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Saturday, November 14, 2015


4.5 stars out of 5

I love to love books by John Grisham - in large part, I'm sure, because I'm a huge fan of legal thrillers - and almost without exception, that's certainly been the case. And happily, it's true here as well. I will say that for most of the first half I concluded this is meant to be a book of short stories or vignettes that take place in the life of street lawyer Sebastian Rudd. But while each "story" might be able to stand on its own, bits and pieces of each are connected to create (aha!) a whole book. And that's not easy to pull off.

Rudd really doesn't have a home base, unless you count a tiny, well-secured apartment and the heavily armed van complete with heavy-duty bodyguard/driver that serves as his mobile (and only) office. He's got a young son and an ex-wife lawyer whose primary goal in life, it seems, is to gain sole custody plus 25% ownership in a mixed martial arts cage fighter named Tadeo. Rudd's paid work, for the most part, consists of defending bad guys (and I suppose gals) other lawyers won't touch with a 10-foot pole.

Rudd doesn't love them either, but neither does he have much respect for insurance companies, government or the criminal justice/legal system. Even if his clients are guilty - and in fact, most of them are - when he wins (and that's fairly often), he derives satisfaction in knowing he's once again stuck it to the unethical powers that be and lived to tell about it.

Given the natural tendencies of his clients, though, that last part is subject to change at any moment. Early-on clients include a teenage boy who's accused of the grisly murders of two young girls (a case thought to be a shoe-in win for the prosecution) and defense of "his" fighter Tadeo who, after losing in the ring for the first time, pounded the hell out of a referee who happened to be in the ring at the time of the judges' decision. The pounding, caught on video, proved fatal - and now Rudd is the only thing standing between his fighter and decades in jail.

If I have a complaint, it's that there's a fair amount of repetition, although that's necessary to some extent to make sure readers connect the dots among the various "stories." Still, because there seems to be a little too much of it, I'm inclined to knock this one down to 4.5 stars. The ending also left the door wide open for a sequel, and since I thoroughly enjoyed this one, if that happens it's a sure bet I'll be in line to read it as well.

Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham (Doubleday, October 2015); 354 pp.

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