by John Grisham
2015 / 352 pages
read by Mark Deakins 11h 18m
rating A+ / legal thriller
Sebastian Rudd defends the indefensible – those criminals who have no other recourse, the “untouchables,” the bottom of the barrel, the scum. As a result he’s not a beloved man – not by the good citizens, not by the judges, not by his clients and not by his ex-wife, mother of his son. But he does what he’s been trained to do, what he says he has to do. So the title is apt – Rudd is not a nice, up and coming, idealistic and clean cut guy. He actually calls himself a “fringe lawyer” who sometimes plays with the boundaries of ethics.”
In this, Grisham’s 30th novel, Rudd is working with different cases which are almost like short stories they are so distinct, but which become somewhat interwoven by the end. This is a bit of a twist on the normal legal thriller in that most fictional detectives handle one case at a time – Rudd is handling at least 3 including his own custody battles. It might be more realistic – I’m not sure it works as a novel.
The character of Sebastian Rudd is interesting – he does business from his heavily customized van and sometimes lives out of motel rooms. He’s also involved in professional boxing backing a guy named Tadeo Zapate who ends up as a client. And it seems Rudd is on the fringes of professional crime playing golf and schmoozing – he has connections but he stays pretty careful.
The character Rudd calls “Partner” is a former client who acts as driver and bodyguard, has some education and lives with his own mother who functions as Rudd’s receptionist from her home. Rudd is also divorced from a lawyer named Judith who has custody of their son, but Judith is also a lesbian. Rudd is admittedly not a great father, not really safe, but he loves his son. All in all Grisham has done a great job with the set-up.
Grisham has shown readers in prior books that he is no big fan of the contemporary justice system from lawyers to prisons from mayors to cops – and for many reasons. The character of Sebastian Rudd underscores these ideas as well as fighting any bad guys wherever he sees them – the cops, the prosecutor’s office, whatever.
I’ve read probably half of Grisham’s crime novels and really enjoy them not my favorite but his last several have been excellent. Deakins does a fine job.