Every jury has a leader, and the verdict belongs to him. In Biloxi, Mississippi, a landmark tobacco trial with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake beginsroutinely, then swerves mysteriously off course. The jury is behaving strangely, and at least one juroris convinced he's being watched. Soon they have to be sequestered. Then a tip from an anonymousyoung woman suggests she is able to predict the jurors' increasingly odd behavior. Is the jury somehow being manipulated, or even controlled? If so, by whom? And, more important, why?
BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from John Grisham's The Litigators.
Grisham is either remarkably prescient or just plain lucky; because with public concerns about the tobacco companies heating up, and two major nonfiction books currently garnering a lot of attention, he has come up with a tobacco-suit novel that lights up the courtroom. In a Mississippi Gulf Coast town, the widow of a lifelong smoker who died prematurely of lung cancer is suing Big Tobacco. Enter Rankin Fitch, a dark genius of jury fixing, who has won many such trials for the tobacco companies and who foresees no special problems here. Enter also a mysterious juror, Nicholas Easter, whom Fitch's army of jury investigators and manipulators can't quite seem to track-and his equally mysterious girlfriend Marlee, who soon shows Fitch she knows even more about what's happening in the jury room than he does. The details of jury selection are fascinating and the armies of lawyerly hangers-on and overpaid consultants that surround such potentially profitable (to either side) cases are horribly convincing. The cat-and-mouse game played between Nicholas, Marlee and Fitch over the direction of the jury quickly becomes hair-raising as the stakes inch ever higher. As usual with Grisham, the writing is no more than workmanlike, the characterizations are alternatively thin and too broad, but all is redeemed by his patented combination of expertise and narrative drive. What makes The Runaway Jury his most rewarding novel to date is that it is fully enlisted in an issue of substance, in which arguments of genuine pith are hammered out and resolved in a manner that is both intellectually and emotionally satisfying. It's a thriller for people who think, and Jesse Helms won't like it one bit. First printing of 2.8 million; major ad/promo; Literary Guild main selection. ~ Mystery
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury....
It's been about a year or two since I first read this one. "The Runaway Jury" was the second title by Grisham that I read. (Or was it the first? I don't really remember.) I plead guilty to seeing the film adaptation before ever reading the book. But as in any book-to-film comparison, the book is better. I was so caught up in the detailed build-up from chapter to chapter that I hardly paid Nicholas Easter and Marlee's plan any mind until it came up. And each juror from Lonnie Shaver to Col. Frank Herrera has his or her own personality and part of the story. Not over the top or downplayed like the film. Of course, it was not necessarily Nicholas and Marlee that I focused (and do focus) on. Rather it was, and is, the other two main characters: Rankin Fitch, the slippery jury consultant working for the tobacco company; and Wendell Rohr, the laid-back attorney representing the wife of the deceased. I had always seen Rohr as the good sort while seeing Fitch as the bad sort; but even decent lawyers need to check themselves, or be checked. Thus, Marlee has her eye on both Fitch AND Rohr. One highlight is when the jury gets up and recites the Pledge of Allegiance. That took me back to my early school days (elementary school, that is). The novel looks into each juror's part in the plot, and in Fitch's dirty operation. Sort of an ensemble cast deal. Though fictitious, "The Runaway Jury" shows that the legal system is not flawless--or guiltless. Lawyers on the prosecution and defense tables will do anything to get their verdict; even break various rules under the sun or under the cover of darkness. Come to think of it, this novel makes me distrust lawyers, and gives me pause about jury duty. To a degree. Like Grisham's other novel "The Rainmaker", The Runaway Jury implies that big companies feel they have nothing (or rather, too much) to lose. So they turn to the Rankin Fitches of the world--next to their actual lawyers. By the way, there is one thing that the film did do that the I wish the novel had done: Bring Fitch and Rohr together, in a face-to-face confrontation. That would have made the reading even more enjoyable and worth picking up repeatedly. But that's just my opinion. All in all, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, it is the court's decision to rule in favor of Mr. Grisham. For "The Runaway Jury" he is entitled to four out of five stars. The case will be re-examined (i.e., the book will be read again) any time from now. Thank you, court is adjourned.
This kept me entertained and guessing the entire time. As an avid reader, it’s been awhile since a book has caught my attention like this one has.