(Scotlandonsunday, Jan 11, David Leask)
We should all be sick of John Grisham. We should be sick of his formulaic legal thrillers and we should be sick of the smug and suspiciously youthful-looking author’s face on their covers. We should be. But we’re not.
There were three newish Grishams piled up among the bestsellers in the shops this Christmas. And there’s another new one out later this month. It’s going to be another hit. Why? Because it’s a damned good read.
Grisham’s latest is The Associate. Cynics might suggest it has been stamped out at some thriller cloning factory. Its hero, after all, is a smart young legal beaver named Kyle McAvoy, who is recruited fresh from Yale law school to a major New York law firm. Think Tom Cruise as smart young lawyer Mitch McDeere in the movie of Grisham’s first bestseller, The Firm. True, young Mitch graduated from Harvard and worked in Memphis, but the similarities are clear from the get-go, down to the Scottish-sounding names of their heroes. The jacket blurb is candid: this book, it says, is “reminiscent of The Firm”.
So should readers feel cheated? Most definitely not. This is not Grisham returning to a hackneyed template, but the former lawyer and legislator returning to the world he knows best. McAvoy, finds himself in the Manhattan offices of Scully and Pershing, the world’s biggest firm of lawyers. He is to serve as one of the hundreds of associates, junior lawyers who bill 100 hours a week in return for a salary of $200,000.
McAvoy, the son of a modest country lawyer, had planned to work as an advocate for the poor and downtrodden. His mind was changed by a rather nasty blackmail plot hatched by a group eager to learn the secrets of Scully and Pershing’s most controversial client.
The Associate, then, has an unusual premise: McAvoy, the fictional editor of the real Yale Law Review, is forced to take a job his fellow students would die for. But he must travel through the rarified world of New York lawyers desperately trying to balance his strong legal ethics with the very illegal demands being made of him by his blackmailers.
Of course, Grisham quietly demonstrates how McAvoy could have sorted out his problems long before he does. He could have gone to a good lawyer.