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The Appeal: A Novelby John Grisham
"The Appeal is [Grisham's] 20th novel, and it's as angry, dark and urgent a piece of social realism as you're likely to find on the bestseller lists any time soon....It's a fascinating narrative, filled with deadly accurate characterizations by an author who knows both the law and politics from the inside. The problem, as with all Grisham's fiction, is that it's egregiously written." Tim Rutten, The Los Angeles Times (read the entire Los Angeles Times review)
Synopses & Reviews
Politics has always been a dirty game.
Now justice is, too.
In a crowded courtroom in Mississippi, a jury returns a shocking verdict against a chemical company accused of dumping toxic waste into a small town's water supply, causing the worst "cancer cluster" in history. The company appeals to the Mississippi Supreme Court, whose nine justices will one day either approve the verdict or reverse it.
Who are the nine? How will they vote? Can one be replaced before the case is ultimately decided?
The chemical company is owned by a Wall Street predator named Carl Trudeau, and Mr. Trudeau is convinced the Court is not friendly enough. With judicial elections looming, he decides to try to purchase himself a seat on the Court. The cost is a few million dollars, a drop in the bucket for a billionaire like Mr. Trudeau. Through an intricate web of conspiracy and deceit, his political operatives recruit a young, unsuspecting candidate. They finance him, manipulate him, market him, and mold him into a potential Supreme Court justice. Their Supreme Court justice.
The Appeal is a powerful, timely, and shocking story of political and legal intrigue, a story that will leave readers unable to think about our electoral process or judicial system in quite the same way ever again.
"With 'The Broker' and now 'The Appeal,' John Grisham seems to be enlarging his fictional niche, focusing on hard-hitting, reality-based courtroom melodramas in which the message takes center stage. Despite cardboard characters and broad sweeps of malevolent action from Big Business, an affecting moral comes through in 'The Appeal.' It reads like a long, engaging and sad fable. The... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) book opens with the tension-filled moments before a Mississippi jury delivers its verdict in the case of Jeannette Baker v. Krane. The woman lost her husband and son to chemical poisoning and is suing the corporation responsible for flooding the river in the small town of Bowmore with toxic amounts of bichloronylene. In the courtroom, we meet Jeannette's 'mom-and-pop' legal team, Wes and Mary Grace Payton, who have risked everything to fight against the pollution in Bowmore. We also meet Jared Kurtin, Krane's counsel. We see very little of Kurtin throughout the rest of the story, and that's part of Grisham's message — that 'the appeal' has relatively little to do with the defense. As for the plaintiff's team, the Paytons are smart, dedicated, compassionate and valiant. In their early 40s, with two young children, they have learned, through losing their suburban McMansion and luxury cars, the joys of simple living. 'Wes and Mary Grace had managed to keep most of their furnishings,' Grisham writes, 'and the shabby apartment was decorated with fine things that not only reminded them of the past, but, more important, reminded them of the future. This was just a stop, an unexpected layover.' At first this seems cloying. Are they really such saints? What's going to happen to these two? Will one of them turn tail and take a job with Krane? Ordinarily in a novel we want to see some character development, some tension coming from within the protagonists and by their choices. But 'The Appeal' derives its tension from forces far beyond the Paytons' control and far beyond even the Mississippi jurors' control. When Manhattan-based Krane CEO Carl Trudeau learns that the jury has awarded $41 million to Baker, he is angry (albeit distracted by his trophy wife's lust for a pricey sculpture up for auction at their latest charity dinner). His crony, Sen. Grott, puts him in touch with a mysterious company named Troy-Hogan, headed by the even more mysterious Barry Rinehart. Trudeau isn't sure what to expect, except victory. In his world, there really isn't anything else at the board table. Disappointment may come in the bedroom and at the stock exchange, but ultimately, Trudeau and his ilk will win. The mysterious Rinehart and his firm specialize in grooming and placing judicial candidates. Trudeau and his people believe that while Justice Sheila McCarthy remains on the Mississippi Supreme Court, the Paytons stand a chance of keeping their client's verdict and award on appeal. While the Paytons dream of leaving their small apartment and giving their staff bonuses, McCarthy is busy getting through her caseload. She believes that in the next election, she'll run unopposed — until suddenly there are not one but two candidates, and McCarthy has undeservedly gained the reputation of being a soft liberal. Rinehart has delicately engineered this roster, and much of Grisham's story has to do with the recruitment and training of a religious conservative to beat McCarthy. In reality, neither Rinehart nor Trudeau cares about politics or morals. To Grisham, that is the sad truth: No one's justice will be served. While chilling, Grisham's tale of modern legal machinations is also, unfortunately, timeless." Reviewed by Bethanne Patrick, who writes the Book Maven blog for Publishers Weekly, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"[An] entertaining page-turner that...yearns for justice. Who knew that the mega-best-selling Grisham wanted to be a moralist." Boston Globe
"Building a remarkable degree of suspense into the all too familiar ploys described here, Mr. Grisham delivers his savviest book in years....What works for Mr. Grisham is his patient, lawyerly, inexorable way of dramatizing urgent moral issues." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"There's no thrill in this thriller, but that's not a bad thing. There's a more meditative quality, yet the novel still packs a wallop....More than a novel, The Appeal is an exposé of how highly organized special-interest groups, loaded with cash, can manipulate the judicial system." USA Today
"Despite cardboard characters and broad sweeps of malevolent action from Big Business, an affecting moral comes through in The Appeal. It reads like a long, engaging and sad fable." The Washington Post Book World
"Grisham illustrates the dangers of such a system with a clever story and thoughtful plot. Of course, much of what makes Grisham's writing so predictable remains — the bad guys are stereotyped to the point of absurdity." Seattle Times
"Grisham tells the story in his rat-a-tat, almost journalistic style, which is effective in giving the reader the sense of how frantic and energy-sapping campaigns can be. If you're a fan of Grisham's legal thrillers, you know what to expect, and that's just what you'll get with The Appeal. You won't be disappointed." Denver Post
"[A] cartoon filled with one-dimensional characters, predictable language and nary a plot twist." Oregonian
"Grisham has written his best legal thriller since 2003's The King of Torts." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"[A] modern-day version of the John Steinbeck novel The Pearl, a look at the futility of the little guy trying to get a fair shake. But Grisham is too savvy a writer to simply lay out a dark scenario and then lead his plot down a predictable path." Dallas-Ft. Worth Star Telegram
In Grisham's first legal thriller since The Broker, justice is for sale — and only the rich can afford it.
About the Author
John Grisham has written nineteen previous novels and one work of nonfiction, The Innocent Man, published in 2006. He lives in Virginia and Mississippi.
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