Tuesday 28 March 2017

Review: Fiction: The Litigators by John Grisham

Hodder & Stoughton,£19.99

After his second novel, The Firm, spent 47 weeks on The New York Times bestsellers list, the verdict was confirmed -- John Grisham was a master of the legal thriller.

To date, more than 250 million copies of his books have been published in 29 languages. Not bad for a bloke who started writing as a hobby in between working 60-70 hours at a law firm in America's Deep South.

Grisham clearly believes in the old adage of writing about what one knows and it wouldn't be spoiling the plot to suggest that with his latest foray, The Litigators, the writer is following his usual route to the bestsellers list.

Back in the 1980s, Grisham spent three years working on his debut A Time to Kill. The story of a lawyer defending a man who takes revenge on his daughter's rapists, the novel was initially rejected by 28 publishers, but eventually reached bookshelves in 1988.

Despite the muted reaction it received, by then Grisham had been bitten by the book bug. The day after he completed A Time to Kill, he began working on the tale of a hotshot young law graduate who gets a job with a sinister firm that really is too good to be true.

Readers loved this suspenseful page-turner and seven million copies of The Firm were sold. Then Hollywood came calling and Sydney Pollack turned the story into a hit movie starring Tom Cruise.

Grisham wasn't content to stay home and enjoy the royalty cheques. Since A Time to Kill was published, he has produced a novel a year, all of which boasted his trademark mix of high-octane tension, unexpected plot twists and legal quagmires, not to mention attractive and idealistic lawyers.

Neither readers, nor Hollywood, have been able to resist his captivating tales, and nine of them have been turned into films including The Pelican Brief (starring Julia Roberts) and The Runaway Jury (with John Cusack).

It's all too possible that The Litigators could make movie number 10. David Zinc (imagine a youthful Matt Damon), a young but burnt-out lawyer, is having a bad day. He walks out of his fast-track career at a high-flying Chicago company and literally stumbles into the 'boutique' law firm of Finley & Figg.

It's run by ambulance chasers who have spent 20 years bickering with each other while scratching out a living on quickie divorces and drink-drinking cases.

But David is entranced by the possibility of changing his life for good, and so is one of the partners. Wally Figg has a plan. He's finally going to get his big break and make a fast buck -- lots of them.

All it involves is taking on a pharmaceutical giant, with annual sales of $25bn (€18bn) and seemingly limitless resources. . .

John Grisham has said that he isn't writing serious literature, that his aim is to grab readers. And with this latest novel, he's succeeded in doing just that -- yet again. The Litigators is a thrilling romp through the murky world of lawsuits and shysters -- rich and poor.

Packed with his signature twists and turns, not to mention lots of double-dealing, be careful if you're reading The Litigators on the bus, you may just miss your stop.

rowena walsh

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