Cover image for Justice at risk : a Benjamin Justice mystery
Justice at risk : a Benjamin Justice mystery
Wilson, John Morgan, 1945-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Doubleday, 1999.
Physical Description:
293 pages ; 25 cm
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The latest dark and dangerous episode in John Morgan Wilson's award-winning series. Benjamin Justice, once a celebrated journalist, then discredited and disowned by his profession, has just turned forty, and surprisingly, things are looking up. He's started to get a few writing assignments, he's stopped drinking and started working out, and he's just been introduced to a whole new career. However, as Justice would be the first to suggest, now is the time to watch out for the sucker punch. Hired to write one of the most sensitive and controversial episodes in a documentary television series on AIDS, Justice falls into instant lust for his associate producer, an Adonis-like straight young man half his age. Together they go off in search of the episode's producer, who has not been seen or heard from in almost a week. When they arrive at his motel, he's still not to be found, but the room has been trashed, and there's blood on the mattress. The violence is soon linked to a fifteen-year-old bias crime, a corrupt and powerful police official, and a dangerously twisted member of the gay underworld who provides the connection between past and present. In his search for the truth, Justice is lured into an amoral and desperate world where one false move can result in mortal consequences that cannot be reversed. Justice at Riskis Wilson's darkest, most complex, and most disturbing novel to date. Not to be missed, it is a book that provides an illuminating window onto a scary place that will leave readers shaken, sobered, and much wiser.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Redmann's Mickey Knight series just gets better. In the lesbian PI's fourth outing, she takes on a number of cases involving lost children and mothers, such as those of a child given away for adoption many years ago, a teen banished from her home because she dared to love women, and Mickey's own mother, who abandoned her when she was only five. Unfortunately, the correlation between Mickey's new workload and a series of mutilation-slayings of lesbian women is growing. As the complications and bodies pile up, Mickey tries to get the truth from a suspicious, closeted, wealthy socialite only to stumble upon an extraordinary fresh corpse as the serial killer steps up his pace, coming ever closer to Mickey herself. Besides a nifty, nicely convoluted plot of twisted revenge, Redmann gives us greater understanding and appreciation of Mickey by bringing up her early days as a bastard bayou brat raised by an uncle and his hostile wife. For finely delineated characters, unerring timing, and page-turning action, Redmann deserves the widest possible audience. The Benjamin Justice mystery, like its series predecessors, is set in L.A., where Justice's once-rising star as a Pulitzer Prize^-winning journalist plummeted when he had to return the award because others discovered he had embellished and falsified details in a series on AIDS. Darker than its predecessors, Justice at Risk probes its flawed hero's scarred psyche the most deeply, even as it uncovers and examines festering wounds and secrets within the LAPD, some of them dating back before the Rodney King beating exposed the racist, homophobic brutality tolerated under the infamous Darryl Gates. At 40, Justice has stopped drinking and resumed writing. When a job scripting a controversial TV documentary comes his way, he has a shot at a second career--if only he would quit investigating the torture-death of the previous writer. He doesn't, of course. Wilson explores wealth, power, and corruption in considerable depth and concludes Justice's third caper with a cliffhanger that will have fans lining up for the next. --Whitney Scott

Publisher's Weekly Review

A recovering alcoholic and disgraced journalist (for faking a story that won a Pulitzer), Benjamin Justice (Revision of Justice), who's just turned 40, doesn't enjoy the brightest prospects. But now his good friend Alexandra Templeton, a fast-rising reporter at the Los Angeles Sun, is offering to introduce him to a handsome UCLA anthropology professor, Oree Joffrien. When Joffrien, in turn, offers to introduce Justice to his close friend, documentary film producer Cecile Chang in order to work on the script for a series about AIDS, the ever-skeptical Justice refuses to leap at the chance. As soon as he meets "Adonis like" associate producer Peter Graff, however, he decides to sign on. Graff has been working on his own for nearly a week, because the series' director, Tom Callahan, has disappeared without a word. The impending production deadline prompts Justice and Graff to search for Callahan. They find the director's apartment abandoned, with traces of blood and signs of a struggle in the bedroom. The next day, Callahan's body turns up severely mutilated in an area of L.A. known for homosexual cruising. At first glance, the killing looks like another case of homophobia taken to horrific extremesÄbut what about the puzzling connection between Callahan's murder and the death of another documentary filmmaker, Brian Mittelman? The two murders are soon linked to a police cover-up involving a brutality case that predates the infamous Rodney King incident, and Justice finds himself entangled in a web of political corruption that reaches into the gay S&M underworld (the novel crescendos with gruesome scenes of sex and violence). A startlingly complex and refreshingly sophisticated mystery, Wilson's third book tackles real-life issues with just the right combination of urbanity and hard-boiled sleuthing. Agent, Alice Martell. (July.) FYI: Simple Justice, which began this series, won the 1997 Edgar for Best First Novel. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



