51 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2000
Since starting law school, and continuing into being a clerk for a state supreme court, novels have become the occupation of the last ten minutes of my night, after I've become exhausted enough to stop what I was doing and drag my corpus to bed and before my eyelids slam down mid-sentence. The Tenth Justice, however, caused me to neglect friends and loved ones during my scarce 'free' time until it was finished, within two days. This book certainly scores as a page-turner.
The Tenth Justice's other claim to worthiness is its premise. First, it exposes the tremendous degree of influence judicial clerks, most fresh from law school, have over the written, precedential product of the high courts. Second, the book examines how easily someone could lulled into a false sense of security by feeling 'behind the scenes' and out of the public eye. That the primary work of opinion writing is done by clerks, with experienced judges acting mainly as watchful editors and mentors, is true of some chambers. The naive sense of invisibility and harmlessness one sometimes feels as a clerk is also not far off. That the protagonist clerks write U.S. Supreme Court opinions that sail by their Justice with hardly a changed word and that a clerk might give away the outcome of a major case at a first meeting are both sheer hyperbole. They are not so far out of the question, however, as to be beyond suspending my disbelief.
On the other hand, the quality of the writing probably says more about why Meltzer is writing page-turners, not being a clerk or a practicing lawyer himself. The clerks, alone in their office, frequently launch into tedious diatribes about the most basic elements of legal process; they constantly play the "designated idiot" where one character asks a stupid question solely so that the other can explain something to the reader. This is truly implausible coming from characters we presume to be the smartest that American legal academia can produce. The dialogue between friends is sophomoric, and the non-lawyer supporting cast collectively have an absurd, almost Bond-ian gadget portfolio. In addition, the book delivers no insight into the Supreme Court; not once does is the reader privy to a conversation with a Justice and the clerks apparently see their boss little more. I cannot imagine this book was the product of much research into the actual workings of the Court. Beyond the clever initial premise, I found the The Tenth Justice to be a mediocre but voraciously digested and entertaining read.
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
I admit it. I only finished this stupid novel because it was a gift from someone who knows I love police procedurals and legal thrillers. It seemed disrespectful to the giver and to the author for me to walk to the trash can and fling this book into the rotting leftovers of last night's enchiladas and rice when I was only on the 100th page. I also kept thinking, "This is a long book. It absolutely has got to get better!" Boy was I dumb. It didn't.
This is a most definitely NOT a "legal thriller." You will find no plaintiffs or defendents, no prosecuting or defense attorneys, no testimony or cross examinations, witnesses, juries or even any courtroom scenes. And you will definitely find absolutely NO thrills. It's not about the law. It's about five 20-somethings behaving badly. Its premise suggests that Ben, the supposedly brilliant protaganist (a Supreme Court clerk. Legal ... get it?) believes that he can fix an extremely stupid ethical lapse with still more ethical lapses. And his friends all go along with it. If they can just manage all this unethical behavior properly, they'll get away with it which will, of course, make it all OK!
The characters are drawn with almost no depth and then they get shallower. I defy anyone to care one whit about whiny, self-centered Ben by page 200. I just wanted to slap him silly, fire his sorry butt, throw the book in with the enchiladas and go watch a rerun of "Law And Order."
The editing stopped completely on about the 200th page. The thing just goes on and on and on while these five childish, self-absorbed and morally challenged "adults" have endless repetitive conversations in which they are being oh-so-witty, or they are screaming at one another. You can always tell when they are upset too, because the author gives us LOTS OF CAPITALIZATION TO SHOW THEY ARE ANGRY OR UPSET. Email-speak, no doubt.
There are moments when the writing rises above repetitive and uninspired, but not many. Just about the time I thought the story couldn't get any dumber, the author threw in some stupid "plot twist" which, I am sure, was intended to make this a page-turner. All the plot twists did, however, is show complete disrespect for the readers. Consider yourself warned: Really Bad Book
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2001
My fascination with legal novels over the years led me
to trying Brad Meltzer's "The Tenth Justice".
This is the stuff of "Best Sellers"? After slogging
through several chapters of the prattle of
self-aggrandizing juveniles who are supposedly the
brilliant clerks of Supreme Court justices and other
brainy yuppie-types I said to myself "Surely this
gets better." Wrong. How many times can we read
"Don't you trust me?" ...or "That was stupid of me."?
I can only hope that this effort was written as
Meltzer's spoof of the legal novel genre that has
gained such great popularity. If so, he has done so
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 2001
If Ben Addison is representative of Supreme Court clerks, our legal system is in deep trouble. I'm not referring to the slip of the tongue in revealing a court decision, which, after all, is the key to the story and not an implausible one for a new employee. Rather, the immature way he and his adolescent-mentality friends try to deal with the situation does not square with the intelligence and savvy one expects from a top notch law student (the only types who get to work on the Court).
Meltzer's character development and dialogue are no deeper than that of the sitcom "Friends," where perhaps he got his inspiration. The characters are shallow, dim bulbs. Moreover, Meltzer is totally clueless about the State Department's role which does not include investigations of threats to US citizens. Hello, Mr. Meltzer, the State Department is involved in FOREIGN POLICY! At least, he knows the Supreme Court has something to do with the law.
