The King of Torts

By: John Grisham

Rating: 80%

Brief Summary: A humble lawyer is handed a goldmine tort case; and the ego will soar ... right before he destroys his life with greed.

In The King of Torts, we have a classic story that confirms the old cliche, "What goes around, comes around", is not to be taken lightly.

We are introduced to a low-key, humble young man by the name of Clay Carter. Clay works at the fictional Office of the Public Defender (OPD. At this law firm, there is not much glamour at all or much room to grow as a lawyer. More often than not, the lawyer find himself in a case representing the "little guy".

Early in the story, Clay is soon handed a case that--at first--appears to be nothing more than one of the many drug-related killings that plague the city, Washington D.C., until he digs deeper and finds that there is more going on than what the surface indicates. One night he receives a phone call from a man who has an interesting job proposition for Clay--in fact, a job that appears too good to be true. When Clay arrives, everything is not what it appears to be. The man, the mysterious Max Pace, introduces Clay to the forces that lay behind these murders that he has been looking into--a great conspiracy of course!--and then Max makes the offer of his life. But... there are a few catches. Clay must basically sell out his soul and go against his own integrity and morals that he once would never have dreamt of. After this murder case is seemingly resolved quickly--and Clay receives a handsome payment from the employer of Max Pace, Clay quickly is transformed into a Mass Tort lawyer and gains public recognition. He even opens his own firm--once not even an option--and rises quickly in the eye of the public. At one point, he even find himself dining with the U.S. President. Never satisfied, he continues to leave himself open to long-term exposure, all for the short-term profits. The entire time, the reader can just feel the shallowness that is Clay's financial stability as these cases he has continued to pick up are either too good to be true, or they are much more complicated than what he realizes. With the turn of every page, we are left waiting for the bottom to fall out of Clay's fortune at any time.

While this story--admittedly--kept me going and has a very attention-grabbing plot, it was very difficult reading about someone with very little virtuous qualities. By the middle of the novel, Clay becomes a shallow playboy, oozing with greed--walking arm in arm with his Eastern European supermodel girlfriend--a relationship meant only for status. Yet at the same time, I felt bad for Clay knowing he did not begin this way and initially, he meant well. So the inevitable crash at the end was not as satisfying as one might think. Although, I believe Grisham wrote a much more noble ending then what the character deserved. Some of the problems "went away" all too easy and the ending was wrapped up to quickly.

While The King of Torts is probably a middle-of-the-road John Grisham novel, it is definitely worth checking out at some point in time. Even if you do not like the lead character--and you probably won't--it takes decent writing to pull off this type of character development. Of course, with Grisham's style, the transformation is a little quick--but this is not a detriment to the entire story that grabs the reader early on.

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