Monday, February 9, 2015

1997: The Partner by John Grisham

The Author:

John Grisham (1955-    ) was born in Jonesboro, Arkansas, the son of a construction worker. At the age of twelve, his family moved to Southaven, Mississippi.  He graduated with a B.S. from Mississippi State University in 1979.  He passed the Mississippi Bar exam in 1981, and received his J.D. from the University of Mississippi.  In 1981, he married Renee Jones, with whom he had two children. 

Grisham began a successful law practice in 1981, starting in criminal law, and moving to more lucrative civil law.  In 1984, he was elected to the Mississippi State House of Representatives, a position he held in addition to running his law practice.  A case he witnessed while in the state legislature led him to write his first novel, A Time to Kill (1989).  He had trouble finding an agent and publisher.  He eventually found both, and a limited run of 5,000 copies was printed of his first novel.  In 1990, Grisham resigned from his position on state legislature and retired his practice.  In 1991, Doubleday published his second novel, The Firm.  It was a massive commercial success, as were his third and fourth novels, The Pelican Brief (1992) and The Client (1993).  His fourth book, The Chamber (1994) is the first of eleven novels to become the number one annual bestselling novel in the U.S.

Since 1989, Grisham has published a total of 28 novels, four children's books, and a work of non-fiction.  His family splits its time between homes in Oxford, Mississippi, Charlottesville, Virginia, and Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  Grisham also serves as a board member on the Innocence Project.

The Book:

first edition cover

Length: 366 pages
Subject/Genre: crime/legal thriller

The Partner begins in a small town in Brazil, when an American living under an assumed name is kidnapped and tortured for information.  His girlfriend/accomplice, a Brazilian lawyer, quickly hides the $90 million that the bad guys are looking for, and alerts the FBI of the man's whereabouts.  The FBI takes custody of the man, and brings him back to Biloxi for trial.  The crime?  After faking his own death, Patrick Lanigan stole the aforementioned $90 million from his law firm.  There are now only two questions: "Where's the money" and "whose body is buried in Lanigan's grave?"  

The Partner is very similar to The Runaway Jury.  Lanigan, like Easter, is running an elaborate plan, all the details of which are known only by him and his girlfriend on the outside.  There's the amoral thugs-for-hire agency, and the crooked corporations bankrolling them.  Most of the novel is just Lanigan slowly revealing how he committed his crimes while his master plan unravels.  He hires an old lawyer friend to represent him.  For no good reason, Lanigan withholds information from the lawyer.  Or rather, there is a reason, but the reason is Grisham's, not Lanigan's.  The only reason to keep reading The Partner is to find out what the plan was, which requires Lanigan to keep secrets he has no reason to keep.  Character is sacrificed to plot.  A little common sense and critical thinking and most of the plan will become pretty obvious, making this the most boring of the Grishams I've read so far.

As opposed to the earlier Grisham novels I reviewed, this one doesn't take a stance on a moral issue like The Chamber, or reflect the social/legal issues of exploitative insurance companies or cigarette manufacturers, as in The Rainmaker or The Runaway Jury.  While there is corruption, it's mostly limited to a high level scam that would seem more at home in a Ludlum or Clancy novel.  The Partner is pretty much a paint-by-numbers legal thriller.

Unless you're a Grisham completist or you're engaged in a project like mine, don't bother with The Partner.  Even if you're a legal thriller devotee, pick another Grisham.

Bestsellers of 1997:

1. The Partner by John Grisham
2. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
3. The Ghost by Danielle Steel
4. The Ranch by Danielle Steel
5. Special Delivery by Danielle Steel
6. Unnatural Exposure by Patricia Cornwell 
7. The Best Laid Plans by Sidney Sheldon
8. Pretend You Don't See Her by Mary Higgins Clark
9. Cat and Mouse by James Patterson
10. Hornet's Nest by Patricia Cornwell

Also Published in 1997:

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
Underworld by Don DeLillo
Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon
American Pastoral by Philip Roth
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J. K. Rowling


  1. Glad to see you continuing the bestseller project -- I was worried that you threw in the towel when you saw how many Grisham novels were in store.

    1997 was probably the first year that I started trying to keep current with what was being published -- I read both Underworld and Mason & Dixon that year. I remember feeling disappointed when Cold Mountain won the Pulitzer over Underworld. . .

    1. Thanks! I've been travelling for a while, so updating regularly has not been easy. I should be back to the once a week posting until I finish the list.

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