Because Ideas Matter...
The faculty and staff of Butler University's College of Liberal
Arts and Sciences presents
by John Grisham, Doubleday 2011
Reviewed by Larry Riggs
This is another in the long series of what
I think of as Grisham's sociology-of-the-law novels. This one,
though, is more comprehensive than any of the previous ones. David
Zinc, a still-young graduate of Harvard Law working in one of
Chicago's most prestigious law firms, melts down in the firm's
elevator one morning and spends the day drinking in a seedy local
bar. Thus begins an odyssey that leads Zinc, and us, through the
labyrinthine world of the Law. From the top-drawer corporate and
defense firm, where he has put in 5 years of 80-hour weeks as an
associate, Zinc moves-drunkenly-to the store-front offices of a
team of marginally competent ambulance chasers.
Zinc's involvement with what his new
employers try lamely to pass off as a "boutique firm" leads him,
and us, into contact with fabulously wealthy, and still rapaciously
greedy, mass tort specialists; equally affluent and cynical tort
defense practitioners; ruthless "Big Pharma" executives; a pompous,
egomaniacal judge; and a horribly exploited Burmese immigrant
family with a lead-poisoned child.
Grisham tells this story smoothly, and his
denunciation of the pervasive greed and the paucity of truth or
justice in the legal system never becomes a screed. The characters
have some plausibility, and their motives are always recognizably
human. I have found some of Grisham's novels too long, and they
have not always held my interest. This one is engaging and readable
throughout. It's a casual read with just enough serious social
- Larry Riggs is Professor of French at Butler University.