Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The Litigators by John Grisham

In The English Novel by Walter Allen he says of Benjamin Disraeli as a novelist "His strength lay in his specialised knowledge; it would be almost true to say that he had to become a politician before he became a novelist." If you substituted the word 'lawyer' for the word 'politician' I think the same would be true of John Grisham.

This book is packed with law. It involves a mass tort case against a huge pharmaceutical company, Varrick Labs. It is alleged that one of their drugs, Krayoxx, causes heart attacks. After I'd finished the book I was amazed that it wasn't boring. There is loads of specialised legal stuff, the behind the scenes haggling that goes on in cases like these, which could've been dry as sticks, but in Grisham's capable hands I was whisked along, learning as I went.

The reader sees the case through the perspective of the firm of Finley and Figg. Finlay and Figg are ambulance chasers, on the lowest rung of the legal profession. Oscar Finlay has resigned himself to this, but his partner, Wally Figg, still has big dreams. Wally believes that they can make their fortunes by riding the coat-tails of the Krayoxx case.

We don't really get to learn much about the characters. Oscar is in an unhappy marriage, Wally is a recovering alcoholic - that's about as much as we know. But I don't really think we need to know more than that. The story isn't about the characters, it's about the law and it's about greed. The case is huge, drawing in litigants from all over the US. Varrick Labs is prepared to stand by Krayoxx and fight. They employ a big firm to defend them. An equally big firm is co-ordinating the plaintiffs. Around these two big fish swim hundreds of little minnows, hoping to get in on the action.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I thought that the story was great, and while being entertained, I learned a lot.

The spring flowers are starting to come through in my garden. If I had a bigger garden I would collect snowdrops, which are my favourite flower. I do have these, and I love them. They are called 'Ketton', and the information from the catalogue says that they were introduced 'by EA Bowles after the second world war from the village of that name in Rutland'. There are hundreds of different snowdrops, all subtly different.


  1. I used to read lots of John Grisham's books at one time and loved them. Then I couldn't remember the details and they all merged into one story in my head! so I stopped. I think this is a new one (for me)although it does sound familiar - or at least the same pattern as his other books. I'm going to look out for it.

    We still have snowdrops in our garden too, but I don't know what kind they are - they were in the garden when we moved here.

  2. The snowdrops are lovely--I'm still waiting for something to pop up in my garden.

    Still have't read any Grisham,but since I love The Good Wife, I'm not sure why I haven't. Like the premise of this one.