Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Litigators

The Litigators
© 2011 John Grisham
385 pages

The Litigators may be unique among John Grisham's work in that from the start, it's written as a comedy. The lead character (David Zinc) intoduces himself to the story by having a nervous breakdown on his way to work and taking refuge in a local bar, where he happily drinks the day away before stumbling into a seedy two-man firm of ambulance chasers and declaring that he'd like to be their new associate.  His two new employers, Figg and Finley, border on the pathetic themselves: one is an on-again off-again drunk who can't stay out of rehab, and the other is on his fourth marriage and a fan of get-rich-quick schemes that always result in catastrophe.  While they're not keen on taking on a new hire, one is about to engage the firm in a mass tort action. It seems there's a bad drug on the market, and every lawyer with an eye for the future is trying to get a piece of the pie by piling on. They could use a hand in getting their 'boutique firm' involved, and so Zinc becomes the third man in their unintentional comedy troupe.

Think of The Litigators as The King of Torts meets The Street Lawyer, delivered as a comedy of errors and peopled by two of the Three Stooges. Everything that can go wrong does: by mid-novel they're facing a perfect storm that promises disaster.The lead character is so fundamentally decent, though, that the reader is left wincing at the fact that the poor guy is facing a fate that is the legal equivalent of falling into a woodchipper. But the Litigators isn't simply the story of a horrifically-executed trial:   Zinc finds perverse value in his new life, enjoying the fact that instead of slaving away in a corporate tower working in international finance, he's actually helping people...and so bizaarely, in a novel where the usual fate of Grisham's trials and heroes are reversed,  the ending is unambiguous and (for me) satisfying.  Look for it if you're in a mood for a quick and comedic read with some mild legal-thriller action thrown in.

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