The Appeal: A Novel

by John Grisham

Hardcover, 2008



Wall street millionaire Carl Trudeau purchases an unsuspecting Mississippi State Supreme Court judge candidate when a lower court rules against one of his chemical companies for dumping toxic waste into a small town's water supply causing a cancer cluster.

Library's rating


(1059 ratings; 3.4)

User reviews

LibraryThing member KevinJoseph
As an in-house counsel in a large corporation, I (perhaps surprisingly) enjoyed The Appeal, both as a thriller and as a stimulating piece of political commentary. For those familiar with Grisham's body of work, The Appeal stands as a bookend to The King of Torts. That Grisham is able to catigate
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mass tort lawyers in one thriller, and then turn around and denounce big business in another novel, is a testament to his ability to argue both sides of a case.

Some reviewers have critiqued this novel for being too plot driven and for being populated by cardboard characters. I disagree. This is a thriller, folks, not a literary character study. And while many characters are recognizable as white hats or black hats, they are sketched with more depth than the denizens of most thrillers, and their actions are (generally) believable. Carl Trudeau, while over-the-top for sure, is a wickedly entertaining villian. Ron Fisk also stands out as a character who wears a nuanced shade of gray, being a generally likeable guy who gets caught up in circumstances beyond his control.

This novel grabbed me right away and kept me on board with a good blend of pacing, legal intrigue and real-world political commentary. (You need only follow the daily absurdities in our presidential election process to see what lengths campaigns will go to buy votes.) I also loved what Grisham did with the ending, throwing a curve ball that will make many Grisham devotees swing and miss.

All in all, this may be Grisham's best-written, most realistic and politically-astute legal thriller.
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LibraryThing member MissReadsTooMuch
In Wisconsin, last year we went through an election for a state supreme court justice. The similarities between that election and what occured in John Grisham's latest book were frightening. Everyone should read this book so that fewer of us will be manipulated by nefarious forces.
LibraryThing member santhony
While reading this book, I couldn't help but get the feeling that I'd read it before. Let's see; an idealistic, giving, pure and selfless plaintiff's attorney sacrifices everything on behalf of a downtrodden, mistreated, abused and helpless working class plaintiff who is being railroaded by an evil
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corporate attorney working on behalf of a money grubbing, despicable Wall Street financier aided by a corrupt judicial system slanted in favor of money and power. Where have I seen this plot before? Oh yeah, it's the same as 13 of the 16 Grisham books that I have on the shelf in my library.

While this is the typical cookie cutter Grisham legal thriller, it must be said that this novel is so over the top in its portrayal of conservatives and business that it is borderline dangerous. The strereotypes are offensive. In Grisham's world, there is only snow white, blinding in its purity, or coal black, stunning in its evil. There are no shades of gray, because how entertaining would that be?

Now, as Grisham points out and as many will echo, this is simply a novel consisting of fictitious characters. As such, it is even somewhat entertaining for the five hours it takes to read it. However, when Grisham makes the absurd statement that it is actually believable and based loosely on fact, he reveals his true motivation, an appeal for out and out class warfare.

Only in Grisham's world can business be pilloried for financial support of conservative candidates, while trial lawyers are held up as paragons of virtue for their attempt to buy the same seat on the court. Why? Because the trial lawyers are for the "little people". They don't care about money. In fact, they're willing to go bankrupt in their never ending search for truth, justice and the American way. Please.

In this book, every case before the court is so extreme in their facts, that no reasonable person could fail to feel outrage, so much the better when Grisham's troglodyte conservatives consistently rule in favor of negligent nursing homes, toxic dumpers, child killers and incompetent physicians. All to the benefit of scum in the board rooms and on Wall Street.

Workers of the world, unite! Grab your pitchforks and storm the manor house.
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LibraryThing member MrsHillReads
What a scary book...I'm afraid it is all too possible that something like this can (and probably has) happen. I SO wanted it to have a different ending.
LibraryThing member nglofile_reads_2008
So-so. Interesting indictments of voter manipulation, but no character to truly champion. Story drags in several places, especially in central acts. Overall, unsatisfying.

