Grisham, John. Rogue Lawyer.

NY: Doubleday, 2015.

Grisham’s books have always been kind of hit-or-miss in my opinion, but this one isn’t bad. Sebastian Rudd is a well-known “street lawyer” in his part of the state, taking on those accused of horrific crimes the more white-shoe attorneys won’t touch. In fact, the story opens with the trial of a defendant so loathed in his small redneck town, Rudd has to have a police escort to get to the courthouse without being stoned by the mob. (His office was firebombed a couple of years before, so now he mostly works out of his chauffeured SUV.)

Of course, while Rudd knows most of his gang-connected clients are guilty, he believes this guy actually didn’t do it, and he’s prepared to take a contempt citation from the judge if it will help him prove his case. And if the DA cheats — and Grisham assumes nearly all of them do — then Rudd will cheat, too. In fact, the author seems to have a pretty jaundiced view of the American justice system in all its aspects.

That’s only one thread in the narrative, though. In fact, this book feels very much as if Grisham had a fistful of plot ideas in the drawer, none of which was capable of supporting an entire novel, so he stuffed them all in here. Another plotline involves a big-name organized crime guy on death row for killing a judge and Rudd’s vigil with him in his last hours — and all the things that go wrong along the way. Pure fantasy this time, but kind of fun.

Another plotline involves the all-out assault in the middle of the night by a huge SWAT team on a retiree’s home for very bad reasons, and which gets his wife killed in a hail of automatic weapons’ fire. Grisham uses this case — which leads to the civilian’s indictment for trying to defend himself against his unknown and unidentified attackers — to indict the hyper-militarization of the police in this country and to make it extremely clear why the rest of us ought to be resisting it much more energetically.

Then there’s the lawyer’s investment in the career of and personal involvement with a young cage fighter who can’t control himself when he loses a match. And Rudd was unfortunate in having his young son at the arena when the riot started, thereby giving ammunition to their kid’s custodial (and now lesbian) mother, who would just love to be able to push her ex out of the boy’s life altogether. Sebastian knows he hasn’t been a great father, but he figures his son will get tired of being oppressively helicoptered as he gets older, so he fights her legal maneuvers just as tooth-and-nail as he does his clients’ cases.

All in all, it’s an entertaining yarn — or skein of yarns — and the more important points Grisham wants to make about the state of the American law enforcement and court system are worth paying attention to.

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Published in: on 8 September 2016 at 4:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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