© 2015 John Grisham
(“Wait for 2016”, I said. What can I say?)
Rogue Lawyer ranks with The Appeal as one of John Grisham’s most cynical and bitter pieces of fiction. Its lead character, Sebastian Rudd, is vaguely reminiscent of A Time To Kill and The Last Juror‘s Lucien Wilbanks, a long-haired warrior for justice who lives for picking fights. He works for the dregs of the legal system — not the poor, but the despicable, like a wannabe gangster who had his last lawyer killed. Part of this is idealism, but more pervasive is a contempt for practically every aspect of the legal system. Rogue Lawyer begins with a series of disjointed sections, some of which finally converge into a more novel-worthy tale, though none of it makes for edifying reading. Rudd spends the entire novel immersed in degradation. His clients are satanists, crimelords, and human traffickers, and when he is not with them he is attempting to manage a young San Salvadoran cage fighter, striking deals with petty crooks and pettier civil servants, or trading bitter courtroom blows with his ex-wife, as they work on their joint project of raising an emotional trainwreck of a child who will, if he survives being kidnapped by his father’s enemies to settle a score, have serious issues. The majority of adults in this novel spend their time plotting to manipulate, shake down, or physically injure one another. The ending is suitably unsatisfying,. While it’s not as bad a novel as The Racketeer, Grisham did street law much better in The Street Lawyer, which saw ordinary decency matched against the inhumanity of the legal system. The problem here is there is little decency or humanity to be found. It’s nonstop violence, despair, and brooding, with the one moment of hope in the bleak collection of tragedy coming when the main character ponders packing up and leaving his life behind to go play golf. Aside from a lead lawyer who is worlds away from Grisham’s usual main characters, Rogue doesn’t impress.