May 31 2012
While I used to read everything written by John Grisham earlier, the author hasn’t been on my must-read-authors list for a while now and the novels I did read(like The Confession) did nothing to change that impression with their flimsy storylines, biased writing, downbeat outlook and rushed endings. While the pacing and suspense that made his earlier novels like The Pelican Brief and The Firm such fantastic reads are still missing, its light-hearted tone and humor makes The Litigators a better read than his recent works.
David Zinc, fed up with his job at a high-profile law firm, quits and ends up joining Figg & Finn, a tiny law firm that is running on accident cases and bad divorces. Wally Figg, one of the firm’s two partners, sees great potential in a class action suit against a pharmaceutical company Varrick Labs, which alleges that one of its drugs Krayoxx causes heart attacks. As he tries to find Krayoxx users who may have been killed by the drug, David puts his legal skills to use to help some others.
The seriousness of the topics didn’t allow Grisham to include much humor in his novels but he shows us his lighter side in The Litigators. The setting of Wally and Oscar’s law firm generates most of the laughs with the relationship between them and their secretary and the dubious way in which they pursue and land cases described well. With David coming from a high-flying law firm, the contrast between his old and new places of work are also striking and described in funny ways. The humor continues as they fight against the bigger and much more organized law firm in court – in a setting that reminds us of My Cousin Vinny.
Another aspect that’s different about The Litigators is that there are multiple story tracks that add suspense to the plot. While the case against Varrick Labs seems right up Grisham’s alley, it doesn’t go the way we expect and the other cases David picks up(like the one for the housekeeper’s kid who has a brain tumor and one on behalf of the illegal workers being exploited by their employer) are also valid, important cases. So the direction the story will take is not immediately clear. Apart from the suspense element, the different cases make the book a fast read as the action keeps jumping between them.
In most David vs Goliath cases(like the one in Grisham’s own Rainmaker), we get to see how a small lawyer takes on and wins against a much bigger law firm. Though the setting of the case against Varrick Labs is familiar, Grisham gives us both sides of the case here as we also get a close look at how a professional law firm prepares and presents a strong case. So the novel seems more balanced. At the same time, the other cases achieve closure in a satisfactory manner also.
The Litigators doesn’t bring back the Grisham of the past but it is one of his more entertaining novels in recent times.
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