Justice at Risk (Benjamin Justice Series #3)

Justice at Risk (Benjamin Justice Series #3)

by John Morgan Wilson

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A Benjamin Justice Mystery

Benjamin Justice knows a reporter is nothing without credibility. He learned the hard way when a Pulitzer was snatched from his grasp. It's been a long, hard climb to find even a fraction of the work he once had. But his fortunes are about to change: Justice has been offered the opportunity to script a documentary for public television

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A Benjamin Justice Mystery

Benjamin Justice knows a reporter is nothing without credibility. He learned the hard way when a Pulitzer was snatched from his grasp. It's been a long, hard climb to find even a fraction of the work he once had. But his fortunes are about to change: Justice has been offered the opportunity to script a documentary for public television.

Only after he accepts the job does he learn a crucial piece of information: The man who had the assignment before him has disappeared, leaving behind his trashed motel room-and a spattering of blood. As Justice delves into his predecessor's notes and follows his tracks, he enters a world of pleasure and peril-and deadly secrets. And soon it will not be his reputation Justice must protect...but his very life.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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 extremes--but 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. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
...John Morgan Wilson's third installment in his justice mystery series has an elaborate maze of characters, none of the usual suspects are present. A mystery in drag is what Wilson has managed to create.
Kirkus Reviews
So what if the electronic media are driving Benjamin Justice's old newspaper colleagues to compromise and bankruptcy? Justice, the disgraced Los Angeles Times reporter who had to give back his Pulitzer, is drawing a paycheck again. Television producer Cecile Chang has hired him to replace floundering videotape editor Tommy Callahan as the writer of a segment of her AIDS series for PBS. But the whiff of mortality, never far from Justice's first two cases (Revision of Justice, 1998, etc.), fills the airwaves. Tommy Callahan is found tortured and tossed into a shallow grave; the documentary Justice has inherited from him on unprotected gay sex can't help reminding Justice of all the friends he's lost before turning 40; even the two men he's met come with warnings prominently displayed. Oree Joffriend, UCLA anthropology prof, a great interview source, seems unnervingly wary, and Peter Graff, the straight young associate producer Justice effortlessly seduces, is still loyal to his girlfriend. When Melissa Zeigler, a second murder victim's fiancé, links the crimes to an ancient gay-bashing by the LAPD, Justice knows he's treading on thin ice. But he can't imagine the frightful toll his investigation of AIDS will end up taking on him and the people he loves most. Justice is as infuriatingly oracular as ever, but Wilson handles the complex, ambitious plot with resonance and maturity even as he hits the obligatory emotional high spots.

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Product Details

Bold Strokes Books
Publication date:
Benjamin Justice Series, #3
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Meet the Author

John Morgan Wilson's first Benjamin Justice mystery, Simple Justice, won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel and was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. The second, Revision of Justice, was also nominated for a Lambda Literary Award. Wilson lives in West Hollywood, California, where he is now at work on the fourth Justice novel.

From the Hardcover edition.

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