetics company are relying on the assistance of a corrupt American president and Avery is the only one standing in their path. Stacey Abrams provides a full and believable world where a ugly conspiracy and Avery is left with the job and taking this conspiracy apart, one piece at a time.
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LibraryThing member splinfo
Very interested to read something by Abrams. Greatly admire her work in our political arena. I seldom read political intrigue so have little to compare it to. Was drawn along by the plot and didn't feel it was more fantastic than other books of the sort that I have read. As a reference librarian I
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need to read books that our patrons talk about and are interested in. This fit the bill.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
When Supreme Court Justice Howard Wynn is suddenly incapacitated, it emerges that he recently modified his will to name his clerk, Avery Keene, as his legal guardian.Wynn’s ex-wife is outraged; but so is the President of the United States, who would like nothing more than to immediately appoint a
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successor and change the balance of power on the Court. Avery is stunned by her appointment, but knows her boss well enough to realize there’s more to this than meets the eye, and refuses to cede her role. Sure enough, Wynn left behind clues, and Avery gradually pieces together a puzzle connecting an international biotech firm’s research and the US government’s anti-terrorism efforts.

The storyline is complex and requires the reader’s attention especially if, like me, you are not conversant in genetic research. Avery’s unique problem-solving abilities seemed a bit of a stretch, requiring some suspension of disbelief. There are also a lot of characters to keep track of, and it takes time for Avery to determine which ones can be trusted. But the fast-paced plotting and rapid twists and turns kept me turning the pages.

I picked up this book primarily because of its author, Georgia politician Stacey Abrams, who has earned a name for herself both as a state legislator and leader in the fight for voting rights. Because of her high profile, this book has gained more attention than previous novels which were published under a pseudonym. This is not entirely unwarranted, and while I think I’d rather see Abrams devote her time to righting injustices in our political systems, there’s no doubt she can also write compelling thrillers.
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LibraryThing member bookczuk
Summer 2021 read. The writing wasn't as good as I hoped. Maybe I'll try one of her romances.
LibraryThing member bookwyrmm
I am not a big fan of political legal thrillers, but this was rather riveting.
LibraryThing member breic
Not awful, but mostly forgettable and the plot doesn't make much sense.
LibraryThing member Gwendydd
This is an engaging and clever political thriller about a loophole in the Constitution: what happens if a Supreme Court justice is incapacitated for a long time? The Constitution doesn't have any provision for what happens if a Supreme Court justice is unable to serve, but also unable to resign. In
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this case, a justice is in a coma, and it is unlikely that he will ever come out of the coma, but also unlikely that he will die any time soon, which means he can't be replaced unless someone with his power of attorney makes him resign his post.

The person with that power of attorney is a young court clerk, who is mystified that she has been given so much power. The comatose justice has left her a series of clues about what he wants her to do, and it is up to her to figure out that the clues lead to an international conspiracy that involves the current president.

This is a fun political thriller, with good plot twists and clever characters. It's one you don't want to think about too hard - it has some tropes such as "it just so happens that the main character's best friends all have the exact set of skills she needs to solve the mystery" and "two main characters thrown into catastrophe together end up falling for each other even though that's really not a good idea." But that's okay - it's a fun book with a satisfying ending.

Unfortunately, I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator is terrible. She sounds like one of those computer voices that reads text without any understanding of what the text actually means. I think I would have liked the book a whole lot more with a different narrator.
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LibraryThing member wellreadcatlady
I expected this political thriller to have a realistic plot and it does not.
LibraryThing member waldhaus1
A clever mystery combining something as old as chess with something as current as genetic engineering. While a lot of suspension of disbelief is required the story is engaging.
We get a glimpse into the workings of the Supreme Court and national government as well. Undoubtedly many liberties are
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taken ya advance the story. Avery the protagonist is a bit too cute and judge Winn’s personality seems overdrawn but again it fits together.
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LibraryThing member Nancyjcbs
While Justice Sleeps is a political/science thriller where the heroine is a Supreme Court justice's clerk. As a super-fan of Stacey Abrams' work I somewhat expected a novel focused on activism. But Stacey also pens romance novels and it's clear to me that her fiction stays clear of her political
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Avery Keene is surprised to find that she's been named power of attorney for a Supreme Court justice she clerks for after he falls into a coma. It doesn't take long for her to discover that there are forces working against his wishes and that he has left her puzzles to uncover a horrific truth.

This is deep in espionage, law and the Supreme Court's unique status, scientific discovery/abuses, government entities, corruption, kidnappings and killings. Like any good thriller it was a novel that held my attention and is forcing me to be just a bit more afraid!
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LibraryThing member ladycato
I don't normally read thrillers, political or otherwise, but I went out of my comfort zone to read this for a book club for September; I checked it out at my local library.

While Justice Sleeps engages in a relentless pace from the get-go as a Supreme Court justice with a genetic disease falls into
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a coma, leaving his stunned law clerk Avery holding both his power of attorney and a lot of clues to a greater conspiracy. Sometimes the twisty-turny plot lost me as it skipped between different points of view, but overall, it was enjoyable and thought-provoking. I know who Abrams as a political figure is but I hadn't read any of her fiction before; her writing here, often delving into tricky judicial matters, carries an air of competency. Her characters are complex, as are the ethics around them. While some of the big bad guys are on the right-wing side of politics (that's no spoiler, as it's quite clear early on), the figures of power on the left are not depicted as angels, either. I appreciated the nuance in those depictions.
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Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

544 p.; 7.48 inches


0593469518 / 9780593469514
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