Cover image for Victim's choice
Victim's choice
McClister, Michael.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
267 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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In this spectacular first novel by Michael McClister, Joe Colby is a successful TV newscaster and a recent widower. When he loses his two children to a rapist-murderer, there is little that can be done to assuage his crippling grief -- even when the man is caught and put behind bars. With an unquenchable thirst for revenge, Joe develops a crazy scheme to get at the criminal in prison.At the same time, there begins in the city a series of murders of people close to convicted killers. A double homicide takes the lives of the wives of the lawyer who defended several of the criminals and of the judge whose sentences were thought too lenient. A citywide panic begins, as others receive threats and there are more murders. A famous crime fighter is soon enlisted to try and find the person who calls himself The Avenger. The tension mounts until the climactic and utterly surprising ending.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Something strange is going on: vigilantes calling themselves "Avengers" are knocking off convicted criminals and the families of the lawyers connected to some of the cases. Meanwhile, newscaster Joe Colby finds himself torn between using his popular television show to condemn the vigilantes and taking them up on their offer to execute the man who killed his two children. When the police bring in Elmo Finn, a hotshot "consulting detective" who spouts aphorisms while solving crimes, Joe finds his life falling apart before his eyes. McClister's first novel is a corker: well constructed, genuinely surprising, an altogether satisfying mystery. He approaches the volatile subject of vigilantism from an impressively sensible point of view, leaving aside the familiar catchprases and emotional ploys in favor of shrewd, unobtrusive analysis. It's nice to see a writer who wants to create a story that's more than a sequence of plot points; nicer still to see a writer who knows how to go about it. A fine debut. --David Pitt

Publisher's Weekly Review

Unspeakable crimesÄrape, mutilation, torture, child murderÄnot only destroy the lives of their immediate victims but, often, the lives of those close to the victims. That terrible destructiveness lies at the core of this numbingly violent first novel, in which TV journalist Joe Colby, who lives in an unnamed city, is caught in a storm of vigilante justice. A pair calling themselves the Avengers begins a campaign of terrorism against the "in-justice" system that allows endless appeals and technical infractions to free the guilty, while hampering the police with inflexible laws. A crime victim himself (his two children were murdered), Joe understands the impulse of the "Savages"Äa name applied to the vengeance seekers in his crime victims' support group. And as host of the TV show Crime and Punishment, Joe has access to cops, victims, right-wing crazies and bleeding-heart liberals. Casualties mount, with the innocent and guilty alike dying. The vigilantes lose whatever sympathy they've gained, and the hunt for them becomes a hunt for sanity and a return to a system of law. McClister's plot moves along briskly, but his characters behave too erratically to remain believable. In just a few pages, Colby moves from blind rage at his children's death, to journalistic eagerness in the face of a hot story, to passionate lust for his girlfriend, leaving the reader struggling to make sense of himÄand, by extension, of the novel of which he's the hero. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This debut novel showcases a television reporter seeking revenge for the murder of his two children. Joe Colby's widely publicized claims of injustice (the case resulted in a mistrial) coincide with a series of vigilante murders aimed at correcting such injustices orchestrated by note-leaving killers known as "avengers." Colby, more than a little wacko himself, capitalizes on the murders in a series of argument-provoking television interviews on the justice system. Police detectives, the FBI, and a notorious police "consultant" then use the resultant publicity to trap the avengers. Crackling action, well-crafted characters, and suspenseful prose; for all mystery collections. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One WHERE IS A cop when you need one? I had been trying to get arrested for twenty minutes.     I had swiped at handbags and briefcases and cursed everyone going in and out of the building. I had rushed at pedestrians and flipped off two rubberneckers in an open convertible. I had pounded on the USA Today machine with both fists.     Finally I decided to hit somebody. A slender redhead was edging around me--I shoved her into the revolving door. As she fell her mouth dropped open but only a sad gurgle came out. She fumbled her bag toward me but I slapped it away with a snarl. I whirled. A dozen men, frozen in a half-circle of fear. None of them seemed to recognize me. I charged; they gave way. Cowards! A tall pear-shaped man stumbled and went down heavily. Don't croak you silly ass! I was sweatsoaked, my old workclothes clinging damply. I reversed course back toward the building. There was movement behind me, reflected in the high windows. Finally!     The first uniform was a female, too plump for her blues, her eyes hidden behind mirrored aviators that glittered in the sun. She was mouthing something, her left arm extended toward me, the other hand riding the big Beretta. As I relaxed to surrender the two studs hit me from behind.     "Stay down, asshole! Don't move!" she screamed. "Down!" The studs wrenched me into the cuffs. "Easy!" I yelled back, as if they were in on it, and they hit me again. Twenty minutes! I could have slaughtered dozens.     