I've heard that turning forty is the hardest passage for men. It's such a clear demarcation point in the average male life span--youth gone, middle age looming, physical powers and youthful passion waning, dreams unrealized and starting to feel dishearteningly elusive, while the reality and finality of death begin to insinuate themselves on the consciousness now that the years seem to pass so much more swiftly. Perhaps that's why so many men attempt such desperate transformations as they pass through their forties: dumping mates, leaving families, changing careers, consuming more and more alcohol to numb the fear, as the suffocation of routine and the shock of shattered illusions leave them trembling deep inside where we men keep our private truths so well hidden. My fortieth year was not like that. Most of my close friends were gone by then, having died suddenly or faded miserably away beginning in the early eighties, many of them well before their fortieth birthdays. This wholesale loss of friends, and the rapid succession of funerals and memorials that followed, is something men and women are supposed to experience piecemeal over several decades as they grow older, with enough healing time in between to allow for genuine grieving when the next death notice comes. Yet more and more in my world, it was the lucky survivors who buried the young, with numbing regularity, as in a long war. My landlords, Maurice and Fred, together now for almost five decades, were among those who attended selflessly to the dying and the dead. I stood dutifully if more aloofly beside them, saluting the fallen long after my tears were spent, until I lost Jacques, the one who mattered most to me, and the tears came back in a torrent, erupting from somewhere within me I previously had no knowledge of, with such wild force I was left shaken to my soul. My shameful reaction was to write a fictitious series of newspaper articles about a young man dying, cared for by his lover, but changing enough of the cold, harsh facts to create a warm fantasy I foolishly felt I might live with. I wrote with such desperate guilt that many people were moved by the articles, by their strange power, and a great prize was awarded to me that I was later forced to return when my pathetic act of fraud was exposed. After that, I shut myself away, hiding from the plague that had consumed us both in different ways, burying the pain, embracing denial like a sedative, and seriously afraid I would go mad if I attempted to participate in a world that went merrily about its business while so many suffered so horribly and died so young. Then, after several years, I was turning forty. Why I had survived--uninfected by the virus, no less--was something unanswerable, as impenetrable as the notion of fate. To a generation of men like me, the age of forty was an unexpected threshold, and the possibility of reaching fifty a near miracle. It came upon us like a burst of sunlight illuminating a path in a dark forest where we had become utterly lost, never expecting to emerge. I realize this may sound overly dramatic, needlessly exaggerated, to those who were not directly involved in the plague that swept my particular community. I realize also that many people are simply tired of hearing about it. I cannot help that. It was a terrible, terrible time. So I turned forty, with life ahead, but without the usual markers behind me. I had no career to change; to even think in those terms was laughable. I had no real family to abandon, only the faint outlines of one, made up of others, like myself, who had no close families in the traditional sense. There was no central relationship in my life; I had made sure of that by falling safely in love with the most improbable partners, or those for whom death was imminent, a guarantee the union would be brief, the loss expected, preordained. I was nearly without possessions, certainly without goals or dreams. The millennium was quickly approaching, with its own inevitable momentum and change, reminding me that forty was merely a number without much meaning in the great scheme of things. In an odd way, with such a messy life behind me, turning forty felt like the end of a long, troubled childhood, and the brink of a bright adventure. It was a milestone that marked the end of the long crisis, a time for celebration, renewal. Maurice and Fred wanted to throw a little party--Maurice, of course, never forgot a birthday or an anniversary, and loved nothing better than the gathering of friends. The idea was to invite Harry Brofsky, who had once been my editor at the Los Angeles Times and had managed to forgive my journalistic transgressions, even though they had nearly destroyed his own career; Alexandra Templeton, a young reporter at the less respected Los Angeles Sun, where Harry now worked as her editor, and with whom I had become friends; and one or two others whom I saw from time to time. Predictably, I begged off, finding arranged social gatherings not just awkward, but almost unbearable. So Maurice and Fred climbed the old wooden stairs to the small apartment over the garage that I called home, and invited me down to the house for dinner. We celebrated afterward with a delicious sponge cake Maurice had baked that afternoon, frosted white and decorated with colored sprinkles, and festooned with a single tiny candle. Maurice led the way, and we took our plates out to the front porch, where we sat in the swing in the peace of the early autumn evening, looking out on Norma Place as our West Hollywood neighbors passed in the twilight, with the dog and the two cats curled up at our feet or in our laps. That was how I quietly entered my forties, and began a year in which two men, each improbably beautiful and appealing in his own way, would come into my life and turn it in a profoundly new direction, while the cold shadow of violence returned, darkening my existence as it never had before. Excerpted from Justice at Risk: A Benjamin Justice Mystery by John Morgan Wilson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.