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review 2018-02-09 10:17
2/5: The Pelican Brief, John Grisham
The Pelican Brief - John Grisham

Two US Supreme Court judges are killed in what appears to be a related incident, but no one can figure out why, except a law student named Darby Shaw who suddenly everyone wants killed…

This was John Grisham’s third novel, and in a way it follows closely the formula of the previous one, The Firm. I picked it up on a whim, mainly because the copy of The Firm I have has a teaser for this at the end.

As a comparison to The Firm: both protagonists go on the run, “chased…by anonymous corporations and police forces” to paraphrase Inception. Both of them find a way to tell their stories and both end up in the Caribbean in the epilogue. Neither have any real ties, and both are rich enough to be able to hop on a plane at a minutes notice and stop in decent hotels night after night. The Firm’s male protagonist needs a woman to help him succeed; Darby Shaw needs a man to help her succeed.

I don’t wish to drop too many spoilers here, but the plot creaked and dragged in too many places for me to rate this higher. In the middle of the book, there’s a long section where two characters are interviewing students. Obviously, it’s going to be the last student they talk to, or none at all, that gives them the information they need. It dragged on for a whole chapter, and it could have been trimmed and we wouldn’t have missed anything.

There’s an exposition scene at the end where the head of the FBI explains what’s been going on and my eyes glazed over, even though it was only a page.

It’s a timely book though, given the political situation of 2018 in the US: A golf loving president tells the head of the FBI to stop investigating a crime, and it’s repeatedly stated it’s close to obstruction of justice to do so.

There also seems to be some author-intrusion going on in one chapter as well, when Grisham is discussing the oil business in Louisiana and it's destruction of the environment. It's a jarring note.

The premise had a touch of Agatha Christie: It’s impossible to work out why these Supreme Court judges were killed without information that comes to light only 80% of the way through the book.

Perhaps I was reading it too much as a who-done-it, but that does seem to be the intent: Darby goes to a records office to research her brief, but no clues are given as to what the subject is. And because I was looking for those clues, it made an unsatisfactory read to be given the answer in a plot dump.

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review 2018-01-24 16:40
The Rooster Bar - John Grisham

The Rooster Bar by John Grisham
Starts out with the Frasier house, it's Christmas and the mother is busy with festive decorations and music.
The father had left them moving on to a new woman who he had pregnanted.
Louie was on house arrest. Mark, the older was back from lawyer school but headinb ack to school for final semester. They all have their burdens and struggles.
Story follows a buddy of Mark and Todd and Zolta. They all attempted to watch over Gordie, he was off his meds, going to marry Brenda in several months and he jumped off the bridge instead.
Love the conspiracy wall and info on thumb drives, priceless!
Zola's parents are being deported-she's legal but they are not, heading back to Sengal.
Very interesting schemers and how they get away with claiming to be lawyers...
Every angle covered, love reading this author.

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review 2017-12-03 04:24
The Rooster Bar, John Grisham, author; Ari Fliakos, narrator
The Rooster Bar - John Grisham

There are four very close friends, Gordie, Todd, Mark and Zola, who are disillusioned after attending a poorly rated law school. When Gordie commits suicide, the other three are at loose ends. Although they are about to graduate from this rotten school, they have no prospect of a job, and they can not repay their accumulated debts. They discover that their despondent, deceased friend had been doing research on a swindler who was connected to their school, their loans and several companies that were making money by enticing students with false promises of successful futures. It seems that most of the students were unqualified, unemployable, unprepared and unable to pass the bar upon graduation. Massive fraud was taking place under a legal umbrella.
Since their future seemed bleak, they decided to leave law school and begin their own fraudulent practice of law. In this way, the author seems to be attempting to show the corruption of our legal system and those involved in all aspects of it. The reader meets crooked lawyers, negligent judges, and there is certainly no shortage of criminals introduced, who are being taken advantage of by the system that is supposed to protect them. The fact that they have committed crimes is given little importance when compared to the impossible bureaucracy they are required to face.
After trying their hands at practicing law without licenses, being discovered and just managing to barely outrun the authorities, the three surviving friends decide to try another avenue. They go after the man who is at the top of the fraudulent scheme their friend uncovered. They seem very cavalier and unrealistic about the nature of their own fraudulent behavior, the danger they face and the consequences of their actions. They don’t seem to believe that they will ever be caught or held responsible for their actions, although they daily compound their wrongdoing.
At the same time as they are engaged in these criminal activities, one of the friends, whose family came into the United States illegally almost three decades ago, from Senegal, discovers that her family has been caught and is going to be deported. She is not in any danger, having been born in America. This part of the book proceeds to seemingly expose some of the many diverse problems in our immigration system, as the family is shipped back, unceremoniously, to a country that is corrupt and not only doesn’t want them back, but resents their return and is known for its brutality toward returning citizens.
The author admits that he has taken many liberties in his presentation, and I felt as if the book not only made a mockery of our government, its agencies, our lawyers and our immigration and justice system, a bit unfairly, but it also seemed to hold no criminal accountable for the behavior that got them into trouble. I felt as if it was only the system that was being judged rather than those who had become trapped within it through their own actions. It took on the feeling of a fairy tale without any prospect of the novel ever approaching reality. It also took forever for the book to make its point. Those who were victims of their own irresponsible behavior came out as the winners, unscathed by their heinous behavior. Poor behavior was rewarded and most of the characters had no character!

