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I love John Grisham and have read all of his books. I liked this one, but I found the beginning to be a bit slow and was not as gripped by this book as I have been with his other novels. However, once I finally got into the story I did start to really enjoy it. As an avid John Grisham fan I was determined not to give up on it, and I would suggest that other fans stick with it, it does get going after a few chapters in. I would recommend this book to other readers, but I would not recommend it to new John Grisham readers as a first read, I would recommend you try one of his earlier books first as the slow start on this one could put new readers off from reading the author's other novels. As I say I did enjoy it, but in my opinion only, I found it not to be one his best.
After 20 plus years and goodness knows how many novels, you probably know what to expect from John Grisham by now, yes? A slick legal thriller; a David v Goliath tale in which a small inexperienced law firm takes on a massive evil corporation and wins, despite the latter's willingness to employ dirty and even illegal tactics.
Well, it appears that you can teach an old dog new tricks after all.
At first glance, The Litigators appears to be business as usual. A young lawyer with a bright future at a major legal firm cracks under the pressure of his job and winds up joining a small, badly run struggling firm of two ambulance-chasing lawyers, the lowest of the low. When they get wind of a cholesterol lowering drug which some believe causes heart disease, they go after a massive pharmaceutical company, in the hope of securing a multi-million dollar compensation payout. So far, so Grisham. And sure, it contains all the usual dirty tricks and sleaze you might expect... it just doesn't always come from the direction you expect.
In many ways, The Litigators should be a car-crash of a novel. It is utterly implausible, riddled with plot holes, filled with deeply selfish and unlikeable characters and highly predictable. The whole premise on which the novel is built is patently ridiculous. The main character (David) is first encountered suffering a breakdown as a result of the pressures and monotony of his job. Fair enough, we've all been there. However, how many of us have then gone on to spend the day drinking in a bar before wandering (blind drunk) into the offices of a small, sleazy firm and announced that we now work there, without knowing anything about them? Moreover, if someone wandered into your place of work steaming drunk announcing they were your new employee whether you liked it or not, would you really give them a job?
Both of those things happen in The Litigators... and they are amongst some of the more plausible bits!
Equally preposterous is the way that the newly expanded firm gets wind of the potential problem with the drug and starts a lawsuit, despite having absoulutely zero experience in this area. At a push, you could argue that this is Grisham's attack on a legal system which makes it far too easy to blame big corporations and force massive legal settlements. To be honest, though, that's being far to kind to the author's creative process. Grisham has always been an entertaining but shallow writer and the reason these daft situations occur is because they are needed to move the plot along. Implausible plots have always been Grisham's stock in trade, but here he turns it into an art form!
Recognising that the basic plot is probably not sufficient to sustain the book, Grisham also introduces a number of sub-plots, although it has to be said that many of these will be greeted with indifference by the reader because they are not actually terribly interesting or exciting. It's also a problem because he tends to introduce them, and then ignore them for long periods of time, only returning to them when he's wrapped up the other elements. As such, they never really feel like an integral part of main story, just some extra "stuff" bolted on.
And even though Grisham tries to take a new approach to his David vs. Goliath legal battles, The Litigators is still highly predictable. About half way through something happens and even though Grisham tries to keep it low key, from the moment it appears, most readers will know exactly where the book is heading. You'd think that (on top of the other issues) such crushing predictability would kill the book stone dead; surprisingly (for reasons we'll come to in a moment), you'd be wrong.
And then, there are the characters who are shallow and unlikeable to a man (or woman). The main character frequently acts in an unconvincing and unlikely way, whilst his new colleagues are unpleasant, arrogant unethical and selfish, motivated only by money. They care nothing for their clients, using them solely as a means of getting to that "big score". The lawyers and characters on the other side, meanwhile, are equally selfish; their sole aim being to drag things on for as long as possible so that they can make as much money as possible from defence fees.
