Beyond reasonable doubt • it’s Grisham

-A A +A
By Pat Wellington

In his latest novel, John Grisham seems intent upon reincarnating Mitch McDeere from his breakout legal thriller The Firm. In fact, there are so many similarities between the two thrillers we might sniff plagiarism if both works weren’t by the same writer.

Like Mitch, Kyle McAvoy is idealistic, bright, and a luminary of his law school (Yale here instead of Harvard.) And like Mitch he falls into a trap set by some baddies who this time are tied to defense contractors, not the Mob.

Kyle wanted to spend several years representing poor migrants in the South, but those plans are aborted after he’s blackmailed about a drunken college incident in which a promiscuous coed cried “rape,” years after the fact. Unfortunately, in Pennsylvania where the event took place, the statute of limitations is 12 years.

The publisher’s promo capsules Kyle’s dilemma: “He was one of the outstanding legal students of his generation; he’s good looking, has a brilliant mind and a glittering future ahead of him. But he has a secret from his past, a secret that threatens to destroy his fledgling career and possibly his entire life.”

Kyle, of course, is innocent but a video of the alleged rape has fallen into the hands of a mysterious, villainous slime named Bennie Wright, and it shows Kyle drunk and disoriented while his two friends, Joey and Baxter, take turns with coed ,Elaine Keenan. Kyle realizes that the video could be open to an incriminating interpretation damaging to him.

In exchange for concealing his past Kyle must work for a prestigious Wall Street law firm – Scully & Pershing – and steal secrets to be turned over to the firm’s rival nemesis in a multi-million dollar lawsuit

Seeing no way out, and unable to talk to anyone about his problem, Kyle, with a heavy heart, signs on with Scully & Pershing as an associate. His apartment is bugged, and he is videotaped everywhere he goes. Thus, the hapless protagonist slides between personal disaster or certain death if he messes up.

A touching story parallels the main plot – that of Baxter Tate, Kyle’s former frat brother. Rich but hopelessly addicted to drugs and booze – or so it seemed – Baxter cleans up nicely and turns his life around. But his fate is sealed merely because he knows Kyle.

Although Kyle is resigned to his fate at Scully for many pages, the scenario jumps suddenly and restlessly to his determination to extricate himself from his blackmailer’s clutches at any cost. “Baxter’s murder changed everything. Kyle not only wanted protection; now he wanted justice.”

Although Grisham’s legal thrillers have become formulaic and even something of a clichéd genre, he still spews amazing venom on high-end law firms that work their young associates like dogs, brutalizing them in sadistic ways and with unbearable pressure – all in the name of “blue chip law firm experience.”

Recommended for tried and true Grisham fans only.

Pat Wellington is a retired English professor, freelance writer, and faculty member of On Top of the World’s Master the Possibilities, who shares her passion for books with others.