July 14, 2018

Book: The King of Torts by John Grisham

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 11:31 am

imageWe have reviewed other books by this author before. For examples, see The Street Lawyer or The Chamber, to name just two.


The nice thing about John Grisham’s books is that the stories may have the same style and may have to do with legal matters, but the story is so different from each other that it is refreshing to read them. Not many other authors do this. For instance, Perry Mason novels are so close to each other that you cannot keep the story apart in your head after reading five of them. Wilbur Smith has very similar tales of the different generations of Courtneys and Ballantynes. Not so John Grisham.


Take this book, for instance. A very nice story of the rise and fall of a young lawyer starting full of idealist notions.


Tequila Watson, just 20 years old is arrested after killing Pumpkin in broad daylight with a gun and is hauled to the court. Court appoints Clay Carter to defend him, against Clay’s wishes.


Carter is a reluctant defence lawyer. He wanted to swim in money after law school by joining his own dad’s firm but dad went bankrupt in the last year of law school.


He meets Clay. Who seems to say that he killed the man because ‘he needed to shoot something’ that day.


He meets Talmoud X who runs the tough rehab centre where Tequila was before he committed the murder. This part reminds you of which earlier book by Grisham? (The do gooder person giving up a good life to help – probably many of them!)


Another common theme is the scheming parents of his love, Rebecca – the vain and name dropping Bennett Van Horne and his dutifully status conscious wife Barbara.


The book really comes into its own, and branches out into thankfully new territory when Carter is summoned by an anonymous lawyer and given a lot of money for settlement because there is a drug touted as cure for addiction,  which took shortcut in clinical trials that is the cause of Tequila and one other person going on a killing trip.


Clay is offered unbelievable amount of money to set up on his own and go after a settlement with the mysterious medical company. He accepts. He then convinces all seven of the victims to accept the settlement. Then he is offered an even bigger deal to go for tort case against a competitor’s drug called Dyloft.


He teams up with a mammoth lawyer called Patton French. They go after Dyloft, on a ‘throw everything in the fire’ kind of gamble for Clay. Clay goes from strength to strength and is called ‘The King of Torts’ by the media frenzy. He goes petulantly with a hired top model to Rebecca’s wedding and gets thrown out politely by the bodyguard.


He now goes after a new medicine with Pace all by themselves for a bigger slice of the profit and gets nailed by the press.


Everything starts to unravel when FBI reveal that Max Pace is a criminal and they are investigating Clay too for insider trading. And Healthy Living, a mass tort client, files for bankruptcy, ruining the millions Clay had spent in that case.


He find himself pilloried, and also under FBI investigation for insider trading. The papers and his former victims are ecstatic.


The grief piles on. His total losses could overwhelm him any moment. He may also end up in jail. Add to it his remorse when he goes to the town where the cement company which closed due to his greed and sees the impact of what he has done, not to mention a trap where he was lured with tantalizing promise of inside information and was attacked in the street, his woes are complete.

The insider trading case against him is dropped.

The ending comes fairly swiftly but it is very well told. One of his more interesting books.

8/ 10

–  –   Krishna


August 27, 2013

The Street Lawyer by John Grisham

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 3:50 pm

coverThe standard ingredients are there: there are lawyers, law firms, a person who wants to be idealistic; and yet, somehow, this feels a little different. It explores the world of the Street Lawyers, who, in spite of a degree that can help them make a lot of money, dedicate their lives to helping the poor and downtrodden with their legal troubles. Idealism? Sure. But it kind of works.

The story starts explosively enough, unlike many other Grisham novels. (Think Pelican Brief or The  Summons) The story takes off almost from the first page itself. Michael Brock, very successful lawyer in a very high paying law firm called Drake and Sweenie, with his foot firmly near the top rung of the corporate ladder (he is due for partnership shortly) at a young age, has his life turned upside down in five seconds, when a seemingly deranged man holds them all as hostages in his own law office. Luckily, he gets killed by a very sharpshooting sniper from the police.  Before that incident, he had a wife who was a surgeon but his was a troubled marriage.

Once this happens, he realizes how close he came  to death and everything he did no longer seems that important. He learns that the man who held them up was De Von Hardy,  with a mental problem and that the hostage taker was not even armed! (He threatened bombs and gun but never showed it).