But the plot does have its moments, hence the two stars. The fictional court decisions are interesting. Too bad they aren't well developed. And why doesn't the Justice for whom Ben and Lisa work not make an appearance early on? He might have lent some gravitas to a book that makes a "Seinfeld" episode an intellectual challenge by comparison.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2001
"The Tenth Justice" is a very good first book. The pros: Meltzer weaves an interesting and reasonably believable plot from an inspired premise. His characterisation and dialogue are very good, and he has a fantastic sense of humour. Some of the exchanges and one-liners will make you laugh out loud. Most importantly -- he knows what he's writing about, and this comes through clearly.
The cons: There are a few major twists and turns that stretch credulity (unfortunately, they can't be mentioned without spoiling the book). In parts, the editing has been scrappy: some of the dialogue gets repetitious and bits could have been cut. If you are a legal insider, you'd know that the first rule of being a Justice's clerk makes parts of the book's premise a little unlikely -- but Meltzer knows enough real-life law to work around this. And the hero tends to be a little too super-human -- a flaw Meltzer shares with Grisham.
However, these criticisms are more snipey than structural. All in all, the book is an excellent first effort and is well worth reading. It's much better than Grisham's recent offerings.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on July 4, 2000
This book was given to me as a gift by a friend who had taken quite a bit of time to select "the perfect read". Thus, I felt somewhat obligated to finish the book. If it were not for that, I would have put it down after the first 30 pages. The plot seemed contrived and implausible. The characters were not very well developed, with the sole exception of the protagonist (whom I found to be naive, selfish, spoiled and self-destructively impulsive). The dialogue was at times witty, at other times downright annoying. I was especially bothered by the repeated use throughout the book, by almost all the characters, of the comeback: "Funny!" or "You're so funny!" or "That's not funny!" However, in all fairness to the author, while I fault him for a lack of craft, I have to compliment him on his clear and crisp use of the English language.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 1997
Echoing many remarks below, POOR, REALLY POOR, PITIFUL DIALOGUE. Where is the editor-type, anyway?
'Da boys are meeting to review law school yearbooks to look for the villain's picture (because they have a hunch he went to law school, and a further hunch, because he's "really smart," that he went to one of the top five law schools), when their pizza arrives. According to Meltzer, 'da boys "turned their attention to the pizza." I laughed so hard I almost spat up mine.
If getting a book out is this easy, maybe I should start over, go to law school again, and write a novel rather than take the bar. Yeah, that's the ticket.
I found myself finishing this book only because I felt guilty about wasting 25 bucks on it.
Want real legal suspense? Read _A Civil Action_ by Jonathan Harr. Now that's a page-turner that you'll WANT to read all the way through.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 1998
I should have known from the glowing quotes from People, but Supreme Court novels are always interesting. Except this one. I did read it to the end just to see if there was <i>anything</i> at all in it to justify my $6, but there wasn't.
The story idea has some merit, but once one gets past "clerk for supreme court justice blackmailed for advance information on rulings" there is simply nothing there. Except for some poorly written sex scenes, and endless and mindless "roommate" dialog undoubtedly inspired by, but nowhere near even the minimal standards of, Friends, all that is left is some "inside" information about the workings of the Supreme Court of the United States and some of that is wrong.
Meltzer should write a book on how to make money by getting absolute drivel into print. That's about the only book with his name on it that I would buy, again.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2005
This book was bad to say the least. You have a supreme court law clerk who is supposed to be amongst the brightest minds in the nation falling for a trick that a ten year old would see through. The dialogue of this book is tedious and mechanical.
Every step of the book I knew or had a hunch for what was going to happen next. At no time did I ever feel any kind of intrigue or suspense. Maybe it was because I could not care less what happened to any of the characters.
Basic plot: Moron law clerk gets tricked into revealing a pending supreme court decision. He gets black mailed by the same guy into having to reveal even more decisions. The clerk assembles the Mickey Mouse club and tries to catch the master criminal before he has to reveal another decision.
I have really limited resources to books right now. I tend to read anything I get my hands on. After this one I will have to rethink that policy
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 1998
I enjoy a good legal thriller, and I'm a former judicial law clerk (for the US Court of Appeals, not the Supreme Court), so when I heard there was a new legal thriller coming out with a Supreme Court judicial clerk as the protagonist, I was intrigued. I bought the book the first week it hit the shelves.
I cannot possibly over-state my disappointment with this book. To begin with, the writing style is atrocious. Meltzer doesn't even begin to grasp such concepts as mood, setting, or character development. His prose consists of relentless dialogue, for pages on end, with little or no descriptive narration. There's a reason no-one else writes like this -- it really grates on the reader's nerves.
I have to give Meltzer credit for coming up with an interesting plot. It kept me reading to the end, even though the turgid dialogue nearly made me give up on several occasions. But even here, The Tenth Justice lacked the realism and detail that makes a great legal drama. I had hoped the book would provide an interesting inside look at the Supreme Court. But there is no authenticity to be found here. It's almost as if Meltzer didn't do any research at all, simply making up the background details as he went along. Based on my experiences as a judicial clerk, Meltzer's description of life in a Supreme Court Justice's chambers seems absolutely preposterous. My friends who have clerked in the Court of Appeals and on the Supreme Court share this opinion. Meltzer shouldn't have taken on a topic like this without doing some serious research.