P.S. This isn't the first time I've been distracted by the Xanadu actor being the voice of Grisham. It just jumps me out of the
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action at the strangest times.
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LibraryThing member Tony12154
Another great work by Grisham that speculates about what the rich and privileged can do in this world. Not the ending you may anticipate....
LibraryThing member MargaretdeBuhr
Like the concept of the story - how Supreme Court judges are bought by big business. A very relevant issue today. Characters were well developed and the story seemed to lag at some points.
LibraryThing member Jeffrey414
A frightening "novel" of politics and the impact on the American legal system and how it is manipulated by big business and takes advantage of wronged people who cannot defend themselves. Grisaham back to his legal roots. I have no doubt that courts are manipulated constantly by big business with
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millions of dollars at their disposal to overturn verdicts granted to damaged families, individuals, and innocent children. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the legal system and liked early Grisham works.
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LibraryThing member milibrarian
Grisham is back with another legal thriller, but it isn't quite as good as some of his older books. This time a small town lawyer has sued a large company over their toxic waste and its devastating effects on his client and the entire town; their win of a $41 million settlement is appealed. But
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with money to spare, Krane Chemicals attempts to buy their choice for an appellate judge by financing his campaign in return for decisions limiting liability. There are a lot of characters and it can be difficult at times to keep everyone straight, but this is also an interesting look at the dangers of "buying" and "selling" justice.
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LibraryThing member mrfitz123
Well written but paints all fundamentalists and conservatives in the same light. Basically was disappointed. Lacks in the drama of his earlier works.
LibraryThing member poolays
I really enjoyed this book. I guess I am a little naive about the political process, but I was surprised at the extent of manipulation in an election. And it was entirely believable. It makes me look at the current Presidential election with a more jaded eye. What's really going on? hmmm...
LibraryThing member mzonderm
This is a book with an agenda, one Grisham doesn't try to hide, to his credit. In his afterword, while assuring us that all the people are completely made up, Grisham also assures us that the problem he depicts is all too real. The issue is an elected judiciary and the effect that special interests
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can have on a judicial election.

Grisham seems to have recovered his ability to write with this book, and although none of the character are particularly well fleshed-out, this is a plot-driven book, and the plot moves along nicely.

I have to say that I wasn't altogether enamored with the ending. As things look worse and worse for the good guys, the plot takes a sharp turn, but not necessarily for the better. The turn itself is unpredictable, and makes the ending even more unpredictable, but I felt that the turn itself came from so far out in left field that it took away from the plot, which, until that point, had been running very smoothly, if somewhat depressingly.

Despite that, this is a good effort by Grisham, and one worth reading if for no other reason that than to read about a fictional, but all too possible and pernicious threat to justice and democracy that is seldom discussed.
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LibraryThing member slpenney07
The Take Away: Grisham tries to get back to the court room novels that made him a national best seller. The opening scene, filled with the tension of a jury with a decision, has promise. It died half way through the novel as the threads became too cumbersome to tell without merely telling the
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story. The ending was better, but still weak. To do it justice, Grisham needed a couple of hundred more pages.
The message is good. US corporations have many back side influences. Grisham does an excellent job explaining what the system is and how it's broke, just as he did in his last title, The Innocent Man.
If his fan will tolerate it, I think he will find a way to get his social messages into the novels.
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LibraryThing member she_climber
Typical Grisham - reworking the same stories over and over again.
LibraryThing member lrobe190
When a local jury awards a huge settlement against Krane Chemical Co. for polluting the water supply in a small Mississippi town, Krane appeals to the state Supreme Court. There is one position on the court which is up for election and the CEO of Krane arranges to "hire" a new justice that will
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rule favorably on their appeal. Grisham shares his prodigious knowledge of the legal and justice system and most of the narrative has to do with all of the political manueverings that go on when big corporations are sued for malpractice. Grisham's issue in this novel revolves around election reform. This novel is a quick read, but the subject matter made me so angry that I had a hard time finishing the book. No happy endings here for anyone!!
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LibraryThing member Pam1960ca
I enjoyed this latest novel by John Grisham so much. I was really disappointed in 'Playing for Pizza'. That's not one I would recommend. But 'The Appeal' is definitely worth a read.
LibraryThing member joecflee
John Grisham delivers a novel that is less than filling. The premise and the issues are contemporary and quite attention grabbing, but he fails to deliver the goods in the end.

