Welcome friends! I have started this entry in the global technosphere because I have been in love with books since the age of 2. Among the busy business of being a new teacher, this is my outlet for sharing thoughts on a love of reading a wide variety of books. My inspiration can be summed up with a yearbook quote from a teacher written when I was 8: "To the only girl at recess I see reading a book. Good for you!"
My blog title is quoted from a classmate who asked me this once. Believe it or not, I've also heard it as a teacher :D

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

John Grisham Book Reviews

I got some great responses to my James Patterson book reviews post that I decided to go ahead with my plan to do a similar post on John Grisham. In high school, I read The Firm and The Pelican Brief for a senior English project, and became hooked on his popular legal fiction.

Do you remember a time in your adolescence when you made a transition to adult reading material? This was mine. I felt proud to have finished the adult level books & actually understand them! Now, like with James Patterson's novels, I’ve mostly exhausted reading Grisham's books as his quality of writing has since peaked (in my opinion).

Without further ado, here are the John Grisham novels I have read with short reviews & rankings.

Genre:  Legal Fiction
Start Date:  From 2003-2008
Finished Date:  From 2003-2008

Where Found:  Used bookstore & Chapters-Indigo
Why Read:  Mostly for interest in popular adult fiction

My 3 Favourite John Grisham Novels

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters
Published:  1991
Length:  501 pages
ISBN:  044021145X

Summary:  A top-ranking, recently graduated law student is initially charmed by a small Memphis law firm that pays in spades until he discovers their corrupt Mafia dealings.

An intricate, increasingly complex plot makes for a constant thrill ride.  You never know who to trust and what direction the impressionable Mitch McDeere will take to uncover the truth without losing his law license or his life.  This is the very best of John Grisham, and if you are not much for his brand of fiction or don't care to read any of it, this is the one exception I beg you to take!  The movie version is good in its own right, but has a different ending & makes considerable cuts to the book's plot.  I would say read the book, then see the movie, as you should do most of the time :o)
Rank:  (A+)- One of my all-time favourites!

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters
Published:  1989
Length:  515 pages
ISBN:  0440211727

Summary:  A young, justice-seeking attorney in KKK-ridden Mississippi defends a black client who killed the two white men who raped & left his young daughter for dead.


Grisham's first book is one of his greatest and most powerful in its criticism of the U.S. South and its racially provoked legal system, the ethics of taking the law into your own hands, the means of acquiring justice with political & criminal repercussions that spill over into the personal lives of the defense.  Once you get past the legal jargon that Grisham eventually simplifies with his more current novels, A Time To Kill is a morality tale that still rings true and is still being contemplated today.  The movie version is all right, though doesn't quite stand up to the novel.

Rank:  (A+)- Excellent, A Must-Read

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters
Published:  1992
Length:  436 pages
ISBN:  0440214041

Summary:  An ambitious law student works with a resourceful journalist to uncover a government conspiracy that unravels after the killing of two Supreme Court justices.


Most of Grisham's novels involve male lawyers fighting injustices, making The Pelican Brief unique in the sense that a young woman with as much brains & sass as any male lawyer can have takes the reins in this sparkplug of a mystery with the assistance of a prominent newspaper reporter with the senses of Woodward & Bernstein.  Many risks are taken to protect a burdensome secret and expose a dangerous truth all for the sake of legal justice & journalistic integrity.  The movie version is also worthy, staying true to the novel & has just as much pop in its storyline.
Rank:  (A+)- Excellent

Other John Grisham Novels Read

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters
Published:  1993
Length:  496 pages
ISBN:  9780385339087

Summary:  After a young boy witnesses the suicide of a lawyer who confesses that his Mafioso client murdered a Senator and reveals where the body is buried, he hires a lawyer to protect him & his family from being found out.


Grisham creates compelling characters in young Mark and his relationship with his lawyer, Reggie Love, who puts up a hard shell that eventually breaks to reveal a soft centre at her core with a tumultuous past.  It is an engaging, worthwhile read, yet not quite a favourite of mine.  There is something about the previous three books that were more fulfilling than The ClientThe movie version is about equal to the book, not any better or any worse, and is worth a viewing if it happens to come on TV or a rental.

Rank:  (A)- Very Good

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters
Published:  1994
Length:  640 pages
ISBN:  9780385339667

Summary:  A former KKK member is on death row facing the gas chamber unless his estranged lawyer grandson, who has since been sheltered from his family's dark history, can set aside personal differences and defend what may be an innocent man.


I did not finish this book, only getting about 1/4 of the way through as I found the buildup to be dull and uninteresting.  I wasn't that taken with the characters and have read better Grisham novels.  This is one of his duds.  A movie version with Gene Hackman and Chris O'Donnell didn't fare much better as Grisham himself called it "a dreadful movie."

Rank:  (DNF)- Did Not Finish.  Don't Recommend

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters
Published:  1995
Length:  576 pages
ISBN:  9780385339605

Summary:  A young, down-on-his-luck law school graduate works alongside a sleazy "ambulance chaser" lawyer to defend a poor family seeking a wrongful death suit against an insurance company who failed to cover treatment for their cancer-ridden son.


A solid read with a strong ethical case that brings back themes of A Time to Kill with classcism in place of racism.  I enjoyed it thoroughly, even moreso than the often overpraised The Client, with its sense of humour sprinkled throughout, offering comic relief to the dark subject matter of preventable death due to corporate greed.  The movie version is also a good companion to the book, quite true to the plot and worth a look.

Rank:  (A)- Very Good, Really Liked It

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters
Published:  1996
Length:  550 pages
ISBN:  9780440221470

Summary:  During the trial of a wrongful death suit in which a widow is suing four major tobacco companies for her husband's death from lung cancer, a corrupt jury consultant and a mysterious undercover jury member are manipulating the verdict in two distinctly different ways.


