taking joy in human unreason

John Grisham’s The Firm

In this 1991 novel by John Grisham, Mithell McDeere, an almost-lawyer not quite out of Harvard is recruited by a Memphis law firm offering everything he could ever want: money, cars, a house, and success as a tax lawyer. So what if the firm is a little pushy about how much their workers drink, when they should have children, etc.? It’s all worth it, for the money and for the chance to work at a firm with zero turnover. Of course, things with the firm aren’t quite what they seem, and Mitch has to find out why certain lawyers are dying strange deaths before he finds himself next in line.

I hadn’t read a Grisham novel in a few years, and this book was a great way to slip back into his writing. The writing style is clear and fresh, and there isn’t much of that obscure technical information that can detract from the plot that some authors tend to use when writing of law. The characters were well-developed, although I found Mitch, Lambert, and Locke to be a little on the cookie-cutter side. Mitch seemed like my perception of a typical lawyer (although I’m not sure if this perception of mine applies to tax lawyers as well… and why use tax lawyers?!). The effort to make him seem like a typical upshot from Harvard was almost too much. He could have used a few eccentricities, although by no means was he a character lacking in flaws. I think Grisham handled that aspect well. It was just that all of his flaws were “typical” as well: greed, lust, etc. Lambert and Locke played their roles of “good cop, bad cop” equally typically. Attaching a nickname of “Black Eyes” to one of the characters within the first 75 pages of the book doesn’t bode well for his character’s personality.

Surprisingly, this doesn’t detract from the novel much, particularly given that I focus much more on characters than plot. It’s still a great book, and the bland nature of the characters isn’t really noticable except in retrospect, I think. The book has a great pace, and almost never drags during slower parts. There were no sections of the book that I wanted to page through quickly to get to the next action scene, or the next unwrinkling of the mystery; it’s all so well intertwined that the entire novel comes off looking good.