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December 29, 2011

Book Notes: Grisham doesn’t disappoint

— John Grisham is one of this country’s most popular authors. Every time he publishes a book it’s an instant best-seller. He appeared on the scene about 20 years ago with his tense legal thrillers, “A Time to Kill” and “The Firm,”and hasn’t stopped producing top-notch novels since.

The former practicing lawyer has combined his knowledge of the legal system with an engrossing writing style to produce one epic novel after another.

Not only has he covered many aspects of the law but has ventured outside the legal system to produce such fascinating novels as “The Painted House” and “Bleachers.” His hilarious tale about semi-pro football in Italy, “Playing for Pizza,” is the epitome of the perfect beach read.

Grisham’s most recent novel, the just-published “The Litigators,” might be his best work yet. It combines an intense subject matter, fascinating characters, and an enlightening education of how the legal system really works.

The premise is pretty simple. Two small-time lawyers have a storefront practice from which they manage a meager existence.

Their clients include people who need help with routine matters such as fender benders and no-fault divorce, and they constantly dream of hitting it big.

One day, out of the blue, the junior partner stumbles onto the possibility one of his clients may have died due to a faulty medication. Thinking this might be the big payday they’ve always hoped for, these small-time operators launch into a lawsuit against a huge pharmaceutical company believing that they’ll settle out of court.

In the midst of this chaos comes another lawyer who stumbles upon their tiny law practice and decides to join it. He’s a Harvard-educated attorney who has completely burned out at one of Chicago’s biggest corporate law firms and suddenly decides he can’t take the stress and ungodly hours anymore. Despite his Ivy-League background he is no more versed in litigation than his new partners, but is wise enough to know that they are in way over their heads.

The story includes many subplots as the case winds its way through the legal process.

The great thing is that you have no idea how it’s all going to play out. Grisham not only keeps you guessing, but provides a tremendous education on the intricacies of the legal system and how it does and doesn’t work.

The process can be complicated and bizarre, but it’s evolved in such a way that attorneys and judges have embraced it.

Above all else what sets this novel apart are the main characters. Grisham does a wonderful job of developing them. They have a certain charm that make them endearing even with all their faults. Perhaps the fact they’re not perfect is what makes them so appealing.

You really can’t go wrong with any of his works because they are all well-written. Some deal with intrigue, others with depressing subjects, and a few are just fun-filled reads.

This one stands out because it deals with a serious topic but in a fun-filled way. The bottom line is that “The Litigators” is a terrific read and shows that Grisham still has the Midas touch when it comes to writing great novels.

You won’t be disappointed.