The Rooster Bar, by John Grisham

Seven stars

John Grisham is back with yet another new take on the legal profession, shining lights where there has only been darkness, while entertaining readers in equal measure. Law school is a tough beast that only the fittest can survive. However, when Mark, Todd, and Zola arrived, they felt that their determination would help them sail through. Perusing the land into their last semester, all they can see are mountains of debt and a soon-to-be useless diploma from Foggy Bottom Law School, one of the lesser (lowest?) schools, located in the DC area. Armed with few paths to success and crippling financial ruin, they try to find an out. A fourth musketeer shines light on a potential grand scam, but has not taken the initiative to act on it. Tragic circumstances force Mark, Todd, and Zola to rethink their futures and the wheels begin to turn. Seeing hucksters on every corner, the three agree to create their own law firm and run it, without completing school or holding valid licenses. As long as they can stay one step ahead of the process, nothing can go wrong, right? Listing their firm out of the top floors of a bar, the three begin perusing the vulnerable at hospitals and in the courthouse. It takes guts, but there may be some return, as long as no one catches on. When a few larger cases get caught in their flimsy net, it’s time to weight the options between being caught and a massive payout. Greed trumps sense most times, but all three soon learn that legal matters can be as fragile as spun glass and lives are irreparably changed with one false move. As the cock crows on their legal (and personal) futures, The Rooster Bar may not be as fortuitous as they once hoped. Financial ruin may be the least of their worries, should all those who want their pound of flesh succeed in filing legal grievances. Grisham does a masterful job of painting an interesting legal picture while pulling on the heart strings of the reader. Fans of his work will like this one, as another one-off analyzes the wonders of the legal world, pitfalls and all.

While some feel the need to take Grisham with a grain of salt, I like his varied approaches to the legal profession and feel that he has a firm grasp on many aspects that are forgotten in the genre. Grisham’s unique approach is what makes me come back for more, though the characters and story found herein are also quite entertaining. It is a wonderful collection of personalities that make the story all the more exciting. Three core law students who are trying to dodge their creditors and attempt to see above all that is crippling them helps lay the groundwork for the great bamboozling that is this novel. Varied in their backstories, Mark, Todd, and Zola all bring a strong core belief system to the story. The past they bring helps to individualise them, as well as injects some humour into what can sometimes be a string of serious aspects. Touching not only on the law, but on the struggles of students, Grisham does not candy-coat anything and wants only to offer the reader some insight into how horrid law school can be beneath the surface, when it comes to loans and repayment. The collection of other characters remain stellar, as Grisham brings even more to the table and forces the reader to go through all the ups and downs that accompany Russian Roulette legal practice. The story itself is intriguing, even if it does not tap into the core of legal conundrums (as Grisham has done in the past). There is something here that cannot be dismissed and building on all the varied aspects of the story to create a checkerboard of drama and entertainment, Grisham keeps the reader in the middle of all the action. Between the DC issues and those across the world, there is little time for the reader to sit back and relax, though there is also little interest in remaining passive. Perhaps not his most gripping story, but Grisham is sure to pack a punch when the reader invests the needed time getting to the root of the issues here. I can only hope that there are more flashy stories like this to come.

Kudos, Mr. Grisham, for all you do. I know it must be tough, up to your twenty-fifth legal novel now, but you do it all so well.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: