Justice for Some Summary
by Kate Wilhelm

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Justice for Some

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

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Sarah Drexler, who has been filling out her dead husband’s judgeship for three years, is shocked to find that her husband had won election partly as a result of a political deal. She is approached to run when the position comes up for election and is offered help by the same politicians who supposedly aided her husband. She leaves for a family reunion hoping to sort out whether she should accept the offer of assistance, thus incurring a political debt, and run for the judgeship.

Soon after she arrives at her father’s home, he is found dead in one of the decorative pools that he sells in partnership with Sarah’s son, Virgil. The question of her judgeship recedes as she begins to investigate her father’s death, but her background as a judge and lawyer aids her in arriving at the truth. The police soon discover that her father had recently hired a private detective, who is found dead on the same day as her father. Although the family doctor suggests that her father had slipped and fallen, Sarah suspects murder after finding out about the detective.

Sarah soon discovers various secrets about her family, including her daughter’s unwed pregnancy by a gangster, her son’s smuggling of aliens into the United States, and the disappearance of three of her uncle’s university students just as they were about to announce a discovery that would have won a Nobel Prize. None of these secrets, however, seems likely to have prompted her father’s murder. The police suspect Virgil’s girlfriend, whom they suspect of being in the country illegally, when she disappears. Sarah’s experience in court has made her sympathetic to scapegoats, so she explores other suspects. She eventually unravels the mystery and traps the killer, acting as prosecutor and judge in a thrilling climax.