The Summons

by John Grisham

Hardcover, 2002



Once Judge Atlee was a powerful figure in Clanton, Mississippi--a pillar of the community who towered over local law and politics for forty years. Now the judge is a shadow of his former self, a sick, lonely old man who has withdrawn to his sprawling ancestral home. Knowing the end is near, Judge Atlee has issued a summons for his two sons to return to Clanton to discuss his estate. Ray Atlee is the eldest, a Virginia law professor, newly single and still enduring the aftershocks of a surprise divorce. Forrest is Ray's younger brother, who redefines the notion of a family's black sheep. The summons is typed by the judge himself, on his handsome old stationery, and gives the date and time for Ray and Forrest to appear in his study. Ray reluctantly heads south to his hometown, to the place where he grew up and now prefers to avoid. But the family meeting does not take place. The judge dies too soon, and in doing so leaves behind a shocking secret known only to Ray.… (more)

Library's rating


(1031 ratings; 3.4)

User reviews

LibraryThing member madamejeanie
Ray Atlee is the elder son of Judge Atlee of Clanton, Mississippi, who,
along with his younger brother, Forrest, has been summoned home by a terse
letter from the old man. He arrives just in time to find his father's body
on the couch in his study, still warm but very dead. It's no surprise to
anyone. The judge has had cancer for a long time and was given about a year
to live, well, about a year ago. The judge was revered by everybody in the
county and had hoped that both his sons would grow up and practice law right
there by his side. But Ray escaped to academia where he teaches law at an
ivy league school and Forrest escaped into a haze of drugs and booze. Both
the boys were a disappointment to the old man.

In the process of getting ready to settle the old man's estate, Ray
discovers 27 stationery boxes in a storage cabinet, each one filled to the
brim with $100 bills. He has no idea where the money came from or how his
father came to own it. All he knows is that there is no way that money came
to the old man in an honest fashion. If he'd saved every penny he made as a
circuit judge all those years, he wouldn't have amassed a fortume like this.

But someone else knows about this money. And they are willing to kill to
get it.

This is a typical Grisham thriller, with a few twists and turns to keep your
interest until the secrets are unfolded at the end. I enjoyed it the first
time I read it and I enjoyed it this time around, too. It gets a 4.
… (more)
LibraryThing member les121
Not as good as The Pelican Brief. Some parts are pretty boring.
LibraryThing member karriethelibrarian
You find three million dollars in your dead father's house. Your brother is a drug addict who will put himself into an early grave if he the money to support his habit. What do you do?
LibraryThing member koalamom
Fast paced and easy to read. I didn't get the ending until I got there - good plot twist.
LibraryThing member JimBrewington
Good, but not the best Grisham - still a fun read.
LibraryThing member MsGemini
Another great legal story by Grisham. Great twist at the end.
LibraryThing member jepeters333
Two brothers deal with the inheritance from their father, a judge.
LibraryThing member lrobe190
When Ray Atlee receives a summons from his dying father, Judge Reuben Atlee, he immediately flies back home to Mississippi. When rhe arrives, he finds his father dead in his chair in his home office. Judge Atlee had been in the final stages of cancer and in severe pain, so Ray felt a mixture of grief and relief. His brother, Forrest, has been summoned also, so Ray decides to wait until he calls the coroner and the authorities, so Forrest can say goodbye in private. While Ray waits for his brother to arrive, he looks in a cabinet behind the sofa for some paper to write on and discovers a number of identical boxes. He opens one of the boxes and discovers it's full of money. After going through the rest of the boxes, he finds a total of $3 million. Ray is stunned. Where did this money come from? Why was it hidden? Who else knows it's there? Ray decides he can't just leave it there, so he moves all of the boxes to another location and decides not to tell anyone about the money until he knows more about it, not even his brother. Thus starts a journey of discovery for Ray. Along the way, he will learn more about his father and brother, will be followed and have his life threatened numerous times.

Parts of this book are very suspenseful and it is very fast-paced. There is a suspenseful build-up to the end, but nothing really happens. I felt let-down when I finished it.
… (more)
LibraryThing member tsisler
This book was not the in-depth page turner that I had hoped for. However, it was still an enjoyable, although predictable, light read.
LibraryThing member edwardsgt
I found this Grisham a little heavy going, not his usual pacy plotting or page-turning suspense. The hero is a law professor in Virginia, estranged from his father, a Mississippi judge, who dies leaving a strange inheritance.
LibraryThing member indygo88
I agree with some other reviewers who say this isn't as suspenseful or gripping as some of Grisham's other novels. However, it's been quite a few years since I've read a Grisham, and I found this one oddly refreshing, just because I haven't read a book in this genre for a while. Not a bad book, but not his best either.
LibraryThing member melorem
Judge Atlee is dying and has summoned both of his sons to his side. When Ray Atlee gets to the house his father is already dead. He had been dying of cancer and was in a great deal of pain. He wouldn't have lasted much longer and Ray seemed grateful that his father was no longer in pain. He becomes the executor of the estate and needs to deal with his brother who is constantly in and out of rehabs.

