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Having once again become exposed to the vagaries of the London transport system, I decided it was time to purchase some new reading material. For any of those used to the world renowned fish in can experience that is the London Underground, I won’t need to mention that high-brow reading that requires all your concentration is far from ideal. No, for the cramped, sweaty, bustling underground light untaxing reading is definitely the order of the day.
So it was that I found myself drawn to the latest John Grisham paperback for a measly £3.84 in my local Tesco’s. Whilst I don’t profess to being a huge Grisham fan, a brief glance at the list of his previous publications revealed that I’ve read all but one, so clearly there’s something I appreciate about his work. His flowing lucid prose usually contains within it a legal tale of intriguing content, with enough complexity and nuance to keep me entertained and occasionally enthralled. The conversion of so many of his novels to Hollywood blockbusters further underline what a fine storyteller he is.
The Summons sees Grisham in indifferent form; there’s some intrigue generated in plot that only reveals its secrets as its denouement unfurls, the main characters are well-rounded and the pace just quick enough to prove page turning. It all adds up to an accomplished novel that never sparkles; interesting rather than intriguing, entertaining rather than engrossing and undemanding rather than unputdownable.
The story sees Ray Atlee, a forty something divorced law professor, summoned to see his ailing father with the likely topic of conversation centred on his impending inheritance. Judge Atlee is a local hero in the backwater town of Clanton, Mississippi, whose penchant for donating generously to all nature of charities leaves son Ray expecting to be left little of value.
On arrival he finds his father dead and the shock of his departure is exponentially heightened by his discovery of twenty-seven boxes neatly filled with one hundred dollar notes. Unsure of how to best deal with this new conundrum a mixture of paranoia, intrigue and greed take over Ray, trusted family friend and local lawyer Harry Rex is not told nor is his brother, a perpetual drug addict. To declare the cash as part of his father’s estate would have the dual effect of tarnishing a well-deserved reputation and mean much of the money would be devoured by the tax office.
The remainder of the novel follows Ray’s attempts to uncover the source of his father’s mysterious money whilst trying to evade an unknown assailant who inexplicably knows about the money. As he closes in on the truth, his apartment is broken into, his plane destroyed and his life turned into an unending nightmare of paranoia and fear. A slight twist in the conclusion wraps up a competent offering.
The Summons comes across as a novel written to fulfil contractual obligations rather than one that has been inspired by Grisham at his most creative. His writing shows his trademark laconic approach which keeps the pace humming nicely but the story never reaches the dramatic highs and lows of some of his better work. To be honest I would like to see him return to the drama of the courtroom utilising his knowledge of the legal system and drawing on his experience within the profession because, numerous though such works are these days, they are clearly his forte.
All in all for the ridiculous price of £3.84 I can’t complain. The Summons kept me entertained, even accepting the slightly flat story, for its duration. For Grisham fans The Summons won’t disappoint even though it doesn’t dazzle, for other looking for a diverting read it might be worth picking up a copy. Easily devoured and quickly forgotten.
I certainly have to say after reading this book, that i was thoroughly disappointed with the book. It started off well but then suddenly it just ended with one of the worst endings I have read in a Grisham book. No real excitement, a few twists and turns but nothing like the past books.
I hope that Grisham hasn't lost his writing style as he is one of the few writers that I really enjoy reading.
This will be one Grisham book that I will not be picking up to read again.
Lightpants 12.08.2003 11:42
Well, I finished it. Was that it? That was quite poor by his standaards. Only a slight twist, and I can think of a better character to have been the baddie!
Lightpants 11.08.2003 15:32
I've just reached chapter 34, and must admit - it's been a good read, but not his usual, edge of your seat twist and turn dynamite mixture. Looking forward to the end twist though as I haven't actually worked it out yet!