Customer Reviews: Justice For None: A Novel
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars16
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on May 29, 2004
In their first foray into the realm of fiction, Gene Hackman and Daniel Lenihan created "Wake of the Perdido Star", a novel that I believed to be one of the best seafaring novels of recent memory. It made me very eager for future efforts from this tandem. While it has been several years, the wait was well worth it. Their sophomore effort, "Justice for None", is a dramatic departure from their first work, but is a very enjoyable read.
I was frankly quite surprised that Mr. Hackman and Mr. Lenihan would release a novel that is of an entirely different subject and historical era from their first one. It is something that, I believe, most authors have not pulled off well, and in doing so, have alienated much of their fan base. However, Mr. Hackman and Mr. Lenihan proved to be the exception to this pattern.
"Justice for None" is set in the small Illinois town of Vermilion on the eve of the Great Depression. The story involves Boyd Calvin, a struggling World War I veteran who gets caught up in the murder of his estranged wife, which leads to a pair of runs from justice before a climactic trial to prove his innocence.
The Boyd Calvin character is developed very well, and proves to be an interesting focal point for this story. The authors created someone who elicits in the reader an internal conflict. On the one hand, he is a sympathetic character as he struggles with his dark history in the war, the reconciliation with his wife, and his fight against a justice system in which the odds are wholly against him. On the other, he is almost repulsive, as he consistently resists authority and pushes away those who are trying their hardest to help him. This character development works very well, and is somewhat rare to find in these types of stories. It holds your interest and keeps you locked into the plot.
The plot itself is also intriguing, though it is perhaps more of a part of a broader view of this pre-Depression, Midwest society. It seems almost underdeveloped in some places, and was less of a driver in advancing the story. Rather, it supplemented the character elements and external events, such as the impending stock market crash, race relations, and small town life. While this would seemingly be a liability, Mr. Hackman and Mr. Lenihan made it work. The prose is descriptive yet sparse, which paints a very vivid picture, keeps the reader interested, and also serves to drive the plot at a rapid pace.
I also give credit to Mr. Hackman and Mr. Lenihan for the story development. Novels like this usually have a pretty standard ending that the reader knows at the outset. So, there is usually a "surprise" ending, which sometimes works but more often is picked up by the attentive reader well in advance. In "Justice for None", the authors somehow developed a storyline that was unexpected in terms of how the climactic moment would unfold. Then on top of that, they advanced the story to a wholly satisfying conclusion that had an element of surprise that was also not anticipated. What made the ending so good is that while it was a surprise, it was also rather subdued, which actually served to emphasize the impact even more.
So often in reviews - my own included - there is the tendency to rate something in comparison to the authors' previous work. I tried very diligently to avoid doing so here, because of the stark difference between "Justice for None" and "Wake of the Perdido Star". If I were to rate this based on a comparison, I probably would rate this as 4 stars. However, taken as a stand-alone novel - which is more fair and representative of the work - it does merit a rating of a full 5 stars.
Once again, the work of Mr. Hackman and Mr. Lenihan has apppealed to me as a reader, and I am once again looking forward to their next work. Hopefully, it will not be as long a wait, but I am eager to find out what they come up with next.
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on August 31, 2004
I won't go into the storyline - you can read about that above. Just one thing: Don't listen to the critics. This is truely a good book.

I'm very glad I bought it and I'm also sure I'll enjoy a second read. If you like thrillers, adventure stories with solid characters, I suggest you read both the authors' books. All the talk about too many cliches, wobbling storyline - foget about it. Just read it. You won't be disappointed. Promised.
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on June 24, 2004
The atmosphere the authors created swept me back in time to the places and experiences of my youth in Illinois. Justice for None vividly and accurately describes post-World War I Mid-America and combines it with suspense to make a powerful novel. I was totally absorbed by this book and enjoyed it thoroughly.
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on March 1, 2016
I was eager to find out what kind of writer Gene Hackman would be and I was not disappointed. I am used to more action packed thrillers. This book, was more along the lines of Stephen King's novel "11/22/63": a look at someone within a well developed period of history. It was, in many ways, very visual---almost as if Gene Hackman were writing something very adaptable to film. I plan to read more of his books.
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on March 23, 2015
A great tale/whodunit… Two unlikely jail-birds, Calvin (a tormented WWI vet accused of a double murder) and George (a rural black-man accused of rape) find themselves thrown together temporarily and their exploits and friendship shapes much of the main portion of the book as things increasingly spin out of control. Both have allies, but in the end they must separately combat the personalities who condemned them. The plot has many twists and turns, many of which left me wondering “now, how are they going to get out of that?” Good word depictions of the place and era – dirt poor, down on their luck, life in prohibition and no air-conditioning; and through all of that the authors keep the action coming – not an intellectual masterpiece, but an emotionally serious page turner.
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on March 17, 2016
I wish Gene Hackman would write more books. I have also read a western he wrote called "Payback At Morning Peak" which was excellent. Justice for None is a suspenceful story that will keep you reading to the end. I couldn't put it down because I wanted to get to the end to see how it came out.
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on May 25, 2013
In Justice for None, Calvin Boyd is a World War 1 combat veteran with a decorated past who settles into Illinois just prior to the Great Depression. Calvin is accused of killing his estranged wife, and immediately goes on the run, seeing how the deck is stacked against him in the legal system. Calvin has people on his side who are trying to help him but he always does his best to thrust these people away from him, often becoming his own worst enemy in the process.
The plot is pretty basic and straight forward. There is nothing exceptional about it. I think the best aspect of the novel in terms of the writing was the strong depiction of the setting. The authors do a nice job of setting the mood for both the area of the country and the time-period. The setting also creates the appropriate mood for the story. Calvin Boyd is a fairly likeable character, even though his actions are a bit destructive. Justice For None is a solid but unspectacular read, one that will entertain but not one that is particularly profound.
Carl Alves - author of Blood Street
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on April 6, 2006
Having grown up in a small southern Indiana town near the Illinois border, the book evoked strong images of scenes and people I knew in my childhood. The authors managed to avoid the usual stereotypes and gave us a surprise ending, proving their skill at creating characters who seemed like real human beings. Boyd reminded me of some clients I've known who were their own worst enemies, yet a strong sense of justice guided the proceedings despite his character flaws. I also enjoyed the development of the story lines involving WWI and stock market crash from the seldom-seen perspective of middle America.
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I found "Justice for None" to be a very enjoyable read. It crackles with realism--the reader is transported back to the bad old days of the late 1920s, when prosperity was for the few, and hard work and hard luck was the lot of most Americans.
Against the backdrop of the looming and imminent Great Depression this story takes place. The protagonist is a World War One hero, who is also a hard-luck case. Rather than being rewarded and recognized for his heroism in Europe, he is scarred by his wartime suffering, and his marriage does not survive the strain. When someone murders his estranged wife, he is the suspect, and then a fugitive.
The eventual courtroom scenario, as it plays out in the novel, is the story's climax and also involves the best writing in the novel. Further, it seemed to me (I am a trial attorney) that the authors did an exceptionally good job of showing the reason for some of our procedural safeguards in court that protect defendants. The absence of these safeguards in this 1929 trial work to the very great, and unfair, disadvantage of the protagonist. I thought that the authors did an exceptional job of bringing this out, and the trial has a gritty feel of realism, right down to the incident (no real spoiler here) in which the defense attorney realizes that his client has not been entirely truthful or candid with him. There, as in real life, this is a potentially fatal mistake.
The ending surprised me a bit, and the authors do a good job of tying up the loose ends in the story, making for a startling conclusion to a satisfying read.
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on July 26, 2013
Love Wake of the Perdido Star! The adventures, the excitement, the characters, the humor! I traveled through the dangers of Cape Horn, experienced angry storms at sea and got shipwrecked on a deserted isle! I'm exhausted! I met and fell in love with some of the most interesting characters and miss them already! This excellent book begs for a sequel!
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