three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
39-Mar-Apr-2009
By: 
John Grisham
user_rating: 
0

A-The AssociateIn his 22nd book, bestselling author John Grisham returns to the themes of his breakout novel, The Firm (1991). There, the bad guys were the Mob and the law firm; here, they are a big defense contractor and a law firm.

The Story: While in college, Kyle McAvoy, a brilliant, handsome, and idealistic young Yale Law School graduate intending to work on behalf of the less fortunate, witnessed the supposed gang rape of a woman at his fraternity house. The act was recorded, and, when Kyle graduates from law school, a stranger threatens to expose his involvement—though he is innocent—unless Kyle joins a large, competitive Wall Street firm. Fearing a scandal, Kyle joins Scully & Pershing, where, besides practicing law, he is forced to lie and steal—in effect, become a corporate spy. The plight of a former fraternity brother and a multibillion-dollar lawsuit between two major defense contractors don’t make Kyle’s life any easier as he desperately searches for a way out.
Doubleday. 384 pages. $27.95. ISBN: 0385517831

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"Throughout, Grisham unwinds the spool of his narrative at a masterful, page-turning pace that pulls readers in and keeps them wanting more. … Despite his masterful ability to craft a dysfunctional legal subculture, Grisham believes in the simpler values of trust and simple fair dealing." Chuck Leddy

Entertainment Weekly 3 of 5 Stars
"Fast of pace and flat of character, Grisham’s best-selling legal thrillers either keep you up all night or put you directly to sleep. His smooth and blandly diverting new offering, The Associate, is unlikely to change anyone’s verdict." Jennifer Reese

Los Angeles Times 3 of 5 Stars
"Grisham sets up a separate story strand, perhaps the most effective part of the book, in which one of Kyle’s friends, a spoiled trust-fund kid named Baxter Tate, struggles to come to terms with his alcoholism and guilt. … The Associate springs to angry life from time to time, but on the whole it’s by the numbers, a plodding page-turner." Richard Rayner

Guardian (UK) 2 of 5 Stars
"If anything, Grisham’s cynicism about Wall Street law firms has become even more extreme than it was 18 years ago. … We are expected to conclude that the real villains are Scully & Pershing. Not because they are criminals, like the firm in The Firm, but simply because they are lawyers." Joshua Rozenberg

Time 2 of 5 Stars
"[The Associate is] crafted and paced with the same signature glossy perfection that makes Grisham, book for book, probably the best-selling novelist in the world. It’s just that it’s not about anything. In fact it’s amazing that anybody could put together a book that is this compulsively readable while at the same time being almost entirely devoid of substance of any kind." Lev Grossman

Critical Summary

Critics agree with Entertainment Weekly that The Associate "is vintage Grisham, for better or worse, made timely with its sorry portrait of what passes for everyday ethics on Wall Street." Like his previous novels, The Associate is heavy on readability, predictability, and pace, and lighter on character development, scene setting, and style—no surprises here. Fans of Grisham cited masterfully drawn characters and page-turning subplots, but less enthusiastic reviewers faulted stock villains, a rather mysterious Kyle, and implausible storylines. Time even claimed that unlike Michael Crichton or Scott Turow, who "wrestle with actual issues," Grisham deals with, well, nothing. Still, you know what you’re getting into with The Associate, for better or for worse.