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Joseph Finder’s bibliography cuts a wide swath, from his addictive series featuring corporate investigator Nick Heller to his high-concept, stand-alone financial and legal thrillers. His latest novel is set primarily in the legal arena and seems so close to the real world that the reader doesn’t wonder if something like the events portrayed in the book happened, but when.

JUDGMENT begins with an interesting setting and quickly ratchets up the suspense from there. Juliana Brody is a highly respected Boston judge for whom even greater things --- a federal judgeship, no less --- are anticipated and expected. She is in Chicago at a law conference and considers a final evening drink alone when she meets a charming and innately vulnerable gentleman named Matias Sanchez, who is there on vacation. One thing leads to another, and Juliana, who is married to a law professor and is the mother of a high school student, does something she never does. Going with the moment, she finds herself having a one-night assignation with the handsome stranger she has briefly met. They both make it clear that what has occurred can never happen again.

"JUDGMENT is a bit of a change of pace for Finder, but he displays his usual sure-footedness as he balances plot, character and pacing throughout this engrossing novel."

The next morning, Juliana returns to her life and her judicial docket in Boston. That docket includes a gender discrimination case involving an up-and-coming ride service company. Juliana is conducting a hearing concerning a protective order when defense counsel introduces an addition to their team in the form of Matias Sanchez. One does not need to have a legal degree or any knowledge of the judicial system to be aware that Juliana has a significant problem, particularly when Matias begins instructing her in private on how she is supposed to rule on certain motions. Juliana is in a terrible bind. She most certainly cannot tell her husband what occurred in Chicago, and she is also unable to recuse herself, as her secret will be revealed if she does. Her career is on the line as well.

There are a number of other issues that Juliana is trying to figure out, including why the defendant is willing to go to such extraordinary lengths to win the case. She has to do some investigation on her own and then act upon it if she is going to save, or at least somewhat preserve, the professional and personal sides of her life. However, the situation is going to get worse before it gets better. Juliana is not the only person involved who is being threatened, and she soon learns that there is the possibility that her family and career aren’t all that is at risk for her. Ultimately she has to outmaneuver a powerful adversary but may not be able to do so. Things don’t end exactly as one might expect, but then again, they rarely do. Still, you’ll race to the conclusion to find out what happens.

JUDGMENT is a bit of a change of pace for Finder, but he displays his usual sure-footedness as he balances plot, character and pacing throughout this engrossing novel. While a legal thriller, it’s also a cautionary tale for those who are tempted to believe that the rules of conduct and fidelity change when they are outside of their area code. The piper, as Finder demonstrates, always gets paid.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 29, 2019

by Joseph Finder

  • Publication Date: January 29, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton
  • ISBN-10: 110198581X
  • ISBN-13: 9781101985816