John Grisham - Shastrix Books

John Grisham

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The Reckoning

The Reckoning

23rd January 2019

2018’s John Grisham novel is an interesting blend of his earlier and later styles. We start out with the traditional courtroom drama setup - we find out what happened, who’s who, what the lawyers are up to, and end up in court. But this book also gives us something else - a lot more back story than I was expecting, and a lot more forestory (if that can be a thing).

It’s fascinating to see a bit more of the story than just the court case - and to dig in and try to understand things in a bit more detail. That said, there’s a large chunk of the novel that feels a bit like ‘John Grisham was learning recently about this historical event and now wants to tell you about it’, and it’s very dark and very grim - possibly the hardest thing to read that he’s written, which is quite a thing for an author whose previous works have included executions.

In the end, I don’t think I really liked this story - it’s too unpleasant in the choice of subject matter to be entertaining, and turned into more of a history lesson than a story. I don’t think I can bring myself to recommend it because of this.

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The Rooster Bar

The Rooster Bar

23rd March 2018

Somehow, John Grisham has come up with a new twist on the Legal Thriller - following a friend's suicide, three law students decide to give up college and just practice without licences. And then their adventures really begins.

It's interesting to have a novel from Grisham where his main characters suffer a major trauma at the start, but it still feels like he hasn’t quite got a grip on communicating emotion, as they still come across quite robotic even while suffering grief.

I'm actually getting a little irritated by the cleanness of Grisham's writing style, it's very perfunctory and action based rather than worrying too much about emotion or character. It's almost dry enough to be a formal report of events that occurred.

Ultimately this book was a bit disappointing. The ideas were novel and intriguing, but the execution almost felt like some sort of weird morality tale rather than entertainment.

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Camino Island

Camino Island

16th July 2017

Another of Grisham’s novels that fall outside the legal genre, and while not quite literary, fall much closer to it. This one tells the story of an audacious heist, and a woman who finds herself thrown into the investigation quite unexpectedly.

The plot is almost secondary in this work to the character, setting, relationships, and occasional set piece. The story is divided into clear acts, although these are more obvious near the start. It’s a strong opening, but it sets a pace that isn’t really reflected in the rest of the narrative and may give misleading expectations.

I think my favourite aspect of this novel is that it’s set around a background of books. The characters include author and a bookseller, and this is clearly an industry that Grisham has something of an insight into, and so it paints a vivid and amusing picture of how the literary world works, with sufficient tongue in cheek to remind me of Agatha Christie’s self-parody in the character of Ariadne Oliver

Overall, a happy diversion. An enjoyable story, told in the classic Grisham manner of straight laced facts.

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The Whistler

The Whistler

18th March 2017

The latest John Grisham legal thriller focuses on some lawyers who are acting as investigators, looking into allegations against corrupt judges in California. Unsurprisingly, the story opens with an allegation that a judge is corrupt, but so corrupt that the allegations are wrapped up in a complex web of secrecy that much of the narrative deals with unpicking.

This has to be one of the blandest Grisham novels I've read. And I've read all of them. The writing style is dry and factual. Even the interpersonal relationships feel bereft of emotion and read as if they are being described by an alien who has no understanding of human life. The narrative is just a list of back to back facts, many without involving the characters at all, with no regard for the classic storytelling rule of 'show, don't tell'.

The plot is a strong one regardless, there's a mystery, there's threat, there's shock. But the presentation dilutes it all the point of dullness, not allowing the reader to get drawn in or to become emotionally involved or hooked on the story. There's no chance to get invested, and so even when there are moments of success it's like reading about events from centuries ago in a history textbook.

I can't recommend this book. If you're looking for a Grisham story to pick up you'd be better served choosing one of his earlier works.

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The Scandal

The Scandal

26th May 2016

The sixth Theodore Boone novel from John Grisham sees his middle school hero taking standardized tests that will affect his further education, and needless to say things descend into the courtroom.

There are many good things about this book - the characterisation is much improved over the earlier stories, with the main character being much more realistic and three dimensional. The plot as well is completely believable and moves at a good pace.

However, the story suffers on a number of angles. One of the most notable things when I started reading was the presence of outdated attitudes in the narrative, for example that the Boone family trend to eat out because Theodore's mother is not good at cooking, with no reference to the other characters' culinary abilities. Similarly there are elements of classism, with the narrator looking down on families who live in rented accommodation, and I'd imagine alienating half his target audience. Later on though the story takes a drastically socialist turn leaving ma unsure what message I'm meant to be taking away.

Finally, for a book about morality and doing the right thing, it seemed particularly lenient in wrongdoers. Perhaps it's because I don't have an understanding of how things work in fictional America, but I'm fairly sure similar events in the UK would have been considered far more seriously.

So. Slightly entertaining, but also aggravating. I don't think I can recommend it.

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Rogue Lawyer

Rogue Lawyer

2nd December 2015

This year's big Grisham novel is an interesting twist, telling the story of a lawyer who is reviled for taking on the cases of those who juries can't wait to sentence - who have already been tried by the press or the police and where evidence is unlikely to sway anyone. As such the chap lives a difficult life and we get to see various as pieces of it.

Unlike the authors other novels, this one is presented in an episodic fashion, telling a number of stories of different cases with recurring characters, rather than the usual focus on one big story. This is great as it feels like your getting much more from the book.

It's great to see this focus on the character, and it doesn't do anything to diminish the courtroom drama of the piece, instead almost emphasising it as there's so much spread throughout. I also liked the way that Grisham gradually build the plot up from small beginnings, dropping things in which then snowball and build into a great story.

I'm a happy Grisham reader after this year's offering, and look forward to visiting his world again next year.

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The Fugitive

The Fugitive

10th June 2015

After something of a break, legendary author of legal fiction John Grisham returns to his young adult series about a thirteen year old boy who thinks he's a lawyer.

This book is very much a sequel to one of the earlier novels in the series, and after an educational trip full of cliches and embarrassing moments of social commentary that you'd not get from a British author, feels like it retreads the story of that earlier novel without a good reason.

Theodore is shown to be growing up and gradually mellowing from the I realistically goody-two-shoes attitude he displayed in the first few books, but he still comes across as time displaced and out of touch with the modern era. He's certainly not presented in a way that will make him appealing to anything but the most cerebral young reader.

Overall, disappointing that Grisham couldn't do something a bit more original, and a little follicular based on coincidence rather than the action of the characters. The idea behind the series is a really interesting one, but it feels like the author is so far removed from modern youth that it just isn't quite believable.

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Other reviewed books

Gray Mountain
Sycamore Row
The Racketeer
The Activist
Calico Joe
The Accused
The Litigators
The Abduction
The Confession
Theodore Boone
Ford County Stories
The Associate
The Appeal
The Innocent Man
The Broker
The Last Juror
Bleachers
The King of Torts
The Summons
Skipping Christmas
A Painted House
The Brethren
The Testament
The Street Lawyer
The Partner
The Runaway Jury
The Rainmaker
The Chamber
The Client
The Pelican Brief
A Time to Kill
The Firm

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