Ellis Portal's old street friend, Queenie tells him of a friend who seemingly has
frozen to death in the harsh winter weather before Christmas. Queenie regards
the death as suspicious. Ellis remains unconvinced until a second and then a third
person die and he realizes all were court "groupies," people who appeared in court
every day to watch the proceedings for a mixture of reasons. Each was found with
a verse from the Bible in his or her possession-similar to threatening Bible verses
that Ellis himself suddenly begins to receive.
"A character with great dignity and unusual moral depth."
Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review
"I tore open the letter. It was a blank white sheet except for a single sentence in
that bold but unsteady script. 'The Lord raised up judges, which delivered them
out of the hand of those that spoiled them.' Of course I recognized the quotation
from the Bible, though I couldn't have said which book or chapter or verse. I
recognized, too, that like the advancing winter taking the country field by field,
city by city, the quotation was clearly something more than it might initially
appear to be. It was a death threat. A judge gets as good at smelling threats as a
naturalist at smelling snow."