VENGEANCE IS MINE
Louie K. Cogburn was a homicidal maniac when he died. While he lived he was a relatively peaceful guy even if he was a low-level illegals dealer selling to school kids. Then, during a mid-summer heat wave, with the AC broken in his apartment building, the headaches began. And they never stopped; they just got worse until his nose was bleeding and he was screaming in pain. When a neighbor knocked on his door, Louie grabbed a baseball bat and beat the man to death. Then he started on the neighbor’s domestic partner and Officer Troy Truehart, a member of Eve Dallas’ squad. When Truehart defended himself with a low level stun, Louie seized and died.
Tragic as it was, it just seemed like another heat-related act of violence. And then Dallas, responding to Truehart’s call, sees what is emblazoned on Louie’s computer screen: ABSOLUTE PURITY ACHIEVED. Not knowing whether “Purity” is the concept or the name of a new illegal, Dallas ships the computer terminal off to Feeney’s EDD department for analysis.
But Louie, even in death, has more to say than the computer at this point. The autopsy shows that he died from a massive neurological infection, causing his brain to swell beyond the skull’s capacity. Hence, the excruciating headaches, the bleeding from the nose, ears and eyes, and the homicidal rage he exhibited. However, before Dallas can make much sense of what she has learned, the EDD tech working on Louie’s computer goes berserk. He tasers McNab critically, three other techs superficially, and takes Feeney hostage, stunner held to the pulse in his throat. Even though Dallas is able to save Feeney during a tense standoff, the tech neurologically implodes exactly as Louie did.
Within another day, “absolute purity is achieved” for another soul, a known pedophile. When a group called The Purity Seekers takes responsibility for the deaths, that group issues a manifesto as to their purpose and agenda. This group has declared itself judge, jury and executioner of those individuals who have abused children but have escaped consequences due to legal technicalities. They have appointed themselves guardians of the victims that the justice system has supposedly failed to serve adequately. And they imply that the executions are being conducted remotely through computer technology.
Dallas and her team are now under professional pressure to find the members of the Purity Seekers and stop the vigilante executions. They are also under considerable pressure to control the media explosion over the deaths and the manifesto.
But the professional pressure is nothing compared with the emotional pressure of differentiating justice from law. Using the framework of vigilante justice, J. D. Robb expounds on several core legal and political issues. First, there is the idea of an underground group openly appealing to the disenfranchised and seeking public approval for unlawful actions. Secondly, Robb explores the issue of domestic terrorism and its effect on the social and economic dynamics of a large city. Thirdly is the issue of what constitutes “impurity.” In other words, when will the focus shift from suspected child abusers who slipped through the legal system’s cracks to anyone who had charges dropped or to anyone who was acquitted or to anyone who just happened to offend someone in the group?
But Dallas and Roarke, together and separately, face serious ethical issues themselves. As a couple, they realize that they seem to be on opposite sides of two major issues, that of whether a person deserves to die and that of whether society benefits from the death of an individual. And Dallas must come to grips with the realization that her definition of “right” may be a flawed concept when she must secure immunity for two Purity Seekers – one of whom is another cop – in order to get enough evidence to take down the other 40-plus conspirators. In both situations, Dallas and Roarke must decide what is necessary to concede in order to achieve the greater good, for their marriage, for their sanity and for the public welfare.
In the end, this fifteenth entry to the In Death series is a story about the legal and social services systems and their imperfections. It is about politics – public, professional and personal – and about compromise. It is about perception and spin and the shades and degrees of truth. And it is a story about what is right, what is wrong and what is legal. But most of all it is a story about why Louie K. Cogburn really died – presumption of guilt, based on appearances and hearsay rather than on physical evidence or the lack thereof.
This book will stay with you long after you’ve read the last page. And it will make you see just how vulnerable each of us is in the face of someone who truly and honestly believes, to the core of his soul, that he is right. And thus, being right, anyone who does not believe the same is wrong and needs to be punished.
Cover Art from Goodreads