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‘Litigators’ is solid Grisham

Article Published: Jan. 12, 2012 | Modified: Jan. 12, 2012
‘Litigators’ is solid Grisham

The jury is out on the legal thriller “The Litigators” until page 275.

After that, the author remembers he’s in a court room, and John Grisham writing trial law — especially David vs. Goliath trial law — is as good as courtroom drama gets.

Unfortunately, the new novel (Doubleday, $28.95) ends 110 pages later. Not that diehard fans will be disappointed. They just won’t be thrilled, legally or otherwise, with reading a story that Grisham has already written a couple of dozen times.

After 20 years operating a “boutique law firm” chasing ambulances and working from a building that borders a massage parlor, Oscar Finley and Wally Figg — Grisham has a gift for naming characters — are no closer to their “big break” than they were two decades earlier. They fight like an old married couple and are as broke financially and ethically as the quickie divorces that fuel their meager practice.Then, sparked by David Zinc, a young, albeit burned-out, lawyer from one of Chicago’s largest firms, the story turns. Figg has discovered what he believes is the firm’s pot of gold in the form of a mass tort against a drug company — a company represented by no other than the firm, and $300K salary, that Zinc left just weeks earlier.

Can two has-been attorneys and an untested litigator take on a firm with hundreds of the best and brightest? Can a David win against a giant drug company with billions in its coffers? Will manufactured trial cases ever trump big-pharma? Does the reader really care?

Up until this point, no. But so skillful is Grisham that he manages to implant a secondary plot in case the first fails to arouse your interest. In this, a young boy is brain-poisoned by “nasty teeth,” an imported Halloween accessory coated with lead paint. The third largest toy manufacturer in the United States must now make a choice: fight the lawsuit, or settle to make David Zinc once again a wealthy man.

But there’s more. What is the measure of wealth, Grisham asks — as he is wont to do in stories that don’t involve skipping Christmas or playing for pizza — hours billed and a corner office? Once upon a time, David thought so, but now. …

Now he has readjusted his priorities and even found time to pursue both his wife — Helen Zinc is finally able to conceive now that David is not working 80-hour weeks — and another plot division, this one involving illegal workers from Burma being unjustly treated by an employer.

Like Finley and Figg, David is aptly named — taking on the big guys and fighting the good fight time and again.

Three stories for the price of one, yet deftly intertwined in the hands of a skilled raconteur to craft an ending with, surprisingly, no deus ex machina. By page 385, it all works.

So, you’ll buy this book and like it because it’s solid Grisham. But you might even love it, for that sprint in the last quarter.

Besides, no one pays almost $30 for a best-selling novel anymore. If you can’t locate a New York Times Top 10 book at a 45-percent discount hardcover, or 60-percent Kindle, you’re not trying very hard. At that cost, “The Litigators” is worth the price of admission.

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