Grisham’s Latest Is a Thrilling Tale of Revenge

A racketeer is “one who obtains money illegally, as by fraud, extortion, etc.” The Racketeer is the story of a wrongfully imprisoned lawyer who seeks revenge on the legal system that failed him (while trying to make a sizable profit as well). In John Grisham’s latest legal thriller, he continues to prove his mastery of this genre.

racketeer235Malcolm Bannister is our protagonist racketeer, who uses the murder of a judge to hatch a scheme to get out of prison. His plan works, but we soon learn that there was a lot more to it. The story begins to drag in the middle as Bannister gets involved with a new character, but Grisham knows what he’s doing and quickly sucks you back into the story as you race to get to the satisfying end.

The character of Bannister continues Grisham’s latest trend of not-quite-likable protagonists. Their belief systems and moral code stray far enough from my own that I find it hard to sympathize with them as a character. Yet the logic of their moves and plotting manages to get me to emotionally invest in the character.

While Grisham’s latest thrillers have been fairly run-of-the-mill thriller fodder, his storytelling abilities continue to be remarkable. No matter how uninteresting the premise of his novels sound, he is sure to suck you into the story. And sometimes that’s all you really want in a book.

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The Litigators

Finley & Figg is a self-proclaimed “boutique” law firm that specializes in ambulance chasing and obtaining the most amount of money with the least amount of work. It is run by Oscar Finley, a man past his prime who is stuck in toxic marriage and seems to take joy in being unnecessarily rude and difficult. His partner is Wally Figg, a lecherous and unethical lawyer who has no desire to practice law. The story begins when the law firm inadvertently gains a third lawyer, David Zinc, who five years after law school feels dried up thanks to the massive law firm that dominates the Chicago skyline. He skips out on work, goes on an all-day drinking binge and haphazardly collapses at Finley & Figg’s doorstep seeking employment.

His fresh blood livens up the newly sobered Wally who is eager to have some help in generating clients for his latest scheme to join the growing tort case against Varrick Labs for its cholesterol-lowering drug Krayoxx. John Grisham, a master storyteller at this point in his career, uses David to show the reader all the wrong things that Wally does as he develops the case. I was certainly uninterested in seeing anything good happen to Finley & Figg and was eager to see what kind of trouble they would get into as I saw the stakes rise in the case. Yet, while it may be difficult to find sympathy for Finley or Figg, I soon found myself rooting for David.

His drunken escapades may not say much for his character in the first 50 pages, but sober David is an optimistic, keen-eyed, and eager lawyer who is trying to find himself and what kind of lawyer he really wants to be. Although he may come off as too generous to people who don’t deserve it, his acts of kindness eventually pay off for him.

Though much of the novel is predictable, it is always fun to see the world of law through Grisham’s discerning eye. His critique of the class-action suit trend in the nation shows many of the inherent flaws in today’s system. But he does show how the system could be advantageous and justified in David’s subplot involving a toddler suffering severe brain damage from lead poisoning in a toy. In fact, he uses David’s case to parallel Wally’s botched Krayoxx case. Everything that Wally does wrong, David notes internally and makes sure to do right as he investigates his own case.

The novel is certainly not a groundbreaking one, but it sated my thirst for good legal drama. Although some of the courtroom dramatics in the Krayoxx case felt unnecessary, I was still thoroughly entertained and couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. Grisham brings verve to his storytelling and keeps his legal thrillers stimulating. When I pick up a Grisham novel I know I’ll be entertained and satisfied by the time I finish it.