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The Brethren by John Grisham - Book Review


The Brethren
John Grisham

Fiction-Net Rating 2 Star Rated Book

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Cover Story

Trumble is a minimum-security federal prison, home to the usual assortment of relatively harmless criminals - drug dealers, bank robbers, swindlers, embezzlers, tax evaders and three former judges who call themselves The Brethren. They meet each day in the law library where they handle cases for other inmates, practice law without a licence and sometimes dispense jailhouse justice. And they spend hours writing letters. They are fine-tuning a mail scam and it's starting to really work. The money is pouring in.

Then their little scam goes awry. It ensnares the wrong victim, a powerful man on the outside, a man with dangerous friends and The Brethren's days of quietly marking their time are over.

We Say

The only surprising thing about The Brethren by John Grisham is the lack of any surprises at all. It's been a while since I've read any of Grisham novels as I 'd previously given up the habit. I began to find them all going down the same well-trodden path - once you've read one, you've read them all. Still, there was a certain amount of enjoyment to be had from his earlier books. They were full of sharp, sassy young lawyers battling against age-old webs of corruption. Quite often, there was a major emotional pull - usually something to do with the fate of a child or the right of 'the little guy' to stand up to a big evil corporation. These kinds of things may be a cliché but at least they work.

The biggest problem with The Brethren is that there is no one to really care about - there isn't any big-hearted 'little guy' to root for, the three judges in prison are a bunch of seedy old men and the lawyer that helps them on the outside is an alcoholic waste of space. As for the man-who-would-be-president, he has something to fear from the three judges but he doesn't even know that because it is kept from him. The cold and efficient head of the CIA is secretly pulling strings behind his back. Feeling emotionally involved yet? Thought not.

I guess what we're meant to care about is the fact that if the-man-who-would-be-president doesn't get to be president, there are defence implications and the chance of a war, as foreseen by our all-knowing friend at the CIA. Unfortunately, it's all dealt with in blasé fashion by John Grisham and the reader is left with very little to convince them of any real threat.

One final whinge - there are absolutely no significant women in this book. This is a one-dimensional and tired representation of corruption and politics. I'd been hoping that a spectacular ending might make up for the weakness of the rest of the story but even in that, I was disappointed. The ending just petered out with nothing of any real consequence occurring. Don't bother with this book.

Review by: Rachel Taylor

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