Write What You Know: Tryhards, Grifters, Frauds Star in Stacey Abrams's Crime Novel

REVIEW: 'Rogue Justice: A Thriller' by Stacey Abrams

July 1, 2023

We're never getting rid of Stacey Abrams. The celebrity Democrat from Georgia—best known for denying the results of the 2018 gubernatorial election and losing again in 2022 by a margin (7.5 percentage points) too big to deny—is all but certain to run again in the near future.

Why wouldn't she? Liberal donors seem eager to keep giving her tens of millions of dollars to lose elections while enriching herself and her friends. There are few things Abrams's core supporters (rich white liberals) love more than hearing a black woman complain about racism and so-called voter suppression.

Until then, Abrams must content herself with raising money for her shady nonprofits, working for a dark money activist group lobbying to ban gan stoves, and going on MSNBC to talk about her new crime novel.

Rogue Justice: A Thriller is the second installment in a series starring the thoroughly obnoxious and improbable protagonist Avery Keene. The first installment, While Justice Sleeps: A Thriller, topped the New York Times bestseller list upon its release in May 2021. Several weeks earlier, Abrams helped engineer a corporate boycott of her own state that prompted Major League Baseball to move its All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver after Georgia enacted an election reform bill critics denounced as "voter suppression." NBCUniversal, the same company that paid Chelsea Clinton $600,000 a year for "journalism," immediately bought the television rights.

Your humble reviewer quickly realized that reading While Justice Sleeps would give him a better sense of whatever the hell is going on in Rogue Justice. For instance: How (and why) did the president of the United States commit "treason, murder, and genocide," and why is he still in office? In any event, it wasn't worth it. Abrams the politician is a cartoonishly corrupt charlatan. Abrams the author is a massive nerd with a fondness for bureaucratic acronyms and tedious exposition that made your humble reviewer long for the resplendent prose stylings of former FBI director James Comey.

Some liberal politicians and their supporters are easily caricatured as overly credentialed homework lovers who think all the world's problems could be solved through diligent research and expert analysis. Barack Obama, Pete Buttigieg, and Elizabeth Warren come to mind. Avery Keene is a caricature of this caricature. The preternatural genius started making money in middle school by "completing homework for overprivileged, lazy kids." She overcame her father's death and mother's addiction to graduate from Spelman College and Yale Law. (Abrams's alma maters, natch.)

In Rogue Justice, Avery is a 28-year-old Supreme Court clerk who excels at "copious and obnoxiously thorough research." Puzzles are her "happy place." She uses her "once-in-a-generation mind" and "eidetic memory" to uncover international criminal conspiracies and occasionally to win huge sums at blackjack that are "duly reported on her taxes." Avery is a notorious figure now, having exposed the genocidal traitor, President Brandon Stokes, who is obviously a Republican. Nevertheless, she is concerned that her heroic exploits have ruined her career prospects. (Some context: Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, a bureaucrat no one had heard of until he testified against former president Donald Trump, was a guest on practically every talk show and starred in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.)

The hero is called into action once again when a federal court clerk in South Dakota stumbles upon a deadly conspiracy and (naturally) seeks out Keene, whom he has never met, for advice. He is gunned down on the streets of Washington, D.C., moments later. Homework assignment in hand, Avery embarks on a thrilling campaign of "copious and obnoxiously thorough research" to uncover the global conspiracy and the mastermind behind it. Indeed, most of the book's plot unfolds via Avery explaining her findings to various groups of supporting characters, from her "military-trained security expert" boyfriend to the entire U.S. intelligence community.

Avery must utilize her genius brain to figure out how FISC, FERC, NERC, OLEC, ERCOT, MISO, and the Feres Doctrine fit together in a mysterious scheme to wreak havoc on the United States for motives that remain unclear. The (confoundingly improbable) answer raises a number of annoying questions, such as, "WTF?" and "What if the villain is actually good (despite murdering innocent people), and the real bad guys are the racist Republicans?"

There's a #MeToo angle, obviously. Cryptocurrency makes an appearance, as does an ex-Mossad assassin Avery manages to subdue after watching some YouTube videos about judo locks and choke-hold escapes. She really is amazing. While conducting her research to save the world, Avery also finds the time to finish an actual homework assignment on ransomware for the chief justice of the Supreme Court and checks in on a friend she rescued from the throes of addiction.

Rogue Justice is a must-read for anyone interested in detailed explanations of the U.S. power grid and surveillance court system. Readers who enjoy characters who act "assiduously" and speak "sardonically" will be similarly thrilled. Observers of Stacey Abrams will be intrigued by the author's voluminous knowledge of tax havens and non-extradition countries. The book depicts a political world in which everyone is obsessed with money and luxury. Bribes are offered and accepted, earmarks deployed to rig elections, favors called in to get dumb relatives into exclusive universities, jealousy vented about former colleagues making higher salaries. Notwithstanding the impeccable protagonist, Rogue Justice is awash with shameless grifters trying to move up in the world and make their bag.

Write what you know.

Rogue Justice: A Thriller
by Stacey Abrams
Doubleday, 368 pp., $29