Journalist Julie K. Brown recounts her groundbreaking Miami Herald investigation into the sex-trafficking operation of Jeffrey Epstein and the broken justice system that almost let him get away with it.
Many journalists write books expanding stories they’ve covered, but one thing Brown does differently is show her methods. A basic rule of reporting is to keep yourself out of the story, but here her description of both the hard work of investigation and the perilous current state of newspapers adds an important dimension to the story ... Perversion of Justice does not explode any new bombshells about the Epstein case; what it does is put all of it together, revealing its scale and its appalling nature.
The story of how Brown produced this exposé is at times gripping ... At its best, Perversion of Justice courses with Brown’s adrenaline. Brown deftly reconstructs the scenes involving Epstein’s victims and allows these young women—some seemingly made stronger by their ordeals, others still quaking from the terrors they endured—to speak at length and in searing, at times graphic, detail ... The women’s haunting voices echo off the page; their narratives are devastating ... Elsewhere, however, Brown falters. She weaves her personal stories into the narration of her Epstein reporting, and the crisscrossing timelines sometimes get tangled into confusing knots. She swerves between disarming candor and eyeroll-inducing cliché ... Brown awkwardly airs grievances with her editor and other Herald colleagues ...The effect is jarring, like watching someone bad-mouth a person who is standing right behind her. Readers hoping for answers to the many questions that continue to swirl around Epstein will be disappointed ... We are often left instead with insinuations. Brown litters her prose with passive verbs and carefully placed adverbs that give her room to imply cause and effect without proving it. This is the type of writing that I doubt would have survived The Herald’s editing and vetting processes ... I found myself wondering what other incorrect assumptions Brown made and that I had glided past, oblivious. None of this detracts from the magnitude of Brown’s original accomplishment.
Though the emphasis is on Epstein’s crimes, the fallout for his victims, and the disgrace of a two-tier justice system, Brown interweaves it with her own experience as an underpaid, overworked reporter in the sadly dying profession of local journalism. These two stories are sometimes juxtaposed clumsily, forcing readers caught up in Epstein’s saga of perversion, excess, and privilege to suddenly segue to learning about Brown’s difficulty saving for her kids’ college tuition.Throughout, however, the account of Brown’s dogged reporting, her willingness to spend hours digging, traveling, and interviewing, even in the face of threats and stonewalls, is inspiring, and ultimately her work led to Epstein’s arrest. Brown lays out a lot about the way the world works, and much of it isn’t good. But, sometimes, when enough people stand up, justice prevails.