In preparing the estate he finds three million in cash in the house and isn't sure where it came from. His father was a stickler for the law and didn't earn much money. Was it a bribe? In his search to find out where the money came from he realizes that someone is following him and knows about the money. He becomes increasingly more and more worried about the money and he knows it is ruining him. He finally gives into the threats... In the end Ray does find out who was chasing him for the money and no one is more surprised then him.

This book was a pretty typical John Grisham novel that involves the law. The author doesn't go into too much legal jargon which allows the readers who are not lawyers enough information to follow the story line without it becoming overburdened with technical information. A good summer read but not as gripping as some of Grisham's previous novels.
… (more)
LibraryThing member florencecraye
Not the usual Grisham courtroom drama. A law professor discovers $3 million in cash in his father's study after the old judge's death and has to decide what to do with it.

A good read for a long plane ride, but other than that nothing amazing. The plot could have been a little tighter. In the middle I couldn't tell if it was the character deciding what to do with the money or Grisham deciding what to do with the story.… (more)
LibraryThing member horacewimsey
This was the first John Grisham book I read. I knew of his popularity but had never read any of his stuff before. So I picked this one up when it came out and liked it very much. That was in the early days of my reading, though. I feel I've moved past Grisham and Turow and all the other popular novelists who write on a 5th grade level. Still and all, a good story. Plenty of twists and turns, if you like that sort of thing.… (more)
LibraryThing member jamesfant
Great book! Grisham explores human nature and supposes that at their core, the squeaky clean academic and the street scorned alcoholic are not all that dissimilar. I enjoyed Grisham's inclusion of characters from other books. And I appreciated the research that added to the detail of characters and situations. I'm looking forward to reading another Grisham novel real soon.… (more)
LibraryThing member Gaelstirler
What would you do if you found millions in cash in your home and didn't know it's origin?
LibraryThing member AliceAnna
Yet another good story with a disappointing ending. It had been telegraphed, but didn't really stand up to much scrutiny. Grisham can write a good book but he rarely writes a satisfying ending.
LibraryThing member avidmom
An eldely and dying Judge Atlee has summoned his grown sons, Ray and Forrest, back home to Maple Run, their home in Mississippi, to discuss the affairs of his estate. Ray, a law professor in Virignia, arrives first and finds his father already passed away on the sofa and a few million dollars in cash hidden in the house. Ray becomes obsessed with the money. Where did it come from? Was the morally upstanding and well respected Judge on the take? What should he do with it? Should he tell somebody? Letting his brother know about the money would be a foolish move; all the alcoholic and drug-addled Forrest would do would guzzle it down or snort it, so he hides it from Forrest and everybody else. He goes to incredible lengths to hide the money and try to find out where it came from. Turns out that Ray isn't the only one who knows about the mysterious money, apparently someone else, and not a nice somebody else, knows about the money too and is hell-bent on letting Ray know it. It is fun to see the lengths Ray goes to to hide, move, protect and trace the origins of the money. This is an entertaining novel but probably not the suspenseful thrill-ride that Grisham's other novels apparently are. I don't think Grisham was really going for that, though. I think this was Grisham's way of conveying a message about greed, corruption and motives. The Summons kept me interested and entertained throughout but I was not, at any point, at the edge of my seat waiting to see what happened next. This is a slow-paced story, not a riveting courtroom drama. I think of it as "Grisham Lite."… (more)
LibraryThing member lalsoong
I love it when a book ends with a twist and John Grisham does not disappoint yet again.
LibraryThing member buffalogr
Clanton, MS and the old judge dies. The tale unwinds and leaves we read on. The narrator/reader has a southern accent which adds to the enjoyment. There is a sheriff, a ham and egg southern lawyer, a rich tort lawyer, and our hero, a U of Va law professor. There's a lawyer joke in there somewhere--how many lawyers does it take....? I enjoyed the read/listen and will continue with Grisham.… (more)
LibraryThing member ecw0647
Grisham is an uneven writer, at least to my taste. Some of his books I really liked; others have been less entertaining. This one is excellent and doesn’t even have a murder.

