The Deep Dark Descending

A new theory of justice.


Max Rupert
Nancy Rosin
Max's father's girlfriend, and the voice of conscience in Max's head
Jenni Ruppert
Medical professional, Max's wife
Niki Vang
Max's detective partner
Dennis Orton
Mayor's deputy Chief of Staff
Pippi Stafford
Orton's murdered girlfriend
Michael Vetter
Owner of the Caviar club
Boady Sanden
Defense attorney


A Minneapolis detective pursues the men who, it was recently revealed, killed his wife five years before.

The author uses an immediate introduction to the crisis, and reflection to memories of the preceding events to tell the story of a killing of vengeance, to great effect.

The story is about the killing of the last murderer, and the justice of that killing, within the context of the story. That’s why the story starts and ends with that killing.


The following section is for people who have read the book and are looking for a deeper discussion about what happened in the story as a story.

Max Rupert is given a tip by someone who he didn’t like, and who didn’t really like him. When Boady Sanden gives Max a file containing the voices of the people who planned Jenni’s murder it is not because the two men are on the same team, of any kind. It is because they agree on one single principle: Justice, and the injustice of murder.

Justice is Personal

It is good to see such a clear distiction of a principle at a time when the cultural focus is on the vague concept if imporsonal “social justice”.

Max and Sanden do not need to consult historical records or cultural statistics tables to know that Jenni’s planned murder was a violation of the most basic principles of justice. They did not need to pour over the latest academic studies on the evolutionary sources of social norms to know that Max, too, had been greviously wronged by the involuntary termination of his wife’s life.

It is good to clarify these points at times when there is such confusion, and Max repeatedly does so throughout the story. This is not a simplistic story of vengance, but it is a rich story of vengence. Max’s ruminations throughout the task he has set for himself are touching, personal, and yet culturally significant. He converses, sometimes audibly, with the voice of conscience, personified as the woman who was almost a mother to him since he was a child. She asks him to clarify what he intends to do, and what he intends to achieve by doing it. That is a question of personal morality and ethics which ever person should ask about every activity they persue, but in this case he asks it about mortal justice, something most of us can avoid dealing with directly.

Is this what you’ve become, Max Rupert?, Nancy asks. Is this who you are? I losen my grip on the ax handle. I hadn’t thought of Nancy in years…

Eskens plants the voice of conscience in Max’s head as his father’s girlfriend, someone he hasn’t seen or thought of in many years, but whose voice comes now unbidden to question and ask him to clarify his plans, but Max does take her unexpected interference to be a voice from beyond guiding him infalibly towards the light, like some inspiration of given understanding (something we discuss at length in the Superpowers podcast).

Max remembers Nancy and reflects upon why he trusted her when he was a child and she was an adult, and why he trusted her compared to other adults at the time, but he carefully and respectfully translates her ethical teachings, her voice, into his adult life.

Justice is Practical

Justice is not always easy or simple. But it is practical. The books makes the case that Max’s act of vengance fulfilled a deficiency in his understanding of how society and life among others works.

“Will I ever see you again?” “I don’t know.” I’m pretty sure I’m lying to her. “Are you…content?” “Content?” I know what she is asking. She wants to know if I tracked down Jenni’s killer. She wants to know if I found a way to put to rest those ghosts that have been haunting me for the past four and a have years. “Yes,” I say. “I am content.”