Richard and Judy Review: Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham

Richard and Judy Review: Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham

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"The plotting is seamless and meticulous, the characters utterly gripping – we care what happens to all of them, the good, the bad, and the ugly"

Richard’s review

How does John Grisham do it? Decades at the top of his game as the king of the legal thrillers, and his crown shows no sign of slipping.

Rogue Lawyer is pure, vintage Grisham. The plotting is seamless and meticulous, the characters utterly gripping – we care what happens to all of them, the good, the bad, and the ugly (typically for Grisham, most fall into the latter two categories) and it’s rare to turn more than three or four pages without experiencing a surge of adrenalin.

At centre-stage is Sebastian Rudd. Rudd is what’s known in America as a ‘street lawyer’; a legal eagle who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. Rudd used to work out of a conventional office, but all that’s behind him since the place was firebombed.

Anyone could have done it. Rudd takes no prisoners and he has built up an impressive back-catalogue of extremely dangerous enemies – gangsters, cops, insurance companies, other lawyers, judges and an ex-wife. He is hardly Mr Popular, other than to the men and women he successfully defends. Some are actually guilty, some innocent, but Rudd couldn’t care less. He believes everyone is entitled to a good defence and a fair trial whether they’re guilty as sin or not.

But more than that; he relishes a fight, the rougher the better. He loves to ‘claw and raise hell in a courtroom where no-one is listening’.

Well, until Rudd gets into his stride.

People listen then all right.

"A cracking read and one of Grisham’s best yet."

Judy’s review

Grisham gets his street lawyer to lay out his philosophy on the law early in this book. Rudd’s talking about the case he’s currently defending: an 18 year old punk called Gardy, a tattooed, multi-pierced dropout with low IQ and lower expectations. Gardy is accused of the sadistic double-murder of two teenage girls in the small, hick town of Milo. Everyone thinks he did it.

‘My clients are almost always guilty,’ reflects Rudd, ‘so I don’t waste a lot of time wringing my hands about whether they get what they deserve. In this case, though, Gardy is not guilty. Not that it matters – it does not. What’s important in Milo these days is that Gardy gets convicted and sentenced to death and executed as soon as possible so that the town can feel better about itself and move on.’

Since the firebombing of his office, Rudd works out of a bullet-proof van. He has a full time bodyguard and carries a legally registered gun. When arguing his (always highly controversial) cases, he usually stays in motels and frequently changes rooms during the trial.

In his spare time he loves to go and watch cage-fights. The parallels between the red-in-tooth-and-claw sport and his own jagged jousts in small-town courtrooms are obvious.

Given there’s no case too ghastly for Rudd to take on, the novel describes a series of contentious trials, moving from the Gardy case to others, including that of Arch Swanger, prime suspect for the abduction and presumed murder of the 21-year-old daughter of a local assistant chief of police.

But the awful Swanger confides a terrible secret to his lawyer – one that threatens everything Rudd thought he believed in.

A cracking read and one of Grisham’s best yet.

Press reviews

Here are a selection of the reviews for Rogue Lawyer

"Terrific…The biggest mystery that Rogue Lawyer poses is how Grisham, at this stage in his long writing career, can still devise all these distinctive characters, tricky legal predicaments and roguishly cheating ways to worm out of them."

Washington Post

"Highly readable, thanks to Grisham’s fast-moving narrative skills"

Independent

"John Grisham has perfected the art of cooking up convincing fast-paced thrillers"

Telegraph