Ruben Atley was a highly respected judge. He had two sons: Ray and Forrest. Ray was a legal ethics professor at the University of Virginia making a good salary; Forrest had been a serious thorn in the judge’s side since adolescence and wandered from one rehab program to another trying to kick assorted addictive habits.

Ray gets a call from his father asking him to come to Mississippi right away. Knowing the judge has terminal cancer and has been in great pain for several months, Ray leaves right away only to arrive at the family’s old house in time to find the judge had died on the couch in his office. On the desk was a holographic will leaving everything to his two sons and making Ray the executor. Ray calls the appropriate authorities and then, while waiting for his brother to arrive, goes through the house and the judge’s papers in preparation for the will’s probate. The judge had been meticulous in his records, keeping track of all his cases, and had been in the habit of giving away what little money he had to assorted good causes. There had never been even the whiff of a scandal who had a sterling reputation. So it came as a huge shock for Ray to discover $3,000,000 in $100 bills stacked neatly in stationery boxes behind the sofa. Not knowing what to think or do, Ray bags up the money and hides it in the trunk of his car. He didn’t want to sully the reputation of his father, but there seemed to be nothing other than a sordid explanation for such a huge amount of cash.

There’s a snag. Someone else knows about the money and leaves threatening messages ordering him to return the cash to its hiding place. Ray decides to find out if the money is counterfeit or marked in some way so he takes it back to Virginia in his car, driving very carefully, I might add.

He’s assured of the money’s legitimacy after using some of it to gamble with and by surreptitiously and duplicitously checking with the Treasury Department. He hides the money in fireproof boxes in storage sheds, possessively and obsessively checking on it almost hourly. He does not tell his brother of the find, rationalizing that Forrest would only blow it up his nose anyway. As the notes continue, he begins to worry he is being followed, so he hires a detective to watch his back, but evidence of the watcher(s) continues unabated. He loads the money back into the trunk of his car and decides to find out where the money could have come from.

I hate giving anything away, so I’ll only reveal that it involves a huge tort case, the judge is squeaky clean, the brothers’ relationship gets more interesting and complex, no one gets murdered, and the ending involves a comeuppance that is quite satisfactory
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LibraryThing member dbsovereign
Standard Grisham formulas with some sibling rivalry and family bitterness thrown in.
LibraryThing member HeidiAngell
I love Grisham movies!! The books, well, I just like them. I don;t know why but they tend to have these phenomenally exciting plots that get bogged down in the detail... which is not so much detail that you stop reading, just so much detail that you forget you are reading a suspense and begin to think you are reading a drama, then BAM!!!! Yup. That is why I keep reading him!!… (more)
LibraryThing member jlsimon7
There have been many of John Grisham books I loved, and some that just bored me. This one was a winner. I love the stories that include familiar characters. In this case we have Harry Rex that has been in the Jake Briggance books. I like him. He's funny.

In this story we have a judge who dies and his estate is in question. Our main character Ray finds a fortune in the house, and then has to forfeit it. I really enjoyed it a great deal. I would definitely recommend this book to those that enjoy the Fort County stories.… (more)
LibraryThing member kebets
We have a tradition in our family - when we go on a road trip I choose a book to read aloud to my husband. It makes the time go quickly and doesn't bother my daughters watching movies in the back seat. This year our trip took us on a 12 hour road trip to Colorado and The Summons was perfect for that. It had just enough details to keep our attention but not bury us and not too many characters. We have read many Grisham's over the years and some how we missed this one.

In the opening scenes retired Mississippi Judge Atlee summons his two sons to a meeting. He is then found dead by his son Ray, the law professor from up north in Virginia. While waiting for his delinquent brother Forrest to show up at the house Ray stumbles on boxes of cash in an old bookshelf - lots of cash - three million dollars of cash.

And with that Ray's organized world disintegrates. How can his straight laced, law abiding, pig headed father have so much cash and never mention it? And what in the world was he supposed to do with it? If he turns it over to the police it will disappear to the inheritance taxes.
If he shares it with his brother Forrest will probably kill himself with drugs and alcohol.
If he hides it how will he be able to use it?
And who is that person rattling the windows on his father's deserted house - do they know about the money???

Ray begins a cross-country odyssey carrying the money from hotel room to trunk to storage unit and back again all the while trying to solve the mystery of his father and the cash and who is following him.

All of Grisham's books make you care about the character - but most also have a perfect moral compass. This one doesn't quite. The money is not Ray's - right? So what would you do?

And at the end I was happily surprised.

This was a great page mile-eating page-turner!!
… (more)


Doubleday (2002), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 245 pages

Original publication date





0385503822 / 9780385503822


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