When he sets out to find more, he meets the Street Lawyer Mordecai Green in Harlem, who lives and works in an impoverished, makeshift, law office, fighting for the poor who are unjustly vacated from homes they had occupied by greedy landlords. When he goes to a charity kitchen to meet some of Mordecai’s clients, he meets destitute family Lontae and her kids, one of whom, Ontario (wait, what? ) captures his mind. On his next trip, he learns that they were evacuated from their homes (in the middle of winter) and Ontario froze to death with his family.

Michael now begins to question all his beliefs in his life. His overachieving brother Robert is very disappointed and tries to ‘straighten him out from this madness’. Father and mother exude disapproval. He then joins Mordecai and Abraham, another lawyer, and Sofia, the administrator as a lawyer, resigning his six figure salary. Not only that, when he realizes that the company he belonged to had resorted to questionable means to evict poor people from a housing complex to rebuild into commercial property, decides to sue them himself!

The method he used to achieve proof is in violation of the law and so he himself gets into trouble with the law. His wife cannot understand why ‘he went to seed’ and leaves him.

The story is populated by other lovable characters, like Ruby the drug addict who is struggling to stay sober so that she can visit her daughter, the sweet tempered Megan, who helps out the poor in community kitchen, his partner Arthur who tries to get him disbarred from the profession for stealing a file related to the scam etc.

Yes, it is a preachy subject, as you can tell from the description above, but in spite of it, the story is well told and you get immersed into the story. The hallmark of a good writer, like for instance the TV series Modern Family – you almost do not recognize the sermon at the end – or even like another of Grisham’s work The Rainmaker.

A good read. Let us say a 7/10

– Krishna

July 18, 2013

Book: The Summons by John Grisham

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 9:35 pm

imagesA very typical John Grisham book indeed. The story revolves around Ray Attlee who is a law graduate who prefers to teach in a University instead of practice in a courtroom. He is also a hobby plane enthusiast and has acquired his solo license and likes to just take a Cessna up in the air above the clouds and enjoys the sense of complete peace and solitude that comes with it.

Unmarried and unattached, he lives a comfortable life on his salary, and even has teamed up with a few of fellow enthusiasts and just bought a plane that he co-owns with the rest.

His father is Judge Reuben Attlee. A strict judge, who rules without fear or favour, straight as an arrow, revered by the community – in small town Clanton – as a demi-God. But Ray and his brother Forrester felt always that the judge completely ignored the family. He had no time for his children, he dominated and neglected his wife until she died. But now, old and weak and retired long ago, he lives alone, almost estranged from both his sons. The sons live in different cities, away from the famous father.

Forrester has gone down another path in life, becoming a drug addict, living wildly, disappearing for a while from view and reappearing, checking out of rehabs after the family checks him in – fully addicted to drinks and drugs and even facing some jail time.

One day, Ray is summoned by the Judge (the father), and when he reaches his home, finds him dead. He discovers a few boxes in the store room stacked with cash, estimated to be 3 million dollars, with no explanation in the will or anywhere how the money came to be. As Judge Attlee has spent almost all of his money in charities, it is even more mysterious. Ray decided to hide the money, so that his wayward brother would not get this to spend on drugs or worse, and there starts a dreadful sequence of events. Someone came by, who missed the money and trashed his house. He is followed everywhere, and any storage space where he stashed his money is known to his unknown enemies, who send him pictures of the last garage or storage space he used.

Ray’s investigations reveal only one gap in his father’s illustrious career: a quiet work he undertook in a faraway city on a tort law, the details of which are missing from all records. Ray decides to pay the defense lawyer in that case, who is living in the lap of luxury due to a very successful career, convinced that the answer to the mystery is there.

The story keeps your interest and is also populated by people like Harry Rex, a four-times-married lawyer friend of the Judge who is the executor of the will (only the house is left by the Judge in the official will, left equally to both sons). At times, it seems to stall, as many of Grisham’s novels do, and pick up pace, only to slacken a bit again. The ending of the book is more interesting than other Grisham novels, hiding a very nice suspense till almost the end.

I would give it a 7/10


— Krishna


April 30, 2012

Book: The Chamber by John Grisham

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 12:32 pm

This is a slightly unusual book by John Grisham’s standards – at least the formula of his stories I have seen so far. There are no courtroom battles, there are no high and mighty experienced lawyer brought down by an upstart but idealistic rookie lawyer. And yet it is a moving portrait.

