My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I don't often find myself reading best-sellers while they are still on the New York Times top ten list. I'm usually late to the party. Years late, in most cases. But I read a review of John Grisham's latest, Rogue Lawyer, and I was intrigued and decided to get on the bandwagon and read it right away.
Grisham's narrative takes off with the power and speed of a locomotive and just continues to gather steam over the next 300 or so pages until he delivers us safely into the station once again. He has stolen the germ of an idea from Michael Connelly's The Lincoln Lawyer (all writers steal; they just need to make sure the take from the best as Grisham has), but Grisham's Sebastian Rudd is definitely not a "Lincoln." He is a Ford van lawyer.
His base of operations is a customized bulletproof (and it needs to be!) van with Wi-Fi, fine leather chairs, a bar, a small fridge, as well as a hidden gun compartment. It is his office and, in a pinch, can serve as temporary living quarters.
Like The Lincoln Lawyer, he has a driver who is a former client. His driver, though, is his only employee and serves as his law clerk (Rudd paid for his community college course as a paralegal), his bodyguard, his golf caddy, and one of his very few friends. Sebastian Rudd is not a well-liked man in the unnamed Southern city where he lives. He rubs the powers-that-be the wrong way.
Rudd, however, is on the right side of the law. Or at least the right side of justice. His passion is justice and he's not above cheating to ensure that his clients receive it.
His clients are generally people that other lawyers won't touch. They are frequently guilty, sometimes of heinous crimes, and the ones who are innocent are often scapegoats selected by the police and the politicians to answer for crimes that the police can't solve. In at least one case, his client is a elderly victim of a wrongful assault on his home by an out-of-control SWAT team that killed the man's wife in a pre-dawn invasion. But most of Rudd's clients are not nearly that sympathetic.
Rogue Lawyer is told in the voice of the protagonist. It is a series of vignettes of cases that he has handled. Rudd is very much the hero of his own narrative and he is not above exaggerating his prowess in the courtroom. He is always on top of his game in that arena - at least in his telling.
The crimes that are described here include many of the issues on which John Grisham himself has spoken out over the years; things like capital punishment, a militarized police force, political corruption, human trafficking. His vividly drawn character, Sebastian Rudd, fights the good fight against all these evils.
This gritty but witty book feels very much like it might be the beginning of a series. By the end of it, we have a very good picture of Sebastian Rudd's backstory. It's a story that could continue to be developed by its creator in any direction that he chooses to take it. That would not be a bad thing. I, for one, would not mind reading more about the Ford van lawyer.
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