Note, the format of my Short and Sweet reviews differs in that they simply comprise the book blurb and a short response (hence, the short and sweet). 

I used to be a big fan of John Grisham’s novels – A Time to Kill is my favourite – but moved away from them for a long time. No real reason, just lots of other books to read. Over the past year I’ve started reading Grisham’s books again, and in the mood for a legal thriller, I pulled this one off my shelf. Here’s the blurb:

One week ago, Samantha Kofer was a third-year associate at New York City’s largest law firm. Now she is an unpaid intern in a legal aid clinic deep in small-town Appalachia. When Lehman Brothers collapsed, she lost her job, her security, her future. As she confronts real clients with real problems, she finds herself a world away from her past life of corporate fat cats and fatter bonuses. This is coal country. Meth country. The law is different here. And standing up for the truth means putting your life on the line. America’s greatest storyteller brings us a new masterpiece of legal courage and gripping suspense – and his finest heroine since The Pelican Brief.

I learnt a lot about surface mining in the Appalachian Mountains and the way associated corporations often use legal loopholes to avoid responsibility for the fall-out of this rape of the earth. While that fired up my inner-greenie, I wasn’t as fired up by the novel as a whole. The writing and characterisation was lacklustre, and the plot failed to pack a punch in the way I expected. I kept waiting for the novel to surprise me, but it didn’t, and sadly, the ending just kind of fizzled, like a closing argument that runs out of words. It reminded me of this quote from Australian movie The Castle, uttered during a very funny courtroom scene:

Dennis Denuto: It’s the vibe of the thing, your Honour.

In terms of environmental and social justice issues, there’s a lot to think about and it seems that Grisham had definite and worthwhile messages he wanted to convey. I just wish the story had more oomph to really drive them home. Average.

Available from good bookstores (RRP $39.99 Hardback). My copy was courtesy of Hachette.



Monique Mulligan

Monique Mulligan

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