Right from his debut novel, A Time To Kill, John Grisham has been the master of the small town, big action legal thriller. Grisham better than anyone else plying their writing trade in the legal genre has done more to capture the ambiance and desperation of not only the small town setting but the small town lives of the characters that populate his stories.
For his latest outing, Gray Mountain, Grisham tries his hand at a fish out water tale of a Wall Street lawyer, an up and coming associate who like many of her colleagues gets caught in the tidal wave of trouble following the investment banking crash that took out not only financial gurus, but those in business that supported them, like those in Big Law.
The story starts out on the implausible footing of associates being furloughed, but being offered the opportunity to keep their benefits and seniority track, if they agree to volunteer and work pro bono for a non-profit legal group or organization. That is how we find Samantha Kofer dropped into the backwoods outpost of Brady, West Virginia and interning for a free legal aid group.
It’s at this point that Grisham veers off the rails and plants both feet firmly on the soap box and writes of the evils of big coal, even pointing out that the federal court that serves the area is loaded with Republicans and in the process gives credence to the tired old saw that Republicans don’t care about polluting the air and water. Are there issues facing the coal industry? Certainly. However the answers to fixing those issues probably don’t match up well with Mr. Grisham’s approach.
Gray Mountain, like most of Grisham’s collection, is larded down with memorable characters and settings, and enough plot twists and turns to shake a stick at. After wading through to the end, the book’s conclusion is a sudden stop…and I am left with a “is that all there is feeling.