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review 2017-11-08 19:52
"The Rooster Bar" by John Grisham
The Rooster Bar - John Grisham

There are some good things in the "The Rooster Bar", enough of them that I read the book right to the end in the hope that it would be worth my time. It wasn't.

"The Rooster Bar" starts well. John Grisham quickly got me immersed in the pressure cooker lives of four for-profit Law School students, groaning under a mountain of debt and with little prospect of getting a job that would enable them to pay it back. He used the instability and obsession of the most charismatic of the four to lay-out the "Great Law School Scam" without making it feel like a clumsy infodump and then added a trauma to hook my emotions and make me care.

I relaxed and waited for some kind of clever and cathartic revenge to be extracted in a sort of "The Firm 2.O" way.

Grisham kept my attention and my emotional involvement by adding in a plot about how ICE  (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) the Storm Troopers of  Homeland Security works.

This felt real and got the point across without sounding preachy. The shame of failing to treat people with dignity was made clear.

After that... well, the whole thing fell apart but slowly enough that I never quite gave up hope.

My main problem was that I didn't like and couldn't bring myself to care about the two emotionally distant, testosterone-driven, arrogant and amoral white boys who were positioned as the heroes of the piece.

Their reaction to having let their greed ensnare them in a potentially life-ruining scam was to scam everyone else. They commit crime after crime to make money, sustained by a sort of frat-boy belief that guys like them will never suffer the consequences of their actions. They were called Todd and Mark and I couldn't really tell them apart except that one (I can't remember which) was more willing to help a friend in trouble.

It seems that I was supposed to be cheering for these two would-be alpha male lawyers to out-smart the authorities, get revenge on the bad guys and ride off into a Tequilla-sustained sunset. Personally, I'd have been happy to see them both take their punishment.

Todd and Mark are the moral vacuum at the heart of this book. They're clever, resourceful, hard-working, brave but ruthless and willing to break any law to get their own way.

I could have lived with the moral vacuum if the book had ended with a great reveal or a clever, Mission Impossible slick finish but It didn't. Instead, it slid gently to a stop as it ran out of momentum and I ran out of sympathy.

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review 2017-11-02 03:01
The Rooster Bar - John Grisham

I finished this book in two sittings: on my lunch break and on my bed the moment I got home. I didn’t get up to eat dinner, use the bathroom, anything. The Rooster Bar is one of those books.


Like almost every Grisham novel, this is a high-stakes crime thriller . . . but the stakes here feel so much higher than in his other books — at least the ones I’ve read, which I admit isn’t a large number. Three laws students mired in debt without any job prospectives on the horizon decide to drop out of sight, change their identity . . . and become faux street lawyers. They know the ropes (well, some of them) and they put up a front. And they’re successful. At least for a while. Then the phony partnership go after bigger fish, more money . . . and from there unfolds one of Grisham’s most captivating plots to date.


Does that sound hokey? Silly? Yes, maybe it does. But this book really spoke to me: the frustration with college, the fears of the future, the desire (and, in these characters’ cases, success) to start all over and go on an adventure — an adventure with quite the cash prize, if all goes well. That spoke to where I am at right now. And Grisham writes this story with the reverence, skill, and knowledge that is present in all his works.


Surely one of my picks for favorite new release of the year, this was a book I just could not put down. Check it out — but not with any pressing plans.

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