Scott Pratt’s third novel, Injustice for All, continues the adventures of Joe Dillard, assistant district attorney in Washington County, Tennessee. Dillard, who was a defense attorney in Pratt’s first novel, An Innocent Client, has his hands more than full in this outing, in which he must battle an imperious, cruel judge, a drug kingpin, a sleazy DA, and a collection of other colorful members of the criminal and criminal-justice communities. It would be a difficult position for anyone, let alone someone who has just lost his best friend and may lose his family. Dillard’s world is precarious, to say the least. As he notes in the opening pages, “I’m never comfortable in a courtroom. There are enemies everywhere.”
Pratt, a native of East Tennessee, a lawyer, and a former newspaper reporter, obviously has an insider’s love-hate relationship with the legal system. In Injustice for All, there are enough bad guys inside the system to keep Joe Dillard busy, even without the external pressures brought by non-governmental organized crime. One of the most unpleasant of the inside-the-system villains is Judge Leonard Green, “as pure a son of a bitch as I’ve ever known,” observes Dillard. “[H]e hovers over us from his perch on the bench, scanning the crowd like a vulture searching for carrion.” Judge Green alternately persecutes honest men to suicide and frees pedophiles, all while hiding his own sins behind a respectable black robe.
When Judge Green becomes the carrion—char-broiled carrion, to be precise—and the son of Dillard’s best friend is suspected of the murder, Dillard must walk a fine line between being a public servant and a private advocate. But he has to walk that line quickly. With the TBI investigating and a young member of the DA’s staff missing, it soon becomes clear that more than one thing is rotten in the State of Tennessee. As abuses of the system pile up and the good guys take their lumps, Dillard must take stronger and riskier measures in his efforts to see justice prevail.
The theme of abuse of power, always an element of legal thrillers, is effectively transplanted by Pratt to the rural and small-city venue of upper East Tennessee, a world he obviously knows intimately. With Injustice for All, Pratt lays the system bare, portraying judges harassing lawyers, lawyers taking bribes, district attorneys selectively enforcing laws, and police pushing the limits of the constitution. When the dust settles, Joe Dillard has won some and lost some, and the system—warts and all—is intact and ready for a sequel.