Max Allan Collins arguably is one of the most prolific authors working in the mystery and thriller genres. His best work has been of the hard-boiled nature, whether in his collaborations with Mickey Spillane, his turn on Chester Gould’s iconic Dick Tracy comic strip, or his own Ms. Tree comic creation. And while best known for the classic trilogy Road to Perdition, Collins has not been content to rest on his laurels, authoring novels based on television series and crafting heroes and anti-heroes alike, from Keller to Nolan to Quarry (the latter of whom hopefully will be seen in a Cinemax series sooner rather than later). His latest offering is a straight-ahead political thriller that isn’t quite up to his usual efforts but nonetheless is an entertaining summer read.
"...an entertaining summer read.... [T]hose who will read anything by Collins --- an understandable state of mind, given the man’s superb level of craftsmanship --- will not be disappointed by SUPREME JUSTICE..."
The prime mover in SUPREME JUSTICE is a Secret Service agent named Joseph Reeder, who is infused with the right stuff. When presented with the choice of getting between the President of the United States and a bullet, Reeder does not hesitate, risking his own life in defense of the commander-in-chief. Reeder, though, detests the man whose life he saved. When he resigns from the desk job to which he has been consigned as a result of his injury, Reeder gives his disability as the official reason for his retirement. He is, however, unwise enough to vent his true feelings for the President to his superiors and co-workers, which is anathema to the apolitical persona that the Secret Service projects. This understandably puts him on the outs with his former colleagues in the Service but also unfortunately short circuits any opportunity he might have had working in another area of federal law enforcement.
Interestingly enough, though, Reeder possesses an uncanny ability to read body language and has acquired the nickname “Peep” as a result. It is this ability that unexpectedly gives him a chance to redeem himself after his fall from grace. It is an opportunity borne out of tragedy: a Supreme Court justice is murdered in what appears to be a robbery that went wrong. Reeder is asked to be part of a task force investigating the crime. While viewing the security recordings of the incident, Reeder discovers that the killing, rather than being the result of a careless though still-despicable act, was premeditated.
As Reeder and his task force partner, FBI agent Patti Rogers, proceed further along in their investigation, they discover that there may be more justices on the hit list of a group of shadowy killers whose intent is to change the direction of the ship of state. What Reeder all too quickly learns, however, is that as he moves closer to uncovering the people behind the killing, he also moves himself --- and his family --- into unspeakable danger.
SUPREME JUSTICE is somewhat of a flawed work. A bit of research might have helped (for one, Glocks do not have safeties), as mistakes of this nature interrupt the flow of the narrative for the reader. In addition, and this is my particular pet peeve, Collins transmits an “okay, time to wrap this up” attitude near the book’s conclusion that is almost impossible to ignore. Furthermore, the plot and its ultimate revelations might leave even those who share the author’s political beliefs reaching once or twice too often for their suspension of disbelief satchel.
Still, those who will read anything by Collins --- an understandable state of mind, given the man’s superb level of craftsmanship --- will not be disappointed by SUPREME JUSTICE, though whether there might be demand for a sequel is left open to question.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on July 11, 2014