This is the story of Sam Cayhall, a Klansman. He is a third generation Klansman, his father and his grandfather both having belonged to the Klan  in the South, when the Klan was dominant and the culture was one of segregation.

He engages in several acts of vandalism against property belonging to supporters of black empowerment. When with another accomplice called Rollie Wedge, he attempts to bomb the offices of Marvin Kramer, a Jewish lawyer who fights against acts of violence against the African American people. The bomb is intended to just destroy the offices and is set to go off early in the morning  when the lawyer is still  at home, the act goes horribly wrong and the bomb explodes  killing Marvin who had reached the office early as well as his twin children Josh and John Kramer. Sam is  caught. Rollie escapes undetected.

Sam is arrested twice but could not be convicted but he is caught a third time, and this time it looks like justice will be done. He is convicted and sentenced to death by the Gas Chamber (and thus the title). He petulantly fires his own lawyer firm ( because it is a Jewish firm doing his defence pro bono as a part of the charity) and resolves to fight on by himself.

When he has spent seven years in prison and his death sentence seems imminent, a young lawyer (I did not say there was no rookie lawyer in the book!) takes up his fight on behalf of the same company that Sam rejected. His name is Adam Hall. We learn that he is the grandson of Sam, through Sam’s estranged son Eddie, who did not agree with the violent and partisan beliefs of Sam and moved away from him, going so far as to change his name. He commits suicide, leaving his family devastated. Eddie’s sister, Lee, became Lee Carman after marrying a wealthy industrialist, but could not escape depression and guilt due to her father’s past and its childhood influences on her. She became an alcoholic and ended up living alone, divorced from her husband. Adam and his sister, Connie, are protected by Eddie from even knowing about Sam in their childhood and Adam learns of it only when Eddie kills himself.

Adam battles family history, learns secrets that makes him despise his grandfather even more, and is yet determined to save him, with the help of Garner Goodman, the experienced lawyer who had represented Sam before.

The story has several subplots and is told well: Adam learning the sad truth about his family and grandfather; Discovery of Lee and the new family Adam finds, and the subsequent discovery of the deep trauma in Lee and her alcoholism; the brilliant campaign by Adam and Garner Goodman to save Sam; Sam’s change of views and his reaction to his own death undergoing changes slowly; Adam’s own family history unfolding slowly – all of these come out very well.

The story is fascinating and shows the horrors of living in the Death Row very well. It shows the hopelessless of the  situation, the reaction of fellow inmates when they learn that Sam’s execution date has been set. It also involves Nugent, a pompous prison Warden, McAllister, a scheming, populist governer and other interesting characters.

The end is really moving, and is well told. John Grisham’s technique of telling the crime as it happened creates a wave of hatred for Sam in the minds of the reader but conveys the situation of the crime in a convincing manner. To turn that hatred around to pity and compassion for the same man towards the end of the book is a real mark of a very gifted writer and John achieves this remarkable feat.

I think that all in all, it is a great book. There are moments in there where the story seems to stall a bit but never for long. It is a good read, if you like Grisham’s style and is a fan already. I would say a 7/10 will not be out of place for this book.

— Krishna

April 10, 2012

Book: The Triumph of the Sun by Wilbur Smith

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 9:19 am

If you have been following Wilbur Smith’s books, you know that almost all of them feature the same families –  the  Courtneys and the Ballantynes,  from generation to generation. ( These are fictional families of course; every one of the men is a superhero, earning the right to populate a Wilbur Smith novel) . This is also a book where a Ballantyne and a Courtney figure together. (Of course, Wilbur Smith has written the Egyptian series with River God,  and Warlock, among others, where none of these characters appear.)

The story is one of the better ones, and is based on some historical facts to boot, which is the brief occupation of Sudan by the self proclaimed Mahdi, after overthrowing General Gordon’s rule there.

If I may be permitted a brief digression, some of the Wilbur Smith’s covers quote Stephen King as saying that one of the best historical authors ever is Wilbur Smith. I know that book covers thrive on hyperbole to entice you and me to buy the books, but even so, this is a stretch. Yes, Wilbur bases his books on history and there are passing remarks of the famous men of the times when the story occurs, and he even gets places and the lingo right, but by no means is he any historical author. Historical fiction is of the genre of Pauline Gedge and James Michener, who write stories to faithfully illustrate history as a central theme. This author just uses it as a fringe decoration to write thrillers.

