This is a rich, complex, subtle, and multifaceted book. Smith engages with a vast range of thinkers, from Schmitt, Benjamin, and Adorno on the ontology of law and violence to Blackstone, Locke, Paine, and Hamilton on prerogative and pardon. Weird John Brown begins with poetry (Melville’s “The Portent,” which gives the book its title) and fiction (Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead), and considers “Tragic Prelude,” the famous mural of Brown at the Kansas Statehouse, as well as Paul Klee’s Gesetz as a visualization of a fulfilled higher law.