... 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 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 ... At the outset, the customary conventions of legal thrillerdom require quickly immersing the reader in murky but momentous events — this is not, after all, Madame Bovary. In page after page of efficient and serviceable prose, Abrams creates an exceedingly convoluted but potentially intriguing landscape ... As the story progresses, Abrams’s current deficits as a novelist become apparent. To say the least, While Justice Sleeps epitomizes the phrase 'plot driven' ... Avery lacks a fully developed persona, and frequently reacts to alarming events in ways that are emotionally and logically implausible. Some of her most striking characteristics are functional rather than organic. Too often, she and her supporting cast are whomever the story requires them to be ... Concurrently, one is struck by Abrams’s considerable powers of invention. Not only does she succeed in keeping the pages turning, but the fusillade she triggers bespeaks a genuine gift for weaving a daunting number of plot threads into her labyrinthine but accelerating design. Her narrative never pauses for breath — let alone contemplation ... 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.
The book is a page-turner, plot-driven in the extreme, and at times terribly entertaining. Abrams is smart about Washington and often amusing about human nature. And she is clear-eyed about America ... sets itself up nicely to be the first in a possible series — we can imagine Avery finding herself in other sticky situations, solving puzzles others can’t begin to tackle. Does it succeed as well on a literary scale? No, but that’s not what a book like this is for. Like watching an episode of Scandal, sipping wine, and snacking on popcorn along with its charismatic lead, Olivia Pope, While Justice Sleeps is meant to keep your brain pleasantly occupied, and at that mission, it succeeds brilliantly.
Abrams doesn’t break any new ground in While Justice Sleeps, but she keeps the story entertaining and the characters fairly believable, although occasionally the writing and plot are a bit dense ... Abrams keeps the plot churning, concentrating on the myriad power plays that go on behind the scenes as she brings in greed, a controversial merger between a biotech and a genetics firm, and self-centered politicians. Those expecting Abrams to skewer only Republicans will be disappointed as she shows fault on both sides of the aisle. Abrams keeps the action in check with the story, making each death matter, even those expected, while using chess moves, intricate puzzles and even the musings of a French philosopher as plot devices.
This is a complex drama of lawyerly intrigues and backroom political dealings, with a dash of evil multinational corporate plotting and a handful of roguish law enforcement officers of varying ranks. Abrams is good at this wide range of psychological portraiture and has crafted characters that are recognizable archetypes yet still specific ... While Justice Sleeps draws on all of Abrams’ lived experiences within our legal and political systems. Her verdict on that, as evidenced by this novel, is plainly that all high-ranking officials are extremely self-interested. Not exactly a groundbreaking theme, but Abrams’ willingness to call out any and all sides for similarly bad behavior is refreshing ... as the plot slow burns its steady way through nearly 400 pages of well-contrived machinations, there are several very real ethical questions posed about biochemical warfare, corporate monopolies, and our system of checks and balances that point toward Abrams’ cogent grasp of the challenges our nation faces ... This has all the making of a great series. The writing is solid and worth the attention, even considered in a vacuum where one disregards Abrams’ other gig.
Politicians writing fiction may be familiar at this point, but Abrams’s novel merits deeper reading ... 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 she’d do in a position of power ... Abrams’s novel, by contrast, engages very little with the internal dynamics of the Supreme Court or the White House. While Justice Sleeps is, by design, more of a fantasia, so full of twists, turns, and murderous reveals that it is genuinely difficult to summarize without giving too much away ... The whole thing is, again, very fun, culminating in a charmingly ludicrous showdown in the Supreme Court itself, with Avery standing alone, doing (legal) battle against the sinister forces intent on destroying her.
The language in this novel is often overly ornate, which slows down the narrative; the heroine is a little too good to be true; and some plot points are far-fetched, even for a thriller ... Although it’s not successful as a thriller, the book’s plethora of women role models, including a chief justice, and its 'inside DC' look at political skullduggery make Abrams’s novel a well-informed political and legal narrative.
... a deftly written page-turner — understated action, vivid characters and a tense, plausible plot ... Keene is a compelling heroine, clearly bright, principled and devoted. She’s also multi-ethnic, personifying, as Abrams observed in an interview, America’s journey toward becoming a multi-ethnic nation ... The characters in the book also allow Abrams subtle observations on America.
... a page-turner ... The setting and characters are part of the legal profession, but the real story is simply a good old-fashioned thriller ... Common sense does leave the room in the final chapters, and some readers may find the conclusion to be a bit over the top, especially those with legal experience or who have knowledge of Supreme Court history. Still, this should not deter you from enjoying a truly remarkable novel by a talented writer.
... Abrams knows this terrain—legal, social, and political—inside and out. With that expertise, the issues at the center of the story are drawn with precision and insight, but her characters are the book’s greatest strength ... The story is anchored by two indelible outsiders who have little in common save the institution for which both work and their prickly personas. Stacey Abrams’s thriller is an intricate one with a diverse supporting cast of allies and adversaries and a Russian nesting doll of legal maneuvering, politics and technological intrigue. Much of it is riveting. There are also subplots and clever details strewn like Easter eggs throughout. Somewhere in the middle, the plot starts to feel overstuffed, and the myriad of moving parts slow forward momentum. But...there’s something deliciously rewarding about a thriller that realistically and unflinchingly reckons with how a young Black woman like Avery Keene gets treated when she answers the call to serve.
Avery Keene is a stron[g] protagonist who’s multifaceted and holds our sympathies throughout ... Secondary characters are somewhat hit and miss. Authority figures such as FBI agent Lee and Homeland Security nemesis Major Vance are flat and predictable, and biotech executives Indira Srinivasan and Nigel Cooper could have been developed more confidently than they were. At the same time, the author’s experience writing romances has leaked into the story through the characters of Jared Wynn, an obvious love interest, and Avery’s circle of friends who pitch in and help solve the mystery. Her writing style, as well, still has room to develop. The first 50 pages are heavily larded with modifiers, she tends to include too many stage directions for the movements of her characters, and she occasionally commits the beginner’s error of shifting from one point of view to another mid-scene—the dreaded sin of head-hopping. A better editing job would have helped ... A manuscript this long in incubation will naturally show inconsistencies and seams where sections have been rewritten and stitched together, and While Justice Sleeps is no exception.
... a political-legal thriller that should hold the reader rapt from its opening line to the extraordinary climactic courtroom scene that turns the plot upside down with ironic flair and utter conviction. Abrams, a former Georgia state representative who narrowly lost a run for governor last year, is as entertaining as she is erudite ... There are some lapses and inconsistencies in the novel’s construction. The episodes involving Avery’s mother seem extraneous, two violent events are overly predictable and the plot bogs down a little before picking up spectacularly for the final chapters ... Still, this is a page-turner about which the biggest mystery is: How does Abrams find the bandwidth to write and research all this while fighting with all her energy to maintain our right to vote?
... twisty good fun and a dense and, at times, over-complicated plot ... 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 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.
Unfortunately, the author doesn't weave these intriguing elements into an enjoyable whole. Abrams makes some odd word choices ... There are disorienting shifts in point of view. And Abrams lavishes a great deal of attention on details that simply don’t matter, which makes the pace painfully slow. This is a fatal flaw in a suspense novel, but it may not be the most frustrating aspect of this book. For a protagonist who has gotten where she is by being smart, Avery makes some stunningly poor decisions ... More of a curiosity for political junkies than a satisfying story of international intrigue.