Friday, August 10, 2018

Book Review: Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham

Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: Sebastian and Partner
Cons: Most of the characters; cops too corrupt and evil
The Bottom Line:
Character study
With too little I could like
Not enjoyable

Character Study that Left Me Cold

I’ve been driving all over the place the last couple of months, so I decided to branch out from my normal audio book authors.  Since John Grisham writes standalones, I figured grabbing one of his at random would be fine, so I picked up Rogue Lawyer.  Turns out I was disappointed.

Really, this is more a character study than a novel.  Sebastian Rudd is a defense attorney who takes on the clients that no one else wants to handle.  The result is he winds up with some interesting clients and plenty of enemies.  Sometimes, the police aren’t happy with him because of his clients, and sometimes his clients aren’t happy with him when he loses.

The reason I call this more a character study than a novel is because, over the course of the book, we watch Sebastian interact with several clients.  There’s the defendant on trial for a horrific crime the entire town is already certain he committed.  There’s the mobster on death row.  And there’s the man who fired on the police when they invaded his home in a raid in the middle of the night.

Unfortunately, I had several issues with the book.  None of them were the episodic nature of the stories.  There are enough threads that run all the way through the book to make it feel like a whole, although I would be very surprised if this wasn’t originally released as a series of stories somewhere else and just collected together for sale later.  The book introduces us to the same characters multiple times, even giving us some of the same backstory.  And the ending?  It leaves us hanging about what comes next for Sebastian.  I wasn’t thrilled with it, but I’m honestly not sure how else the book could have ended.

No, my issue is more with some of his clients.  Now, I’m not saying that guilty people don’t deserve a good defense.  But even keeping that in mind, some of his clients bothered me.

Then there’s the police.  Yes, corrupt cops exist.  Yes, they make excellent obstacles in mysteries and especially legal thrillers.  However, the police here went well beyond the corrupt cop trope.  I have friends who are cops, and the way the police are portrayed here really bothered me as a result.

It certainly didn’t help that one storyline hit very close to home.  No, nothing like it has actually happened to me, fortunately, but I could identify with the people affected by it a little too much.

Then there are the characters.  I actually did like Sebastian and his paralegal/body guard Partner.  But it was hard to find much to like in many of the rest of the characters, both clients and people in Sebastian’s life.  All this time around characters I didn’t like bothered me.

As I listened, I couldn’t help but think of Michael Connelly’s Mickey Haller character, aka the Lincoln Lawyer.  Sebastian felt like a cheap knock off, which is maybe another reason I had such a hard time with the book.

I listened to the audio version narrated by Mark Deakins.  He did a wonderful job bringing the story and characters to life.  My issues are with the book itself and not with his narration at all.

I listened to a few abridgments of John Grisham books years ago, and I’ve seen some of the movies based on his books, so I know that he can tell a good story.  Rogue Lawyer just wasn’t it.  I will definitely give him another shot when looking for an audio book in a pinch.

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