“When the State, with its limitless resources, commences a fraudulent case and cheats at every turn, then cheating is legitimized. There is no level playing field. There is no fairness. The only honorable alternative for a lawyer fighting to save an innocent client is to cheat in defense. However, if a defense lawyer is caught cheating, he or she gets nailed.”
My husband and I listened to this in audiobook form during our recent roadtrip to San Francisco. When looking for books that will appeal to us both, legal thrillers are a great compromise, and this one was a fabulous example of the genre.
I haven’t read Grisham in years, though he used to be a favourite author of mine. I’d forgotten how intricately mapped his plots are, how he finds the most interesting little quirks and peculiarities that plague the American legal system and shows how they can be exploited, both for good and for bad. This book is no exception. It follows the cases and trials – and the life – of lawyer Sebastian Rudd. He’s a bit of an odd guy – antisocial, with only one friend that is also his only employee and former client. And let me say, his employee – Partner – is my favourite character in this book. He’s pretty awesome. I’d love to see him explored further in another book that tells his story.
“Next door is Partner, a hulking, heavily armed guy who wears black suits and takes me everywhere. Partner is my driver, bodyguard, confidant, paralegal, caddie, and only friend. I earned his loyalty when a jury found him not guilty of killing an undercover narcotics officer. We walked out of the courtroom arm in arm and have been inseparable ever since. On at least two occasions, off-duty cops have tried to kill him. On one occasion, they came after me. We’re still standing. Or perhaps I should say we’re still ducking.”
Instead of an office, he has a black cargo van with bulletproof windows and a built-in bar. He appreciates a good scotch and a pretty woman. He “vacations” in cheap motels when his brain needs a break. He takes on the cases that other lawyers won’t touch, and has gotten fairly famous for it.
“And every defendant, regardless of how despicable the person or his crime, is entitled to a lawyer. Most laymen don’t understand this and don’t care. I don’t care either. This is my job.”
For me, the first three quarters of this book reads almost like a series of short stories, glued together with Sebastian as the main character. They are short pieces, different unrelated cases that he takes on for various reasons and resolves to various outcomes. They are each different, unique, fun little legal dramas, and made me wonder if Grisham had this passel of ideas that wouldn’t, on their own, stand as full novels, and so decided to patch them together under the umbrella of the same lawyer. It’s not that it’s a bad thing, it’s just that it reads a little differently from most of his novels.
The last quarter of the book ties together some parts from earlier on, as well as bringing some resolutions to Rudd’s private life, the custody battles over his son, conceived with a fellow lawyer who is now living with a woman and doing her best to cut Rudd out of their son’s life, his romantic life, which is actually kind of sweet, and his investment in a young cage fighter who has gotten himself into spot of legal trouble.
“Cage fighting appeals to the savage instinct in some people, including me, and we’re all here for the same reason—to see one fighter annihilate another. We want to see bleeding eyes, gashes across the forehead, choke holds, bone-ripping submissions, and brutal knockout punches that send the corners scrambling for the doctor. Mix in a flood of cheap beer, and you have five thousand maniacs begging for blood.”
This book is a fun read. It’s fast-paced enough to keep interest high, and kept us extremely entertained on very, very long driving days. For mystery or legal thriller fans, this is a safe bet for a solid read you’ll enjoy.