Review of “The Outsider” by Anthony Franze

This legal thriller was intellectually stimulating, well-paced, and sufficiently suspenseful to keep me riveted.

There are a number of underlying themes. One is a series of unsolved, ongoing murders that seem tangentially related to the Supreme Court. A second is the book The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, to which there are a number of references. The main character in this book, Grayson “Gray” Hernandez, evokes one of the protagonists of The Outsiders. And on a meta level, there is also the theme of the obvious fondness of and appreciation for the Supreme Court as an institution by the author, who shares with readers much of its culture and lore via the main characters, who work at the Court.

Statue of Contemplation of Justice by James Earle Fraser on the main steps of the Supreme Court Building

Gray, in his late twenties, graduated from a lower-tier law school, and while he loves the Court and constitutional law, he just serves as a messenger in the Court building; it was the only work he could find. He feels like an outsider there. The Supreme Court has 36 law clerks – four per justice – but they are almost all white, from affluent backgrounds, and graduates of Harvard or Yale, “or institutions that, unlike Gray’s law school, had ivy instead of graffiti on their walls.”

Gray’s luck changes however when he thwarts a murder attempt on the Chief Justice, who then asks Gray to serve on his own team as the “thirty-seventh” clerk. This is not only a fantastic opportunity for Gray to learn and contribute to Court decisions, but a great career move: “It was an internship like no other, promising young lawyers . . . a ticket to any legal job in the country. . .” Gray eagerly accepts, although his four fellow clerks aren’t quite as enthused.

The Great Hall of the Supreme Court with double rows of monolithic marble columns that rise to a coffered ceiling

Gray quickly proves his worth; he is hard-working and loves what he does, and tries to go the extra mile to compensate for his less-than-stellar academic background. The Chief Justice seems to take him under his wing too, even arranging for Gray to stay at his fabulous apartment he keeps in Georgetown, and letting him drive the fancy car he keeps there.

But Gray is a natural helper/superhero kind of guy, and one of the FBI agents working on the murders takes advantage of Gray’s desire to save everyone around him by asking for his help with the case. Eventually not only he is in great danger, but so are his two best friends – the rest of “The Outsiders” gang.

Evaluation: I really enjoyed this book, even though the references to famous Supreme Court cases that served as “clues” might be obvious to anyone who has studied constitutional law. And the insights into what goes on inside the Court on a day-to-day basis were very interesting. (The author is a lawyer in the Appellate and Supreme Court practice of a prominent Washington, D.C. law firm.) Gray is a great character – very smart and brave, but human enough to do some really dumb things.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Minotaur Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, a division of Macmillan Publishers, 2017

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4 Responses to Review of “The Outsider” by Anthony Franze

  1. I do like legal thrillers. This looks good.

  2. BermudaOnion says:

    I like legal thrillers and love that it references The Outsiders.

  3. Rita K says:

    Going to read this when I get home! Thanks, Jill, for telling me about.

  4. Beth F says:

    Oh this looks good. I somehow missed it. I love reading about the Supreme Court. Adding to the ever-growing list.

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