Two Supreme Court justices are dead. Their murders are connected only in one mind and in one legal brief conceived by that mind. Brilliant, beautiful and ambitious, New Orleans legal student Darby Shaw little realises that her speculative brief will penetrate to the highest levels of power in Washington and cause shockwaves there. Shockwaves that will send hired killers chasing after her which will propel her across the country to meet the one man who is as near the truth as she is.
This was an exciting but implausible thriller. Darby is a well-written character and it's nice to read a book with a strong, intelligent heroine. Unfortunately, it's not clear until well into the book what Darby's feelings for Callahan really were, it should have been clear earlier that she loved him and was not a student having an affair with a professor in order to get an A. She conveniently has plenty of money, so she can use cash on the run, rather than leave a trail by using plastic. And it strains readers credibility that a law student can outwit trained assassins. Some of the other characters in the book blend into each other and I wasn't always clear as to who some of them were. Grisham does clear up some loose ends, but at the last minute, as if he suddenly remembered them.
Despite these flaws, the story is exciting enough to keep the reader turning pages and worth reading as long as you don't think too much about it.
Back Cover Blurb:
Late one night, Abe Rosenburg, the Supreme Court's liberal legend is gunned down in his own home. The same night, Myron Jensen, the court's youngest and most conservative justice, is strangled . What linked the two men and what caused their deaths? Darby Shaw thinks she knows the answer.
Pelican strains credulity beyond belief, after reading this it would be difficult to imagine that anything good would come of his future efforts, or that anyone would ever bother; then he follows with the "Client" a really funny book, with a great character - a memorably enjoyable reading experience.
Pelican is a dud, client is nirvana!
Grisham's production is variable and operates in a very broad range.
Now, with it firmly on the CAE reading list, as a matter of duty, I’ve read it.
I am tempted to name a new literary genre:
The Time Filler.
A good time filler is strong on plot, adequate with language, sufficient with character and not too far from realism to cause concern. It will roll along never pausing for too long in any one place or with any one person, love affairs are reduced to brief encounters, killings are counted in serial-numbers and enough petrol and aviation fuel is burnt to raise the Earth’s average temperature another degree.
The Pelican Brief is a good time filler.
I took four sessions to finish the 420-odd pages, and didn’t feel pressed for time – it is a rapid read.
The plot is sort of realistic in that you can imagine someone wanting to bump off a couple of American Supreme Court justices to change the ‘political’ make-up of the Supreme court – but the book does stretch credibility a little with the descriptions and personalities of both the victims and their executioner – it seemed as though Gresham had gone through a check list of ‘most likely to make a best seller’ qualities and selected them for inclusion.
The same too with his heroine, Darby Shaw, who is a least female and intelligent – more intelligent than most of the other characters in the book. However, she never really escapes the cliché of female as victim in need of a good man to support her. Why did she have to be a blond bombshell? Why couldn’t she have been short, stumpy even, and ugly? Why does the book have to end in such a ‘happy ever after’ way on a beach?
One answer is the sales figures – and film rights.
All the way through I felt I was getting exactly what I wanted – no surprise other than a needed plot twist, no truly ambiguous character – just good guy and bad guy (and a very obvious – you got it wrong, good guy portrayed as bad).
And some very film-able locations – including Washington, New York and a pre-deluge New Orleans.
It occupied me pleasantly enough, but I ended with a – that’s it? and so what? Turned the light off, and slept well.
Having read both of these books back to back, I can also see the similarities of Grisham's view of the legal profession, and whilst he is the expert, and I am not, I find it hard to believe that the lawyer firms he describes are just big sweatshops, where everyone works 12-18 hour days, six days a week. Lawyers are supposed to be intelligent...
Not sure now if I am going to keep reading Grisham - the lack of attention to character development is the big miss for me.
Darby Shaw is a bright law student at Tulane and thinks she knows why the justices were murdered. She researches her opinion and publishes her findings in a document called "The Pelican Brief.'
Darcy is a lover of law school professor Thomas Callahan and gives him a copy of the brief. He gives it to a friend in the FBI to see what he thinks and soon after, Callahan is murdered and Darcy becomes a hunted person.
John Grisham is an excellent storyteller and master of creating suspense. The reader can empathise with Darcy who stays alive by her intelligence but doesn't know who she can trust. Nevertheless she continues in her attempt to expose the guilty person, at the risk of her life.
An amazing thriller.