The story is very well told, and includes Ryder Courtney and Penrod Ballantyne, who both are in love with Rebecca Benbrook, who is torn between the two. The story also revolves around the younger sisters of Rebecca, Saffron and Amber, and their father, David Benbrook.

The story opens with Sudan already under siege by the Mahdi, and assisted by his two ablest generals, Khalif Abdullahi and Osman Atalan. Osman and Penrod are sworn enemies.

The story keeps the tempo and also the gory scenes that have become hallmark of Wilbur Smith novels. It also follows the Wilbur’s trademark pattern of nonstop action and what seem to be minor characters initially growing in strength and character to become central to the story.

The details of Khartoum’s capture by the Arabs and its recapture by the British are interestingly told. The lawlessness of the land in those times (19th century) are well brought out. In fact. there is a lot more history in this book than other books of Wilbur.

In all, a good book, if you like Wilbur Smith. On par, or slightly above, his other books.

I will rate it as a 7/10

— Krishna

April 5, 2012

Book: The Client by John Grisham

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 9:44 am

A satisfying read. The story takes off right from the beginning, almost from the first page onwards. Mark Sway, with his brother Rickie Sway is hiding in a park trying to smoke a prohibited cigarette, when fate throws him a curve ball. A down and out lawyer commits suicide in a car in front of him, but not before telling him a terrible secret. This secret puts both the FBI and a criminal gang in pursuit of Mark.

Mark’s brother lands in the hospital due to shock and his mom loses a job because she has to be near Rickie. That’s when Mark sneaks out and hires a lawyer to ‘help him’. The lawyer, Reggie Love, has been practicing all of four months!

With the FBI trying not-so-ethical methods to get him to speak, and with the mob snapping at his heels, Mark feels lost and confused. If he tells the Feds what he knows, he will be killed by the mob in revenge. If he does not, he may be thrown in jail for obstruction of justice. Even his lawyer does not want to know exactly what he was told!

The characters sparkle in the story and the little vein of humour one noticed in The Rainmaker  (Reviewed here before) seems to pervade this story too. The suspense is kept up throughout and the spectacular legal pyrotechnics are there too. In contrast, this one does have a satisfying ending, unlike the limp ending of his earlier Rainmaker.

The story is tautly told, with interesting characters populating thestory (Judge Harry for instance, and Momma Love) to keep it intereting.

A good read and it definitely deserves a 7/10

— Krishna

March 29, 2012

Book: The Rainmaker by John Grisham

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 9:11 am

Not to be confused with the Rain Man movie, of course.

The story revolves around Rudy Baylor, a young law student who is about to write his final year law exam, and is worried about whether he will get through his final exam and about where he will find a job.

When he undertakes a community service activity as a part of the law course, he ‘advises’, under the watchful eyes of his professor, some clients who are too poor to hire a lawyer of their own. One of them turns out to be a Mrs Bird, who confides in him that she is worth twelve million dollars!

Another of the clients is Donny Ray, who is dying of cancer. He needs a bone marrow transplant, and the insurance company, Great Benefit, does not grant, as it is not “covered by the policy”.

When Rudy Baylor finds that he has no job and that the only job he briefly managed to get was so that Mrs Bird’s case could be snatched away from him, he joins a shady underworld type lawyer who happened to dispense legal advise to the owner of the bar which he worked for part time.

When the pair also disappears, fleeing from the law, Rudy is once again on the streets, with the two cases he garnered from the charity work, and with an assistant who cannot pass the bar exam no matter how many times he has tried!

Now, this story is told in a humorous style, with a self deprecating undertone that very well describes the anxieties of a law student, the uncertainty about the future, and the disillusion that sets in when the ideals of the law as taught by his university clash with the realities of the lawyer’s life.

It is a great fun to read, and the major courtroom battle he embarks on is a lot of fun to read.

I did not like the ending, as I thought that it was a ‘cop out’ and did not fit the rest of the book, which was wonderful. A romantic interest seems to have been thrown in as an afterthought.

All in all, a nice read. I would recommend it as a first book to those of you who want to try out Grisham. (No Grisham fan would have missed this book, I bet).

So, I would give it a 7/10

— Krishna

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