The Brethren

By: John Grisham

Rating: 84%

Brief Summary: Three ex-Judges are running an extortion scam from prison.

When I picked up The Brethren, it had been almost five or six years since the last time that I had last read a Grisham novel. The last three stories (primarily The Partner and The Street Lawyer) that I had previously read, left me in a negative mind-frame regarding John Grisham. I was just about done with his one-dimensional characters and tiresome sarcastic comments. So, after being grounded at the Minneapolis airport, I was disappointed that the only book that interested me at a small book stand was one by Grisham, The Brethren. Partly because I needed a short book to read, and his books are easily read - my time was limited. So what was the outcome of my personal rebirth into the world of John Grisham?

I was extremely satisfied!

Yes he still has one-dimensional characters without much depth, but do we ever need this repeated again? You can't read a Grisham book expecting this to change. It is ingrained into his essence.

And the sarcasm, or actually, the cynical style that Grisham writes, for some odd reason, really entertained me. I actually laughed out loud a couple of times. To be honest, I can't really say his books have changed, but I think my outlook to them has as I have grown older. Maybe it was because the three main characters were three old judges who were a bit bitter themselves. And maybe their plan of exhorting rich, gay, men appealed to my liking. I mean, that's pretty funny - not that I'd be caught doing that.

Once again, just like The Pelican Brief, Grisham delves into governmental issues, deep inside the CIA, and the Executive Branch. While he probably should leave this subject to Tom Clancy, who has so much insight on political subjects, the story here is very readable, though unbelievable.

As far as the characters themselves? You have the three judges, who are locked away in a very low security prison in Florida. Of the three, the only one that has any personality is the youngest, (in his fifties), Joe Roy Spicer. The other two, Finn Yarber and Hatlee Beech, play more of a supporting role. (By the way, does John Grisham EVER user any conventional names?) The three collectively are known as "The Brethren" by the other inmates. When they weren't extorting gay men through letter writing and magazine adds with made up names, they settled minor disputes with the other inmates. Remember, this is a low security Prison.

In their prison, they are able to conduct their extortion plot only with the help of their "sleezy" lawyer, Trevor, who does not seem to do much in the way of law.

Then there is Senator Aaron Lake, and CIA Director Teddy Manyard. Early on, Teddy convinces Lake to run for President after the caucuses are settled. He tells him to preach one single message: America is dropping the ball and cutting too much money on the military. This is obviously well before the events of George W and 9/11.

So, how do the plots combine? It really takes only a minute to figure this one out. It is outlandish, but a fun read.

About the only complaint I have with this book is the ending. The twists were kept to a minimum and it was very predictable. For a while, the plot seemed like it was slowing to a crawl. The ending is basically the last two chapters.

Despite these things, I would still recommend reading The Brethren as it is a fun book to read. However, by no means a classic.

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