It sounds like a fairly routine description of how political machines run elections, and the setting that this is a
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judicial election doesn't add too much. The twists toward the end was predictable, but not satisfying.

Even though it left me with an even emptier feeling at the end, I loved the Partner much more than this.
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LibraryThing member LivelyLady
Grisham's best, in my opinion! Anticipating an appeal to reverse a large monetary judgment against a chemical company, "big business" backs the election of a new supreme court judge on the Mississippi Supreme Court. This may have been of more interest to me at this time as the "marketing" of the
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presidential candidates is taking place.
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LibraryThing member eembooks
This Grisham is mostly unappealing I was hoping for at least a dramatic ending. New characters in every chapter made for a cluttered landscape. Big business, bad chemical company and dirty politics (buying a state supreme justice) were the winners in this his latest novel. I think there are 3 of
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his books I have not read but will need a rest.
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LibraryThing member lmcguire
not really enough character development, more "legalese" than I wanted. I enjoy more character, plot, action. Didn't like the ending but was a realistic ending. Wouldn't want to see the movie, should there be one.
LibraryThing member gophergolfer
Not a mystery. A tale of skulduggery in the election of state supreme court justices. It is all fictional, and represents John Grisham's take on politics in the judiciary of a state. Not really very good writing. Not much to take from this and several times along the way I wondered why I was
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reading it with so much good literature available.
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LibraryThing member Bumpersmom
Reading for me is fun, unfortunately for some reason, this book made if more like a chore. It took me 12 days for what I would normally do in 2 or 3 at best. I had to force myself to pick it up and continue. This is not like the John Grisham books of the past, it drags its feet, and becomes tedious
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in the details, many of which are not really necessary to the story itself. The characters are superficial, Mr. Grisham doesn't give them enough depth to like or dislike them, just inserts them into the story when he needs someone to fill in or keep the flow moving. I was disappointed, and bored. Certainly not what I have come to expect from a Grisham book.
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LibraryThing member eesti23
The Appeal, John Grisham’s twentieth novel, was according to its description “...a shocking story of political and legal intrigue...” However, its focus on a court case that is so similar to the one seen in Erin Brockovich, almost takes away from the important focus of the novel and instead
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has you thinking of Julia Roberts, dead frogs and box office figures.

The Appeal is set in Mississippi following a large verdict against a major chemical company that has been accused of dumping toxic waste. The toxic waste has affected the local water supply causing Bowmore, Mississippi to be cruelly referred to as Cancer County due to the unusual high number of cancer cases in the region. The appeal, which then follows, sets into motion a trail of propaganda, underhand campaigns and dirty tricks that puts the verdict in jeopardy.

With his novel, Grisham, has obviously set out to highlight the role of politics and big company money that plagues parts of the judicial system and this he has done well. He is also careful to point out at the end of the novel that The Appeal is just that – a work of fiction - but one that reflects current practice and tactics in many locations throughout the world.

The detail outlined on the governmental campaign, one of the main focuses of the novel, encourages readers to re-examine the electoral processes happening around them. In addition, the wide range of tactics used by the big money companies to save stock prices and limit the amount of damages paid in cases where they have been found liable is at the very least surprising and in many instances shocking. Overall I was left waiting for the true shock and excitement to get started, which just never seemed to arrive.
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LibraryThing member mojomomma
Grisham has another legal page-turner about the corruption present in the legal system today. Concerned about liability? Just buy yourself a Supreme Court judge in some key states who will limit punitive damages awarded by juries and your troubles will be over! This story has an interesting twist,
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though, when the Supreme Court judge's son is seriously injured in a Little League game with an illegal bat. ”
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LibraryThing member jclark88
I'm not sure what it was about this book, but I had a hard time getting in to it. I normally fly through Grisham novels and barely want to put them down, but this book took me weeks to read. The story seemed to lack some of the excitement of many of his earlier novels. It wasn't bad, but definitely
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not one of his best works.
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Doubleday (2008), 358 pages

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