Normally, these would fatal wounds, yet somehow Grisham pulls it off. It's clearly not the best book in the world (it's not even the best Grisham book), but it's entertaining and readable. Over the years Grisham has perfected the knack of writing the literary equivalent of "easy listening" music. Despite their potentially complex subject matter, they are easy to read. Grisham's style might be simplistic and his characterisation non-existent, but he knows how to create a good thriller. His style is highly readable, providing enough background information and legal mumbo jumbo to make a passable attempt at convincing the reader that he knows what he is talking about, without ever getting too bogged down in the minutiae of a highly complex legal system. His characters might be as shallow as a puddle on a hot summer day, but that just means that you don't have to get bogged down in trying to remember who did what to whom and why.
At the end of the day, you read books like this for pleasure, something you can pick up in those rare moments of leisure and not have to think about too hard (if at all). You're not looking for searing indictments of a corrupt legal system (although this is implicit in some of the plot elements) or a comprehensive dissection of how the law fails to protect the lowly and serves only to make the rich richer. What you're looking for is a fast-paced thriller that will keep you entertained and perhaps occasionally make you smile with a little light social satire. THIS is what Grisham is good at and it's exactly what he does once more in The Litigators.
Grisham is never likely to win any prizes for originality or for literary technique, but who cares? The Litigators is not meant to change your life; it's meant to give you a few hours of disposable entertainment and in that sense, it's a great success.
The Litigators can currently be bought new for about £8 with the Kindle edition costing a ridiculous £11. A paperback edition is expected in July 2012 with an RRP of £7.99 and charity shops are likely to be flooded with copies not long after that.
Hodder & Stoughton, 2011
(c) Copyright SWSt 2012
A few years ago I was an avid reader of John Grisham books but recently seemed to lose interest in them. However, when I saw his latest book, 'The Litigators', it caught my interest and I decided to give him another go. I am really glad that I did as I really enjoyed this book and it has rekindled my interest in John Grisham so much so that he is now firmly back on my 'must read' list!
'The Litigators' seems to be a typical John Grisham legal thriller and courtroom drama where the little man takes on the big guns. In this case the little men are the 'boutique' firm of Finley and Figg and the big guns are a pharmaceutical company called Arrick which has a drug on the market called Krayoxx that is designed to reduce cholesterol levels in overweight people. There are claims that this drug causes heart attacks leading to premature deaths and there are many law firms ready to take on clients to fight for compensation. When Wally Figg hears about this, he is determined to find some clients for his small firm in order to get a part of the action and hopefully, eventually, strike it rich!
Across town in Chicago, another lawyer, David Zinc, is completely disillusioned with the extremely long hours and the tedium involved in working with one of the city's most prestigious law firms. One morning he just flips, walks out, spends the whole day evening and ultimately finds himself outside the doors of Finley and Figg. The three join forces to form an unlikely alliance where they plan to take on Arrick and claim a huge settlement for all of their clients. However, Arrick believe in their wonder drug so actually want to see the case tried before a jury which is what finally happens. The only problem is that neither Wally Figg, Oscar Finley or David Zinc have ever set foot in a federal court before! It looks as if they do not stand a chance!
What follows in 'The Litigators', is a fascinating tale of misjudgement, ineptitude and bad fortune. It seems that everything that could go wrong does and when the going gets tough the trio find themselves on their own and up against it! I found it fascinating and gripping and kept on wanting to read more. If you like legal thrillers, you will find all of the aspects of the mass claim riveting and the court scenes really absorbing.
I liked the fact that within this intense story, Grisham has created three wonderful characters that I found myself really rooting for. Each has his individual strengths and weaknesses and his own history. It is just a shame for them that no one's history involves bringing a huge claim before a federal court! I loved the way that Grisham combined their optimism and desperation in equal measures.
I said earlier that it looked like the trio did not stand a chance against the mighty pharmaceutical firm, but I am not going to say whether they did win. I will suggest that you read 'The Litigators' though, and then you will find out for yourself. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed.
I am very grateful to the publisher for sending me a review copy.
The Litigators is currently available in hardback on amazon for only £7.00 (January 2012).
This review has previously appeared under my name at www.curiousbookfans.co.uk