Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Associate by John Grisham

I like John Grisham novels in the sense you know what you're going to get -- a story based around some aspect of the law, some kind of intrigue, thinly sketched characters, and liberal use of words like "goons". Grisham is short on details and descriptions and the suspension of disbelief is a requirement. But still, the books are quick and easy to read and that's why I come back to Grisham every now and then. I like familiarity.

However, "The Associate" is possibly one of the worst books Grisham has ever written. It starts out well. Kyle, a law student, is accosted by some "goons" (Grishma's favorite bad guy descriptor) with some incriminating evidence and blackmail him into taking an offer at a high power NYC law firm. So far so good, right? Well, the story actually falls apart right there as the evidence against Kyle is flimsy, at best, and the set-up and expectation of some moral outrage is woefully missing. However, if you buy this premise and keep reading, there are hints here and there that Something Big (tm) is coming and yet it never comes. Instead, the entire storyline collapses and it's almost as if Grisham looked up from his computer, saw his deadline was in 10 minutes and slapped "The end" on it. I actually went over to to read what others had to say about the ending as I thought maybe I'd missed something. Fortunately for me and unfortunately for the book, the majority found the ending wholly unsatisfying; the only way it works is if Grisham has a sequel planned. Unfortunately, Kyle and his friends are not interesting or likeable enough to follow for a second outing.

The flatness of the ending and the utter laziness surrounding it is baffling; after nearly two decades of storytelling, Grisham should know better. There's nothing more disappointing than investing hours into a book and having it turn out this way, especially when there are glimmers are excitement and suspense. In fact, his early offering, "The Firm", is a much more compelling and mature book than this one; I recommend reading that one instead.

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