In his earlier bestseller The Prodigal Judge, Vaughan Kester showed his talent for bringing out the best in flawed characters. In The Just and the Unjust he has several flawed characters with which he explores how people are judged by the choices they make.
Young Jack North has blown through close to $20,000 by keeping too much company with Andy Gilmore, whose rooms are the local gambling parlor. Jack has also come close to getting sexually involved with his friend Marshall Langham’s wife.
Jack determines to leave Mount Hope and start over, hoping to redeem himself enough to one day win Elizabeth Herbert. He gets only as far as Chicago when the local sheriff invites him to return to answer some questions.
Within three months, Jack is in jail on a murder charge.
Jack is both innocent and naif. He thinks because he’s innocent, it’s impossible for him to be convicted.
With the notable exception of the prosecuting attorney, who people appear to dislike on general principles, the best of Kester’s characters have their flaws, the worst their good points. Readers will have no doubt whom they should cheer for, but they’ll feel bad for the also-rans.
Unlike Jack and the police, readers know who committed the murder and why. They are privy to the secrets of those who could have proven Jack’s innocence and didn’t. They see the real villian of the novel get away scot free. In spite of all their insider knowledge, readers are kept on the edge of their chairs to the last page by the possibility that Jack might hang for a crime he didn’t commit.The Just and the Unjust by Vaughan Kester Illustrated by M. Leone Bracker 1912 bestseller #7 Project Gutenberg E-book #14581