The Firm
John Grisham
Reviewed by: WaywardWoman
Category: Legal Thriller
Date Read: 30 November 2023
No. Pages: 490
Published: 1989

John Grisham is one of the best thriller writers. This is his second book, written in 1991. I read it back then, not long after it was published, and soon became hooked with his storytelling. The movie of the same name was produced only a few years later, in 1993, with a young Tom Cruises as the lead role of Mitch McDeere. The movie is fairly true to the book in most respects. McDeere is an ordinary guy who has had a difficult start to life and whose family hides some skeletons. He is however a hardworking man who has tried to overcome his adversities to become a brilliant lawyer, qualifying Harvard with Honours. Now, he is applying for a range of jobs to further his career. When a relatively small law firm in Memphis, Bendini, Lambert and Locke offer him the world – a great salary, help to get a home, a new Mercedes and to pay off his student loan – Mitch and his wife Abby at first think they have struck the jackpot.

Of course, anyone beginning a career in law in America knows that they initially need to work long hours and sit the bar exam. But it doesn’t take long before Abby, in particular, is feeling very uneasy about the demands placed on Mitch and the firm’s influence on their lives. Mitch doesn’t agree with Abby straight away, but it also doesn’t take long before he starts to think there is something amiss in this tight knit company.

The firm seems overly concerned about its associates’ wedded bliss, prospects of children and life in general. And no one has ever left the firm: but that doesn’t mean people haven’t tried.

To be a lawyer means taking a solemn oath swearing to support the Constitution of the United States and the state in which a lawyer works: “that I will honestly demean myself in the practice of law, that I will discharge my duties to my clients to the best of my ability and that I will conduct myself with civility and integrity in dealing and communicating with the court and all parties.” Mitch soon realises that apart from the fact that a number of lawyers from the firm have ended up dead, the the firm is a front for something criminal, which he will need to navigate, somehow legally, in order to escape and have a meaningful life in the future.

A few months ago, Grisham released a sequel to The Firm called The Exchange. This was the motivation to go back and reread a story and watch a film I had seen about thirty years ago. While the movie now feels somewhat dated, the book is still every bit as crisp in its story line as it was back then.

Will Mitch be able to unravel how to address the firm’s legal issues and who to target, and can he manage to save himself from being dragged into investigations and criminal behaviour? How will he navigate the process with those who have been involved in the long term?

Only time will tell.

The Exchange
John Grisham
Category: Legal Thriller
Date Read: 3 January 2024
No. Pages: 334
Published: 2023

After over 30 years, John Grisham’s latest book, The Exchange reprises characters from one of his first and most popular novels, The Firm. Mitch McDeere and his wife Abby have been living a life hidden from their familiar city of Memphis where their lives were turned upside down when Mitch worked as a lawyer at Bendini, Lambert and Locke. After FBI involvement, and weighing up the consequences of the company’s actions, they flee with a massive amount of the mob’s money, hoping to make a new life.

Fast forward 15 years: they have come to believe that all those who want retribution are either dead or in jail. Mitch has managed to return to his lawyering career with another huge company, Scully and Pershing, far away in New York. His work takes him to many parts of the world, but when he needs to visit Libya for a new case, he is initially excited. Yet he soon becomes concerned when one of the company’s own, who is also the daughter of a personal friend, becomes a hostage.

The novel provides graphics details of a number of murders which are live streamed, demanding a huge ransom which even the largest law firm in the world cannot raise immediately.

The book is set during the early 2000s under the regime of Colonel Gaddafi, who converted Libya into a republic and ruled by decree. Even the company’s political advisors are not sure if Gaddafi is directly involved with the murders of those protecting him or whether some other independent group is behind them, so this certainly complicates the rescue and ransom of the very valuable hostage.

We always hear that governments will not negotiate with terrorists, so the question arises here, whether they come to their aid and help with the ransom, and will she ultimately be saved or meet the same fate as the others murdered?

It soon becomes clear that Mitch’s family is not safe either. With Abby acting as go-between, her role in freeing the hostage is larger than she would care it be.

Despite being a sequel, this novel’s content is very different to its prequel. It has much more suspense and explores very different areas, with Mitch and his wife, and his career as a lawyer being the two things tying the stories together.

I read The Firm years ago, but re-read it just before this sequel was published. And I am very glad I did. Though I had a general recollection, there were obviously parts I had forgotten.

The two books, however, meld beautifully together and you would never expect that Grisham wrote them over 30 years apart. It is seamless in its transition between the ending of The Firm and McDeere’s new life which finds them in this situation. I can thoroughly recommend reading them together now.

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