Fascinating read with lots of conflicting viewpoints on the responsibility of rich companies peddling dangerous products, the influence of those companies on the general public, the selection of juries, their hidden agendas & those of the lawyers on both sides of the case, the biases of all involved, and the reworking of the justice system from inside sources.  A compelling story throughout if you ignore the complete absurdity of some aspects and the huge security breaches most of the novel entails.  The movie version was even sharper and insightful, despite changing the focus during early pre-production from the tobacco industry to the gun industry due to the acute coverage of the former's subject matter in the 1999 film The Insider.

Rank:  (A)- Excellent

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters
Published:  1997
Length:  416 pages
ISBN:  9780385339100

Summary:  After a lawyer gets wind of a fraud scheme being run by his firm without him, he fakes his own death and flees to Brazil with a large chunk of the firm's money and as much evidence as he can collect.


I vaguely remember reading this but it was forgettable and a tad predictable as the plot wasn't as exciting or complex as previous Grisham novels have been.

Rank:  (C)- Just Okay

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters
Published:  1998
Length:  384 pages
ISBN:  978-0385339094

Summary:  After police kill a homeless man who took hostages at a law firm, one lawyer discovers shocking evidence against his former employer in an eviction of a homeless family that leads him to advocate for their rights.


Interesting subject matter, but like The Partner, blended too far into the background and is also forgettable.  A 2003 TV pilot was filmed but never came to fruition.
Rank:  (C)- Just Okay

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters
Published:  1999
Length:  480 pages
ISBN:  9780385339582

Summary:  A lawyer serves to protect the wishes of a billonnaire who commits suicide shortly after changing his will to leave everything to an illegitimate daughter over his contesting children, who is traced to a missionary in Brazil.


Great lead-up, building to some exciting plot twists, though the ending rings false and seems too pat for my liking.

Rank:  (C)- Just Okay

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters
Published:  2000
Length:  384 pages
ISBN:  9780385339674

Summary:  Three imprisoned ex-judges run a blackmailing ring that soon targets a Presidential candidate whose election is being fixed by a corrupt CIA director.


This is a return to form for Grisham.  You love to hate the villain and actually root for the anti-heroes that are arguably even more crooked!  I laughed out loud at the ending, finding it incredible how things come around perfectly in full circle.

Rank:  (A)- Excellent

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters
Published:  2002
Length:  304 pages
ISBN:  9780385339599

Summary:  A law professor with an estranged drug addict brother discovers a large sum of money in his father, a former judge's, house upon his death that is not part of his will and tries to keep it without being traced by its owners.


As you can tell by the summary, the plot is a bit weak from the start and involves a cat-and-mouse game that is not all that different from a routine suspense movie, but lacks the spark such a plot needs to sustain to keep from falling flat.  Don't bother.

Rank:  (D)- Didn't Like, Don't Recommend

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters
Published:  2003
Length:  400 pages
ISBN:  9780385339650

Summary:  A disgruntled public defender learns through his client accused of a street murder that a pharmaceutical company is testing on recovering drug addicts with side effects occuring in rare cases, leading to him ruthlessly cashing in on large settlements.


Not a bad return to legal thrillers after a brief foray into more sentimental fiction.  It's sometimes hard to relate to the main character as he is also the villain, but watching how he digs himself into a giant hole is more interesting than if the protagonist was the one chasing him down.

Rank:  (B)- Good, Recommend

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters
Published:  2004
Length:  416 pages
ISBN:  9780385339681

Summary:  Told through the perspective of a local newspaper man, a recently paroled murderer seeks revenge on the jurors who convicted him in a racially motivated trial.


Returning to interwoven themes of racial hatred & justice in A Time to Kill, Grisham creates a different perspective on a similar story.  While it doesn't quite measure up to the power of the older book, it is good in its own right and is worth a read.

Rank:  (B)- Very Good, Recommend

Purchase:  Amazon | Chapters
Published:  2005
Length:  384 pages
ISBN:  9780385340540

Summary:  A power broker recently released from prison is being targeted for assassination by the government and countries of interest in a deal he attempted to make for the highest bid on the world's most intricate surveillance system.


A different take on Grisham's typical legal fiction that steps on the gas with more action sequences and plenty of page-turning fun.  Worth a read.

Rank:  (B)- Very Good, Recommend

I have not read these books by John Grisham (not including nonfiction or children's books):
A Painted House (2001)
Skipping Christmas (2001)
Bleachers (2003)
The Appeal (2008)
The Associate (2009)
The Confession (to be released in 2010)


  1. Hi! Thanks for stopping by my blog. I have read most of Grisham's legal thrillers and have to say I agree with your ratings! A time to Kill is one of my very favorites of his. I didn't think much of the Summons either! Love your place here!

  2. Great review list! I've read all the ones you've listed (even finished The Chamber, you didn't miss anything). I love your ratings and I'm almost perfectly in line with all of them.

    I enjoyed The Partner more than you did, but that was my very first Grisham and I think that's why I liked it so much.

    Also, I've read The Appeal, Painted House, Skipping Christmas and Bleachers. I would say all of those would rate as Cs, just okay.

  3. This is a story about the last will and testament of one of the riches men in the United States. The beginning of the book talks about his ex-wifes and offspring and is almost impossible to put down. The will sends a lawyer on a journey to Brazil to find the illegitimate daughter of the billionaire who spends her life in the jungle as a missionary. The journey was a bit more drawn out then necessary but the story did pick up after finding her. It was enjoyable.