The Street Lawyer by John Grisham

Night on city street during snowstorm, pedestrian barely discernibleIn the first paragraph of The Street Lawyer, novelist John Grisham puts hot-shot lawyer Michael Brock into an elevator with a pungent homeless veteran who minutes later threatens to blow up Drake & Sweeney and its 800 lawyers.

The lawyers survive.

The homeless man does not.

Mike is shaken up by his first-ever encounter with a homeless person. He begins doing research into the causes and responses to homelessness. In the process, he stumbles upon information that shows his own law firm benefiting financially from dumping poor people on the streets.

Mike visits a free legal clinic for the homeless and is fascinated by what he sees. He only has to be asked once to come make sandwiches one weekend, and Mike decides to quit Drake & Sweeney to work with Washington DC’s homeless.

Grisham does all the things writers of crime novels are required to do—bring in bad cops, have his client beaten up, get him a new girlfriend—but he does them in muted ways so they don’t become the whole story.

The story ends predictably but plausibly for Mike, who matures a lot in a few months.

Grisham produces a fast-reading, intriguing tale that leaves readers with a lot to think about.

The Street Lawyer by John Grisham
Doubleday. ©1998. 348 p.
1998 bestseller #1; my grade: A

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

Pleading Guilty by Scott Turow

a $1000 bill in breast pocket of pin-striped suit
Love those pin-striped suits.

Scott Turow delivers Pleading Guilty as an unedited report dictated by Mack Malloy, an ex-cop turned lawyer, to his firm’s top management about their partner who disappeared along with $5.6 million.

That presentation lets readers find out about the crime and the characters in a manner that’s both shocking and, in retrospect, predictable.

Outside the courtroom, Bert Kamin, Mack’s partner at G&G, is caught up in sports betting with other macho guys who claim to have insider knowledge. Others of Mack’s associates in G&G have peculiarities that might mask unorthodox, possibly even criminal, behavior.

Mack and Emilia “Brushy” Bruccia, his associate and sex-partner, joke that their gossip is protected lawyer-client communication.

The first place Mack looks for Bert—the Russian Bath—he learns cops have already been there looking for a Kam Roberts, although the Bath pays the local watch commander to prevent such unpleasantness.

Who is Kam Roberts? And why are cops asking about him in Bert Kamin’s haunts?

Divorced, overweight, with an injured knee and booze-soaked psyche, Mack is about as attractive as Horace Rumpole and equally shrewd about crime. But unlike Rumpole, Mack is unlikely to appear in a second novel.

You’ll have to read Pleading Guilty to learn why.

Pleading Guilty by Scott Turow
Ferrar, Straus and Giroux. ©1993. 386 p.
1993 bestseller #8; my grade: A

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

Nothing buttoned-down about The Man From Brodney’s

As The Man From Brodney’s opens, “Taswell Skaggs was dead and once more remembered.”

Three law firms on two continents are fighting to win Skaggs’s fortune for their respective clients: Skaggs’s grandson, Robert Browne; his late partner’s granddaughter, Lady Agnes Deppingham; and the inhabitants of Japat, the South Sea island on which both men lived and died.

Small island in vast ocean.


The Man From Brodney’s by George Barr McCutcheon
Illus. Harrison Fisher. 1908 bestseller #9.
Project Gutenberg ebook #11572. My grade: B+.

To inherit, Browne and Lady Agnes must be man and wife a year from Skagg’s death.

Both are already married.

As the hopeful inheritors hasten to the island, American Hollingsworth Chase is kicked out of the Grand Duchy of Rapp-Thorberg: The man he struck for annoying Princess Genevra was her fiancé.

The parties of the two grandchildren are already in residence when the Brodney law firm’s agent representing Japat’s inhabitants arrives.

Brodney’s man is Hollingsworth Chase.

All that—and more—happens in just the first three chapters.

Although Skaggs’s will sounds crazy, it’s in keeping with his life. In fact, George Barr McCutcheon makes all the crazy things the characters do appear plausible for them in their circumstances.

McCutcheon keeps the story in high gear to the end with murder and mayhem, spies and sabotage, romance and retribution, and sprinkles it all with laugh-out-loud lines.

© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni