Out of Order by Sandra Day O’Connor (2013, Random House)
Consider this the anti-Men in Black by Mark Levin.
Both books strive to strip away the perception of the Supreme Court as being somehow comprised of people who are inherently superior. Both provide a history of the court, analyze some of the key contentious decisions and provide insight into historical justices. Whereas the Levin book does so in the style of a bomb-thrower, focusing heavily upon the negative, O’Connor’s approach is that of a gentle educator, presenting both good and bad in a generally positive light.
I think both books deserve to be read, preferably sequentially. O’Connor leaves the reader with a detailed knowledge about the development of the court over time and presents a much better overview of its function. It’s lacking in personal anecdotes, which is strange for a book which seeks to humanize and normalize the court and was written by a former Justice; the anecdotes can be found in prior books by the author, though, so those interested in such things can pick up works like The Majesty of the Law.
Instead, she provides insight into how the court works as an overview, which allows her to step away from the daily nuts & bolts of particular decisions.
It’s a pleasant, uplifting, and informative book about the top court in our legal structure, presenting the hope and pride that is missing from the pages of Men in Black.
The Memory Man by Steven Savile (2018, Severn House)
The most distinctive aspect of this thriller is its setting. That’s not a negative, not in any way, but it may or may not be an enticement.
The Memory Man is the first in what I expect will be a series of Eurocrimes thrillers. It’s a revenge story, with a murderer working his way through a list of prominent individuals and some agents assigned to identify and stop the killer.
Savile covers the required bases for any good thriller novel; the characters generally act in a reasonable fashion (and when they don’t, a viable in-story rationale is provided); the crimes for which revenge is sought are sufficiently horrific; the actions taken by the killer are grotesque; and there is the familiar twist of one of the main agents having an unexpectedly personal connection to the perpetrator.
The violence is extreme, but only suggested rather than shown. Its effectiveness is a testament to the writer’s skill. He chooses to present the imprisonment and torture scenes in a poetic, pared-down style which adds to their effectiveness.
The real place the book shines, though, is in the author’s presentation of EU political frictions. The Brexit conflict is repeatedly (and not positively) addressed throughout the book, as are a variety of lesser concerns ranging from simple cross-border frictions between specific countries to the self-policing of the Catholic church.
If he continues to focus on the internal political turmoils of the EU in future books, this has the makings of a must-read series. That will require an even hand and an honest approach to a variety of topics, and I hope Savile presents that through future books.