Book Review: Street Judge
Book Reviewed by Thumper
In his fiction debut Judge Greg Mathis, star of the
syndicated Judge Mathis TV show, releases Street Judge, a
mystery/thriller with a message. Although I have never thought
of the judge writing gritty murder mysteries, after reading
Street Judge; I would not mind if he wrote more of them. Before
I get too deep into this review it is only fair to state that I
am biased. I have watched the Judge Greg Mathis TV show since it
has been on the air in Indianapolis. I read and loved his
Inner City Miracle. I am a fan. But, when I read that Street
Judge was a murder mystery, my eyebrow went up and stayed there.
Since I watch The Judge Mathis Show 5 days a week-even the
repeats-and murder mysteries are my first literary love; I had
to pick this novel up and give it a glance. Man, am I glad I
did. Street Judge is actually quite good. There were a couple of
spots in the book I did not care for, but overall, the novel is
a compelling, fast paced read.
Judge Greg Mathis, the main character, has won his judge seat and is facing his first week on the bench. On the first day of his term, a woman’s decapitated head is found in an alley by two teenage boys. A drug dealer tells the police that he has information on the grisly murder but he will only talk to one person about it-Judge Greg Mathis. Judge Mathis soon finds himself in a few tangled webs: his supervisor is out to unseat him; the district attorney’s office will not corporate in seeking justice for the murdered victim; and someone is trying to blackmail him. Now the judge has to hit the streets to find out who killed the single mother and the source of the extortion. It won’t be easy, but can the judge get the job done without getting taken down?
I loved the book. Street Judge is an enthralling, graphic, well constructed, quick moving mystery with a message. I was not too sure that I would appreciate the message portion of the book. I knew that I was in for some preaching. I suspected that part of the motivation for Mathis to write the book was to reach out and inspire an audience he would not have ordinarily captured. Like I said, I watch Mathis’s show everyday. On his show, or in his first book, Inner City Miracle, I was expecting to hear a message and I did. But, a message coupled with a murder mystery? *eyebrow raised* Now Mathis got me messed up. I Ain't trying to get preached to, bring on the murder and let’s get busy solving it. Rarely has an author been able to write a message and tell a story without screwing up one or the other or both. The story/message, one will get more attention than the other; thus, creating an imbalance. Mathis comes close to balancing the two, certainly not an easy feat to accomplish.
I was somewhat thrown when I read the book summary and saw that Mathis made himself the main character. I have heard and read biographies thinly disguised as fiction. I have read and enjoyed mysteries where the main character/detective was a historical figure. Street Judge is the first book that I have read where the author put himself in the story as the main character. Mathis makes it work. I have no problem seeing or believing the character Judge Mathis. Mathis, the author, does not make Mathis, the character, a super hero, or give him any special super human abilities. The character Mathis is a real man, no pun intended, with flaws; making the character Mathis fascinating and genuine.
I have only one complaint about the novel: a portion of the narrative is written in that ’business’ voice, which on paper comes off hollow, fake and boring. The ’business’ voice is that voice where the enunciation is crisp, the grammar is correct, and the tone is slightly nasal. It’s the voice that black folks use when talking to white folks (especially when the subject is money-trying to get it or putting off paying it) to let the white folks know that I am intelligent, I have an education, so don't get ’high hat’ with me. Do not misunderstand me, there’s nothing wrong with using the ’business’ voice. I’ve heard my parents do it; my friends’ parents do it; my friends do it. Hell, I do it! There are times when I have to let folks know that Purdue University does not hand out engineering degrees to anybody and you can't get them mail to you from the Philippines either! But, I don't want to read a book with a narrative in the ’business’ voice!
At the beginning of the novel, the first 50 or so pages, Mathis uses the ’business’ voice. He was putting me to sleep. I was beginning to get a little ticked off and had started formulating insults to hurl at him in my review. Fortunately, Mathis dropped the ’business’ voice and began using his naturally captivating storytelling voice. He is a natural story teller. Once the ’business’ voice hit the skids, the story really started to move’fast. I loved it.
Street Judge is a wonderful debut. Mathis kept it real throughout the novel. He does not shy away from the violence or the gruesome details. After the slow start, I was easily hooked by the mystery and the suspense level of the story rose and remained high. I read the novel in a day. I hope that Street Judge will be the first of many more novels to come.
Inner City Miracle: A Memoir - Book Review