Review

The Associate

by John Grisham

Through the course of nearly two decades of writing and the
publication of 22 books, John Grisham has been a perpetual occupant
of a top position on the New York Times bestseller list.
While recognized by most as the author of courtroom fiction,
Grisham has frequently deviated from those sagas that have made him
famous. In 2006, he delved into the world of true crime, writing
THE INNOCENT MAN: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town. On occasion
he has ventured far from the courthouse and the law with novels
such as BLEACHERS and PLAYING FOR PIZZA. Regardless of the subject,
however, a bestselling book always seems to be the end result of
his hard work.

Grisham has achieved his greatest success inside the fictional
courtroom where his novels fall into two categories. Some
concentrate almost exclusively on the law. A TIME TO KILL, THE
RAINMAKER and THE APPEAL spend countless pages in the courtroom and
revolve around important legal issues that he wants readers to
contemplate. Others are less courtroom-focused and more
mystery-centered with lawyers simply being the spotlight of the
plot. In THE FIRM, THE CLIENT and THE BROKER, the protagonists
could have been non-attorneys without any major impact on the
novels.

THE ASSOCIATE, Grisham’s latest masterpiece, reached the
top 10 of Amazon purchases prior to its publication and is a
certain New York Times bestseller. It is one of
Grisham’s pseudo-courtroom mysteries. Because he is
constantly writing new novels, he is able to follow plot lines that
often capture the news of the moment. Here, he mixes events
reminiscent of the Duke University lacrosse players’ scandal
with equal parts of Wall Street lawyer misbehavior and a large
portion of industrial espionage, all coming together to create the
quintessential page-turning thriller that readers have come to
expect from Grisham.

Kyle McAvoy is an idealistic Yale Law School graduate who has
decided to forsake the wealth and power of a high-powered law firm
for the altruistic work of a legal aid attorney. But McAvoy has an
ugly past that he desperately wants to hide. That skeleton in his
closet provides an easy target for blackmailers who have a far
different career path in mind for the brilliant Ivy League
graduate. McAvoy is confronted with his past by men whose identity
and employer are a mystery, but their task is clear. They are to
recruit McAvoy to be a conduit for information about a major
lawsuit that focuses on important weapons systems developed by the
Department of Defense. In order to accomplish this nefarious task,
McAvoy must first accept the offer to join the Wall Street law firm
that will represent one of the defense contractors involved in the
litigation.

In his writing, Grisham has never shied away from using his
books to reflect upon what he considers to be the shortcomings of
the American legal system. From the death penalty to the buying of
judicial elections and other stops along the way, Grisham often
pinpoints what he believes to be deficiencies in the law. In THE
ASSOCIATE, the treatment (or perhaps mistreatment) of young lawyers
as fodder for income generation is highlighted by Grisham. As
McAvoy works his way through the torture of a first-year associate
at Scully and Pershing, the 100-hour work weeks, client billing
excesses and a money-at-all-costs attitude are described in
excruciating detail. But that behavior is only the background to
McAvoy’s battle to expose the men who would destroy his legal
career in order to gain an advantage in the weapons market.

THE ASSOCIATE is vintage John Grisham. Some of the plot twists
and turns require a suspension of disbelief by readers, but that is
an easily accomplished task. You begin a Grisham title and several
hours later confront a serious dilemma. Do I put the book down to
get some sleep, or do I keep reading? The answer for me is to
continue reading. Grisham has that ability to keep you turning the
pages until the thrilling conclusion of yet another masterful
effort.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on December 22, 2010

The Associate
by John Grisham

  • Publication Date: January 27, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday
  • ISBN-10: 0385517831
  • ISBN-13: 9780385517836