At the top of his class at Harvard Law, he had his choice of the best in America. He made a deadly mistake. When Mitch McDeere signed on with Bendini, Lambert & Locke of Memphis, he thought he and his beautiful wife, Abby, were on their way. The firm leased him a BMW, paid off his school loans, arranged a mortgage and hired him a decorator. Mitch McDeere should have remembered what his brother Ray--doing fifteen years in a Tennessee jail--already knew. You never get nothing for nothing. Now the FBI has the lowdown on Mitch's firm and needs his help. Mitch is caught between a rock and a hard place, with no choice--if he wants to live.
Mitch McDeere, a recent graduate of Harvard Law School, is a brilliant young man who was third in his class. He and his wife Abby have had a thin time of it in law school, but all that is about to change once Mitch chooses among the fat job offers he's been handed. The best offer by far is from the quiet little tax firm in Memphis, where everything seems too good to be true. (Hint: when a job offer seems too good to be true, there is probably a reason for it.) Mitch and Abby soon learn that their very lives are in danger, and no one can be trusted.
On one level, I did enjoy this book. It's ominous right from the start and the tension builds nicely. (Though I will say that it never took over my life the way certain non-thrillers *coughJaneEyrecough* have; I put it down at some tense moments in the story during the three days it took to read it, and was never tempted to stay up into the wee hours to finish it.) I can see why it would be a bestseller, though it's no masterpiece from a literary standpoint. The world of elite lawyers is well portrayed.
But I never really felt invested in the characters. There was just something about them that kept me at arms' length. Mitch's adultery bothered me for several reasons. As a moralist I wanted him to confess it to his wife, and commit to change (even though the adultery was a one-shot deal, the thoughts and habits leading up to it were not). And from a literary standpoint, Grisham really failed to explore the ongoing tension Mitch feels by keeping that secret bottled up inside. Does he ever confess to Abby, or does he continue to hide the truth from her for the rest of their lives? I know why Grisham includes that episode — to show how the firm controlled its young lawyers partly by blackmail — but after it happened and Mitch has his initial guilt about it, it drops out of the story completely. And that just doesn't make sense to me.
Another thing I didn't really care for was how Grisham constantly describes Mitch and Abby having sex as them "trying to kill each other." Why must good sex be violent and crazy (and apparently nightly)? And why must our hero and heroine possess perfect, sculpted, model-like bodies in addition to all their other perfections? That aspect of the story reads like juvenile wish fulfillment on the part of Grisham... or worse, for us his readers, who are being served such an unsubtle dish.
So, I read a Grisham book. Will I read another? Mmmm, probably eventually. I like to break out of my normal reading habits occasionally and read something different from my usual fare. Grisham's fans can tell me if I started with a good one or if there is another title of his that they would recommend. Overall, this story didn't really deliver on all its promises of taut, thrilling entertainment, but I certainly found it readable and enjoyed the view into the complicated world of tax lawyers.
And Grisham gets the details of a new graduate at a top law firm so convincingly, evocatively right. The sweating, nauseating terror as you cram for the bar exam. The crushing 90 hour plus work week of a rookie at a top firm. How giddy and intimidating it can be for a working class kid encountering the plush world of a law firm, seducing you with those golden handcuffs.
And the prose style is smooth. It doesn't impress with say the beauty of a literary style like a Margaret Atwood, with lines for the ages. But it's the kind of well-crafted narrative that sucks you in, and hours later you're blinking at the page number amazed you've read hundreds of pages. It's a fast-paced, entertaining thriller.
I think the way the plot moved was the best thing about this book. It was quick. The characters were flat and two-dimensional and I’ve met all of them before, but I liked the illusion of newness enough to finish it. There was the young lawyer backed by his degreed wife. Of course, she doesn’t have a prestigious job; she’s a teacher (only surpassed by social worker in popularity). They move and immediately she’s suspicious but it takes him much longer to catch on (the dolt). When he does though, things move quickly.
For such a far-reaching, big brother type firm, it’s a wonder Tammy got by them. They should have known the detective had a sidekick or secretary or whatever, but they didn’t notice her at all. Of course that’s the only way the plot would work out in the end. It just doesn’t ring true.
I was taken by surprise by the sudden appearance of the dive captain from the islands as rescuer. I couldn’t get a fix on who was helping them. That lack of knowledge is another device to keep the reader hooked. Things happen without any apparent cause. Grisham doesn’t tell you step by step what McDeere is going, things just happen. Like the while Cayman island plot. And the ending with the boat and all.
Back Cover Blurb:
Mitch qualified at Harvard, third in his class, and is sought by law firms all over America. The one that gets him is small, but well-respected, and pays him beyond his wildest dreams. But then the nightmares begin - secret files, bugs in the bedroom, colleagues' mysterious deaths and mob money.
As the book subtitle: One man's job of his dreams soon becomes his worst nightmare.
Top reading and highly recommended.
This book was one of the first John Grisham novel that I read. I enjoyed it then and I enjoyed it the second time around. The story follows the life of Mitch McDeere a young lawyer right out of Harvard. Mitch decides to go to work at a large firm in Memphis, Tennessee. He believes that this law firm is a very prestigious firm, however about midway in the story he finds out that many of his colleagues are dying in strange circumstances and that the firm is a pretty shady outfit. The FBI is involved for they are always asking Mitch about the firm and its connection to the Mafia. Eventually, Mitch decides that he has got to stop workimg for this firm. But, that turns out to be not so easy. Once you read this book you find that the characters are well developed and the plot is excellent. The book is better than the movie, although I didn't think the movie was that bad. Its a great read. Highly recommend.
Now a similarity between the two books, and I am afraid it isn't flattering - despite the fact that both books are totally centred on the main character at the expense of sacrificing the other characters, the characters lack the ability to draw you in, to get you emotionally attached, vested, to the fate of the character and the story. They are very impersonal with superficial emotions, you know how they think, but not how they feel.
A decent read all things considered and I wouldn't mind reading some more Grisham in future.
Shortly after starting his job, he learns that two of the newer associates have been killed when boating in Grand Cayman.
When he passes the bar exam, an FBI agent approaches him and tells him that everything isn't as it looks in the firm. The company is owned by the mob and a number of the larger clients have been evading their taxes with the help of the firm's attorneys. He also tells Mitch that his home, car and office are bugged and that he's being followed.
Mitch hires a private detective to investigate the death of the two emlpoyees who recently died and two others who also died in unusual circumstances. The investigator gives Mitch the info he wanted but then the investigator is murdered.
We follow Mitch's life as he changes from an ambitious employee to a man in fear of his career and his life. Mitch wonders if the FBI will be able to get him out of this situation and what the risk would be for him and his wife.
This is a well plotted novel. The reader is drawn to Mitch's dilemma and can visualize something like this really happening as we hope for a successful conclusion.
The backdrop Grisham uses is excellent, showing the upright customs and principles of Memphis, yet with a substructure of dishonesty and exploitation. John Grisham created a reality from his imagination that left me feeling cold. I found The Firm to be a compelling reading experience, and thoroughly recommend it.
One of the best books I have ever read.