Fiction, Thriller

The Runaway Jury – John Grisham

I just got back from beautiful Rarotonga and it is without a doubt one of the most chill places I think I’ve ever been to!  The Cook Islands is a nation of 15 islands in the Pacific.  Rarotonga is its largest and most populous island with a population of around 11,000 people.  It’s gorgeous.  Absolutely stunningly beautiful.  Just look at it!


With sun, sand, and loungers liberally sprinkled around the island, you would think this would be the ideal reading holiday.  However we wanted to spend most of our holiday roaming around the island, kayaking, snorkelling, cycling and eating.  So I knew going into it that I wasn’t going to have a lot of reading time on my hands.  I needed something light and easy to read that I could put down and pick up again when I had a spare moment.

I’ve never read anything by John Grisham before.  I’d heard of him of course, but I had just never been drawn to him.  It’s not like I avoided his books – I just never seemed to pick any of them up.  I’m trying to branch out this year though and read things I wouldn’t usually migrate towards; just to see if I’m missing out on something.  For me, that means reading more popular fiction instead of the slightly weird stuff that I tend to gravitate towards.  Grisham is on my list along with a couple of other popular authors that I have avoided up until now like Lee Child, Lesley Pearse, and Paullina Simons.

I chose The Runaway Jury because a) I had been told that it was an easy read, b) it was the only Grisham book I could remember off the top of my head, and c) it was sitting out on display in the library and I had exactly 5 minutes to choose a book before the Wellington library closed.  God bless librarians and their display books.  I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read and loved because a librarian decided it merited a place on the display shelf that day.

The Runaway Jury is referred to as a “legal thriller.”  The story is based around a court case where a widow is suing a tobacco company for the death of her two-pack-a-day cigarette smoking husband who died of lung cancer.  The focus isn’t on the widow though.  It’s on the manipulations of the lawyers, the tobacco companies, their consultants, and the jury members themselves.  In particular, the jury member named Nicholas Easter.  I’m going to try not to give away any spoilers.  Just in case there is someone still left out there who hasn’t read it.

Grisham does a good job of setting up and developing his characters.  Much better than similar thriller/mystery writers like Dan Brown.  I felt like I knew enough about the characters to form impressions in my head of what they would look like and how they would act.  I liked how Grisham handled Easter and Marlee.  Easter starts out as this master manipulator until you start to realise that maybe he’s having his strings pulled just as much as anyone else in this trial.

There were some rage inducing moments for me – mostly directed at the tobacco industry.  This book is a David and Goliath story as the tobacco companies bring their wealth and resources to bear on a largely clueless group of jurors who have no idea that they’re being manipulated the whole time.

Although the beginning and end of the book are pretty good, the middle is slow – almost boring.  Interestingly, this would reflect precisely how the jury experienced the case sitting in the courtroom while the lawyers marched out their parade of experts.  It’s incredulous to read a story like this now in 2017 when there’s no question that cigarettes are both dangerous and addictive and wonder at how there was ever a time when we thought otherwise.

All in all, the book delivered as promised.  An easy read with a few twists and turns, an interesting plot line, and some well developed characters.  I thought the line between good guy and bad guy was nicely blurred here which gave the story a bit more interest.

Would I read it again?  Well…no.  Not to say that it wasn’t a decent read.  But this is one of those stories where what you see is what you get.  The plot twists get you through the first reading, but you’re not really going to get anything new out of it with each successive reading.

Does it encourage me to read more Grisham?  Probably not unless one fell in my lap.  I liked what he did here but I’m not intending to go deliberately searching out more of his work.

Have you read The Runaway Jury?  What did you think?  Is there another John Grisham book out there that might change my mind about reading another of his novels?

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