The Rooster Bar

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Happy New Year! Today I am reviewing John Grisham’s latest novel The Rooster Bar, which I received as a Christmas present and read over the course of a couple of days. (Warning: minor spoilers.)

Mark, Todd and Zola are three friends who are law students Foggy Bottom Law School in Washington, D.C. Now, with one semester left until graduation, the three realize that the school is nothing but a for-profit scheme set up by a millionaire who owns a major bank corporation. After the suicide of their best friend Gordy rattles their lives, Todd and Mark make the decision to drop out of law school. Taking on new identities, the two establish their own law firm despite not having licenses. They plan to make money to pay off their student loans by picking up clients at D.C.’s crowded courthouses. They also hope to expose the scheme involving the law school. Meanwhile, Zola deals with her Senegal-native family being deported.

The novel explores several modern themes: law school, student loans, immigrants, unruly lawyers and more. While I’m not in law school, I could definitely relate to the burden of having to pay back thousands in student loans.

The three main characters learn how to take on clients through the action of “learning by watching,” by observing the actions of the lawyers they see in court. Although it’s obviously illegal what they were doing, it made for a fascinating plot and pace. It makes me wonder if false firms like that actually exist.

I did find the characters of Mark and Todd to be a little unbelievable and annoying. They seem almost too sure that they were not going to get caught, and even when they did, repeatedly said they are not going to jail. Their attitudes just didn’t appeal to me, but characters don’t always have to be likable.

The Rooster Bar is definitely worth a read for anyone who likes legal thrillers.

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Gray Mountain

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Since moving to D.C., I’ve learned a little bit about the geography of Virginia and West Virginia and how rugged it can be. This is where John Grisham’s 2014 novel, Gray Mountain, takes place.

Samantha Kofer is a law associate who works at a high-powered real estate firm in New York City. When the 2008 recession hits and she is furloughed, she faces the opportunity of interning at a nonprofit for a year with the possibility of coming back to work at the firm. The internship at a legal aid clinic brings her to the small Appalachian coal town of Brady, Virginia, far from the city life she is accustomed to. Although skeptical at first, she slowly begins to acclimate to country life and the diverse people and experiences it offers.

With Grisham’s lawyer background, he did a good job at explaining the legal processes and jargon that appear throughout the story. I liked that the story involved lawsuits in a small town, a change from most that take place in major cities like New York or Los Angeles. However, there were too many cases that he introduced that didn’t go anywhere. Also, I felt like the terrain of the coal mining took up the focus of the story rather than the characters themselves. Most of the pages are filled with descriptions of what the coal does to the environment and the negative effect it has on people. It’s essential to the plot, but it took too much focus of the story.

When it comes to reading this, I would recommend borrowing this book from the library.

 

 

What Lies Behind

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Used book sales are usually places to find books that might be older, or even out of print. In this case, though, I found this novel that was published just last year.

J.T. Ellison’s thriller What Lies Behind follows Dr. Samantha “Sam” Owens, a medical examiner and college professor, who lives in Washington, D.C. When an undercover FBI agent is found murdered and an ex-medical student severely injured in a Georgetown apartment, Dr. Owens is called in to examine the scene by her friend, homicide detective Darren Fletcher. It’s soon discovered that the FBI undercover was investigating a much larger conspiracy involving bioterrorism that could threaten the entire population. Sam and Fletcher must figure out who is behind the conspiracy in a matter of hours.

Being that this novel combined two huge interests of mine, Washington D.C. and police work, the story instantly appealed to me. The writing is in third person, but the chapters change perspective, following not only Sam’s actions but also the activities of another FBI agent, and, in some cases, the perpetrators. This sort of writing style gives the characters and stories more depth since we get the chance to see what they are thinking and feeling.

Another element I enjoyed was its setting of the city where I currently live. Ellison’s descriptions of the District were very vivid and accurate; I could easily imagine where these characters were going in almost every scene. It wasn’t surprising to find out that Ellison had once worked in the White House and lived in the city. I liked reading a crime story that was set in the nation’s capital as opposed to the common settings of New York City, Chicago or Los Angeles (at least for those popular crime shows.)

I definitely recommend this novel to anybody who likes a crime or thriller story, or is an avid fan of the Law & Order series. This novel is actually the fourth in a series, and I plan to check out the preceding books in the near future.