The Litigators by John Grisham
Read by Dennis Boutsikaris
Length: 11 Hrs 33 Min
Genre: Legal Thriller
Quick Thoughts: Despite some flaws, The Litigators is a highly enjoyable novel which should rank up there with Grisham’s best. Grisham offers some of his quirkiest characters in a while and taps into the dark humor that has been missing from some of his more recent releases.
While John Grisham definitely did not invent the modern Legal Thriller he definitely helped bring them to mainstream success. I remember when The Firm first came out. The hype surrounding the novel was huge. I had friend who never read telling me I just had to read the novel. I did, and I enjoyed it. I even saw the movie which I didn’t like nearly as much as the book. Yet, I wasn’t as blown away with The Firm as I was with novels such as Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent or Clifford Irving’s Trial. I found it an exciting thriller about a lawyer, more so than a true Legal Thriller. It wasn’t until I went back in time a bit and read Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill, did I really become a fan of his. I always prefer Courtroom Thrillers over simple thrillers involving lawyers. Since those first few books, Grisham has been hit or miss for me. I loved The Rainmaker and actually really enjoyed its movie adaptation, but since then, I haven’t really found Grisham to be the instant draw that some thriller writers like Michael Connolly and George Pelecanos are. With those novelists I make it a priority to read their novels as soon as they come out, with Grisham, I sometimes find time to fit his latest in. Yet, I always hold out hope that there will be another great Grisham novel. While The Litigator’s isn’t it, it does come pretty close.
Grisham’s latest The Litigators is the story of young Harvard educated Lawyer named David Zinc who has a breakdown amidst the stresses of being an associate at a major Chicago law firm, and goes on a bender. Eventually he ends up at the "boutique" law firm of Finley and Figg, run by two ambulance chasing, ethically challenged surly lawyers and their sarcastic legal secretary Rochelle. Zinc declares his intention to work for them, and then basically passes out drunk. Despite the way the novel starts out, David is quite a bit of a boyscout. He can be an almost annoying good at times, but you quickly begin to like him, and cheer for him. While happy to be away from the big firm, he is almost immediately turn off by the way the two partners practice law and live their life. The Litigators takes this odd partnership and puts it up against the backdrop of big time litigation against a major Pharmaceutical company. The Litigators is a fun novel, probably my favorite Grisham tale since The Rainmaker. . Grisham takes you on an interesting and unique tour of Tort law and big time Pharmaceutical litigation, and in no way is it truly clear exactly who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, but one thing is clear, it’s the public that is damaged by both sides. Grisham also offers one of the more unique Courtroom sequences that I have read in legal thrillers in a long time. While fun, The Litigators is not without its flaws. As with a lot of recent Grisham novels, The Litigators is ripe with unnecessary side trips and pointless superfluous characters that show up suddenly then disappear without really contributing to the overall story. Also, I have always thought that Grisham does a good job writing small towns. Here in The Litigators the novel is set in Chicago, but he never truly gives it the gritty urban feel that novels set in big cities need. In many ways Grisham’s Chicago just feels like one of his small town settings, only bigger. Despite these flaws, The Litigators is a highly enjoyable novel which should rank up there with Grisham’s best. Grisham offers some of his quirkiest characters in a while and taps into the dark humor that has been missing from some of his more recent releases.
A lot of the fun of this novel shines through because of the excellent narration by Dennis Boutsikaris. Boutsikaris does a wonderful job capturing the quirky feel of the characters, especially ambulance and skirt chasing ethically challenged lawyer Wally Figg. He paces the novel well, allowing the absurdity of the courtroom scenes to easily come to light as well as doing a good job covering up some of the author’s meandering moments. Boutsikaris took what could have been some annoying moments, and grating characters, and made them fun for the listener. I was definitely glad that I experienced The Litigators in audiobook form.