On the heels of The Switch (2017), which explored the consequences of a high-profile politician who mishandles classified information, Joseph Finder is back with another timely standalone thriller.
It all started with a one-night stand.
While attending a conference in Chicago, Juliana Brody, a Massachusetts Superior Court judge and married mother of two, made the regrettable decision to betray her marriage and sleep with a man she met at her hotel. Brody, who is rumored to be on multiple short-lists to climb the career ladder–possibly even all the way to the Supreme Court–left Chicago the next day, returning home to her family in hopes of forgetting the encounter altogether.
Instead, she learns the hard way that Chi-town doesn’t have the same rulebook as Vegas, and in this case, what happened in Chicago does not stay in Chicago.
Back in her courtroom, Brody is stunned to find the man she slept with halfway across the country present and in possession of a videotape of their affair. What comes next is a carefully laid out plan to blackmail Brody, forcing her to rule in favor of an Uber-like company called Wheelz, who is being sued by a former employee claiming sexual discrimination–after dodging multiple advances made by the company’s CEO–as the reason for her being fired.
Targeted because of her position presiding over the case, Brody is quickly sucked into a sick and twisted game that she never wanted to play in the first place. Hoping to protect her family and her reputation, she begins complying with the demands, all the while looking for a way out. That proves difficult once the case receives national attention because of the #MeToo movement, and Brody isn’t able to keep all of her secrets hidden. As the truth slowly begins to unravel, creating serious hardships at home, the judge is pulled further and further down the rabbit hole, where an even darker and more surprising conspiracy involving Russia awaits her . . .
Joseph Finder is always a lock for an entertaining, rip-roaring thriller of suspense, and that is certainly the case here. That said, Judgment does require readers to suspend their disbelief a tad more than normal. Moreover, the plot takes a bit to get going because, whereas his other standalones (and especially his Nick Heller books) feature strong, relatable protagonists, Juliana Brody is frankly hard to like. In fact, it’s hard to sympathize with her at all due to the nature of her, well, judgment, or lack thereof. She deserves a portion of the consequences she’s facing, such as her family falling apart, because she willingly cheated on her husband, making it initially hard to root for her.
The story kicks it up a notch, though, when Finder lands the first real twist, shining the light on the Russians’ involvement in a way that somewhat mirrors scenarios playing out in real life with the Muller investigation. Once all the players are revealed, Finder puts the gas pedal to the floor and never lets up for a second, delivering a nail-biting final act that’s everything his fans expect and more.
Touching on a Russian conspiracy and the #MeToo movement, Judgment is as relevant as it is thrilling, and Joseph Finder shows once again that he knows how to keep readers off balance and guessing until the very end.
Author: Joseph Finder
Pages: 400 (Dutton)
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Release Date: January 29, 2019
Book Spy Rating: 6.5/10
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children