At Police Headquarters I refused to talk. They found nothing in my pockets. The chubby female marched me upstairs and stuck me in the Fishbowl, the holding tank with its faded pink walls from the days when soft colors were deemed to soothe savage breasts and beasts; California bullshit. The Fishbowl was empty but I knew there were eyes behind the one-way window. I sat and stood, sat and stood, shivering as the perspiration dried. My arms ached from the cuffs. Finally one of the typewriter cops summoned me with a fat finger to his desk in the squad room, which was busy this morning. When I wouldn't talk he shrugged and kept typing as if I had. The female officer, her eyes still hidden by the mirrors, read from her notebook in a bored drone. They gave me a John Doe booking for assault and public disturbance, as I expected. Eight counts.     McDade spotted me first. He was pouring coffee from one of the permanently-stained carafes on the four-burner Mr. Coffee. He looked up and caught me trying to reaffix the mustache, my hands free for a moment after fingerprinting. The wig was loose too. I could feel the gray peeking from beneath the black.     "What ... Joe! Is that you? Jesus, is that you, Joe!"     I froze. The ever-rumpled McDade hurried over as fast as homicide detectives ever hurry. He was a little roundshouldered and a little flabby, but as he moved you could see traces of linebacker. I looked down. He had me.     McDade grabbed the sheet and scanned it, then nodded the uniforms aside and steered me down the corridor toward Patterson's office, sloshing coffee all the way. Headquarters was swarming; as we sailed past the Wall of Honor, I saw most of the brass. Every voice was too loud. Two detectives recognized me and gaped in amazement. The wig was halfway off now, the mustache gone.     Without knocking, McDade pushed open the door marked Homicide Commander and waved me inside. As always, it was like stepping from noir into Technicolor. Soft glow of lamplight; polished cherry desk; green leather upholstery; watercolors on three walls. On the fourth wall were Captain Avery Patterson's diplomas and citations, grouped around a stark white-on-black placard: We Work for God. Patterson wasn't there.     McDade, breathing raggedly, unlocked the cuffs and motioned me to the hard chair. He raised and lowered the coffee mug without drinking. Then the door crashed open and Captain Avery Patterson himself swept in. Square jaw, square shoulders in tailored gray, but red-faced this morning despite the yearlong tan. He stood beside his highbacked judge's chair and skimmed the arrest sheet. McDade was behind me, close.     The Captain leaned on the desk with both fists. His furious eyes lasered into mine. The famous Look.     "Are you drunk, Joe? Or using? What the fuck's happening here?"     The hallway was quiet; I felt many ears straining.     "Joe, what the fuck? Eight assaults! Goddamn, of all days! Talk to me!"     I was oddly relaxed. "I'm not drunk, Captain. You know me."     "Do I? Do I know you, Joe?" I lowered my gaze as the Look bored in. Patterson's knuckles were white against the gleaming desktop. With an angry motion he flicked the sheet toward McDade, who caught it in the air.     "Jesus, Joe, what the fuck? You just lose it or something?"     "Yeah, I just lost it or something. I guess."     "You guess? You guess? Steve, I got to get back out there--throw him in a fucking cell." But he didn't move.     From behind me McDade said, "Joe, you wanna lawyer? You wanna exercise your constitutional rights ? Maybe you better."     "But we can't help you if you do," Patterson said, folding his arms across his chest.     I was offended. Use this on the homeboys, Captain. You can't bluff me.     "Joe, goddamnit, were you trying to get arrested?" Steve McDade asked.     I turned to look at him. "Sure. Of course."     "Of course!" Patterson snapped. "Of course! You were gonna kill him?"     I nodded, my eyes challenging his now. The detectives eyetalked the way cops do and gulped bushels of air, as if they'd been underwater. I was panting too. Patterson went to the door, jerked it open and shooed away the eavesdroppers. He closed the door gently and returned to the big desk.     "Joe, Joe," he whispered. The Look was gone now. "What were you thinking, you've been through hell, worse than hell ...."     "He stabbed Buzz twenty-one times, Captain. Twenty-one times! You didn't tell me that, Captain Patterson. You didn't tell me that, Sergeant McDade." My voice was as cold as death.     "Joe," Steve McDade said gently.     Avery Patterson eased into his highbacked chair and looked at me from far away.     "That animal raped Belle and strangled her, and when Buzz tried to save her, he stabbed him twenty-one times. Maybe she was still alive, maybe she saw it." Inside I was raging but my voice stayed steady.     "It came out at the trial, Joe."     "I didn't go to the trial! I didn't go to the goddamn trial--you know that! I depended on you guys to tell me like you said you would."     "We thought--"     "Bullshit, Captain! I've got other friends around here, I got the story. Real friends."     For a long moment all of us were silent. Then McDade said, "What made you think you could disguise yourself with a wig and a mustache and that fruitpicker's outfit and raise enough hell to get arrested, and then get locked up somewhere near Boogie Brown, who's isolated like all child molesters-- as you know, you've covered this place --then if you could get to him be able to put him down? Five ten, one sixty tops, grayheaded, forty years old--against a stone killer. Goddamn, Joe, tell us you're on something."     "I'm on something, Sergeant McDade. I'm on a mission. And Boogie Brown's not isolated twenty-four seven, I found that out. Your jail's not all that ... I could have gotten to him. When he least expected it." I locked eyes with Steve this time. "It took your crack cops twenty minutes to get there. Twenty fucking minutes." I began to tremble. Soon I was heaving, my head in my hands.     "Jesus, Joe," Patterson sighed. "What a day for this."     I heard the door open and close as Patterson left. After a moment I felt Steve McDade's hand on my shoulder. The only sound was my sobs.