The Appeal by John Grisham

May 4, 2008
By Aneesha Raghunathan, Plainsboro, NJ

The Appeal, John Grisham's latest book is perhaps one of his most captivating and thought provoking novels yet. Grisham is notorious for adding flavor and scandal to the often bland, sameness of law, and he's nowhere close to disappointing.

The Appeal, released just in time for elections, involves a complicated plot to purchase Supreme Court justices, and run a behind the scenes campaign to “buy” a verdict. Grisham's writing was so superb it was hard to believe that what I was reading hadn't actually occurred. If FICTION wasn't written on the book in bold letters, I wouldn't have been convinced.

It's all about the Benjamins. Wes and Mary Payton are broke, desperate lawyers. They have been litigating for many years but big cases are rare in their small town of rural Mississippi. The town is nearly deserted and has affectionately been named “Cancer County” by its inhabitants. This is all thanks to Krane Chemical, a massive billion-dollar industry that has been illegally dumping toxic waste into the ground, contaminating the town's drinking water and causing the cancers. Wes and Mary Payton finally get their big break when they are rewarded with a verdict that gives them 42 million dollars in punitive damages. But the CEO of Krane, Carl Trudeau, and his arsenal of 100 lawyer drones aren't too thrilled with this.

To fix that, they partner with a short tempered man named Barry Rhinehart, who is part of an “invisible” firm specializing in elections called Troy-Hogan (there is no Troy or Hogan.

The firm is virtually invisible because what they do is illegal. They wire large amounts of money to offshore accounts in order to escape federal radar and engage in illegal political affairs, like removing incumbents and replacing them with others. Together, they plan to destroy the small time Payton law firm and buy themselves a billion dollar appeal victory by electing one of their “own” to the Supreme Court.

There are over 20+ characters in the book and are of them are as flat as this paper. But they all serve their purpose in the plot, like little puppets in the hand of the master puppeteer. It's hard to believe, but Grisham manages to turn these one-dimensional puppets into memorable, one-and a half-dimensional minions.

He does this in true J-Grisham fashion, by introducing them separately in random scenes seemingly unrelated to each other. But later, as the excitement and plot intensifies, all the disparate characters come together to lead into a grand ending.

But what makes the Appeal truly stand out from any other law related fiction book? Or even just another Grisham? Simple.

The Appeal is one of those books where after you have finished it, there is nothing you can do but sit in silence and sigh. Although Grisham isn't writing something that actually occurred, we all know that political corruption is a reality. The point is that we can't just let our law system be overrun with wealthy business tyrants and unqualified idiots with large pockets. The Appeal shows us that law is more than just manipulating people and senselessly billing clients, it's about taking a stand and fighting for what you believe in.

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