John Grisham is back with his 27th novel to date. I grew up loving his books, A TIME TO KILL, THE FIRM, THE CLIENT, THE PELICAN BRIEF, THE RAINMAKER, THE CHAMBER and then I just lost interest, they were all amazing but I guess that phase was over, I really need to get back into them because those earlier books were sensational and just epic – THE FIRM and THE CLIENT would be up there as two of the best books I have ever read. It was right around the time I started to mature and discovered that now that school was over reading was actually fun. Well Mr Grisham is back with his latest, GRAY MOUNTAIN, and to tell you all about it I will leave you with Kernel Lynley Moore’s review. GRAY MOUNTAIN is out now from Hachette Australia and would make for a good Grisham fan family member’s stocking filler. All the best………..JK.





John Grisham is known as a master of legal suspense – his novels are readily accessible, and many have been acclaimed as some of the most popular novels of our time, these include A TIME TO KILL and THE FIRM, both of which have both been translated to film, in addition to several of his other novels.

His latest legal thriller, GRAY MOUNTAIN gives us a new female protagonist, Samantha Kofer, who, at the start of the novel quickly loses her Wall Street job with a large law firm in the 2008 financial crisis. All is not lost, however, as Samantha is provided with the prospect to maintain her health benefits and potentially return to the company in one year’s time if she takes on a year-long non-profit legal aid role. Samantha does just that, accepting a position in Mountain Legal Aid Clinic in Brady, Virginia, in the middle of a coal mining town. Here, Samantha is plunged into a world ruled by gigantic coal mining companies – a world where black lung is commonplace, and local forests and mountains face defilement in the ongoing search for the precious fossil fuel.

The backwaters of Appalachia are a far cry from Wall Street, and though Samantha is no stranger to law, she initially finds her new lifestyle dissatisfying, unmotivated by the everyday troubles of the small town citizenry. Yet, as Samantha becomes more exposed to her clients’ personal hardships and misfortunes, and more aware of the warped legal world and dirty litigation practices of the big coal companies, the human element wins her over, and she begins to fight for the beleaguered townsfolk. The scales lifted from her eyes, Samantha realises that she is out of her depth with much to learn – including handling cases filled with dirty secrets, and laced with threats and murder. Grisham has really pulled out all of his stops in the novel – with secret, stolen documents, sensitive and confidential information, and complicated love interests forming the basis of the plot.

Despite Grisham’s popularity, I found this novel very difficult to review. I was initially excited to read the anticipated “new classic” from the author that had occupied my family book shelf for some time. Having actually finished it now, however, I feel GRAY MOUNTAIN was lacking in some of the gusto, suspense and character development that I have come to expect from Grisham.




Certainly Grisham delves into topical politics and legalities, as is his tendency; Big Coal, human rights and the 2008 recession are repeatedly examined throughout the novel. And it is this topicality that helps maintain the novel as a page turner, as apart from having had my interest piqued by the impact of coal mining on a small-town and its residents, and the co-dependence it can develop, I found very little value in the novel. In particular, I felt Grisham spent too much time laying the track for a new series of novels instead of properly developing this “first chapter”. The end of the novel certainly hints at a series to follow.

This lack of development is particularly noticeable with the main character, Samantha Kofer, who really doesn’t begin to approach the level of complexity found in Grisham’s famous female lead Darby Shaw, of THE PELICAN BRIEF. I found it hard to find value in our lead, and I have to query whether her character was strong enough to pull through in a new series. Her values were shallow, and didn’t develop in any coherent manner over the course of the novel. Rather, she remains uncommitted to any one side or person, until she suddenly acts to neatly tie up Grisham’s values of coal mining with her final decision. Though this sudden sign of development is very welcome, it comes so close the end that I felt cheated out of seeing the ramifications of Samantha’s moral shift. Having finally found value in the last few chapters, it suddenly seemed like I had been robbed – the finale cut short, the conclusion drastically foreshortened.

Also, while the legal side of GRAY MOUNTAIN’s plot displays Grisham’s usual penchant and skill in crafting an intricate legal knot, the romance side was sub-par and felt forced in nature, as if it was thrown into the recipe just to have a little extra sugar. I could have done without it: the interactions between Samantha and her love interests are quite dull and formulaic, and I had to force myself not to skip forward to the next twist in the ongoing legal drama.

All in all this novel can be described as a one night stand – maybe a good idea and enjoyable at the time, but ultimately empty-handed, leaving only a lingering hollow feeling as you walk home in the rain.


3 Pops