Grisham’s latest goes through the motions


For years, John Grisham has been one of the strongest writers of legal thrillers. Yet in his latest, “The Associate,” Grisham reveals a novel unlike his earlier works. While the first few pages may resemble “The Firm,” it isn’t long before readers realize that “Associate” is nothing more than the end product of a man whose only concern is to meet the deadline for his next book.

“Associate” struggles fruitlessly to tell the story of Kyle McAvoy, an arrogant, young lawyer who is blackmailed into stealing valuable information from the firm he works at. Though never truly elaborated upon, “Associate” lightly explores the society of white-collar crime in some of New York’s largest law firms but takes more of a focus on the “hardships” newly graduated law students are forced to undergo at the meager pay of $200,000.

Therein lies the biggest problem with the book. Grisham spends far too much time elaborating on the boring details of Kyle’s daily schedule as an associate lawyer on Wall Street. It’s all needless information that doesn’t actually pertain to the plot of the book, which is centered on finding a way to outsmart the bad guys. To make matters worse, the fabled “solution” of the book falls haphazardly into a garbled, barely grasped half-existence that leaves the reader dumbfounded and doubtful of whether or not the novel had an actual plot in the first place.

On rare occasions, Grisham turns his attention from Kyle toward a fascinating, yet small cast of side characters including Kyle’s father John and recovering alcohol and drug addicts Baxter and Bennie, the book’s aspiring villains. As the story progresses, there forms a greater attachment to those three, more than there ever was with Kyle, primarily because Kyle is a pompous coward who doesn’t manage to grow the tiniest bit within the book.

Unfortunately, these supporting characters are barely utilized. In fact, the reader will only experience the constant frustration Kyle feels for nearly every other person in the book. Bennie in particular remains a mere object of hate, and despite being littered with vague hints towards his true identity, Grisham never reveals who the man might be or what it is that motivates the villain’s even hazier goals. A haphazard villain, Bennie is a ghost of the once horrifying bad guys that graced Grisham’s fabled works of old.

In short, approach “The Associate” with great caution. Even devoted fans will find this book hard to accept. Don’t expect Grisham’s usual suspenseful thriller crackling with dark tension that can keep a reader up long into the night.