The Summons

By: John Grisham

Rating: 84%

Brief Summary: An old - once renowned and beloved - judge dies. His son finds some hidden money.

If you like most of John Grisham's books, then The Summons should be an easy read for you. However, the quality of the story is nowhere close to some of Grisham's classics like The Firm, The Rainmaker, or A Time to Kill.

The story starts out simple enough, we meet Ray Atlee - law school teacher at the University of Virginia - who has just received a summons from his father, Judge Atlee - a shadow of his former self, a sick, and lonely old man living in Clanton, Mississippi, knowing the end is near. Also summoned was Ray's younger brother Forrest - who is basically an addict of everything from drugs to booze - easily the family "black sheep". The idea of the summons was to discuss the inheritance, the will and the estate.

Despite the fear and trepidation of returning to an area representing a different time in his life - a time he does not remember fondly, Ray leaves his home - in Charlottesville, Virginia - and heads toward Clanton.

Upon arriving, The Judge is dead.

Finding his will - before Forrest arrival - Ray see's that the old man did not have much to leave. That is, until he stumbles on several million dollars with of cash hidden in the estate.

So the questions is, what does Ray do? Does he split it with Forrest? does he find out where it is from? does it runaway with it? Ray is faced with a somewhat moral dilemma.

Most agree that the premise sounds decent - nothing fancy about the storyline. And generally, that is what you will find with The Summons. It really is just a standard mystery of (1) Where did the Money come from? and (2) What will Ray do with it?

Both questions are answered. Of course, without giving much away, the answer to questions does have a "legal" back-story. It is a Grisham book after all. Otherwise, other than one brief scene - there are no courtrooms in this drama.

Most aspects of the storyline in The Summons are far-fetched - of course, you do not read a John Grisham novel and expect otherwise.

Not many characters are introduced - it is primarily a story of Ray Atlee. Everyone else is a supporting character. However, his brother and friend - Harry Rex - do play important rolls. As does the "King of Torts", Patton French, who plays a significant roll in the where-did-the-money-come-from aspect.

While most of the characters are clich�d - Forrest is your typical addict seeking correction, Harry Rex your average small-town lawyer, and Patton is your typical rich snob with all the answers - the character development of Ray towards the last half of the novel is somewhat a pleasure to read. "The Money" becomes a menacing shadow over him and his paranoia starts to set in.

The end is resolved in a somewhat surprising manner - but not atypical at all with this type of genre.

So to briefly sum up, I found the The Summons to be an easy read, a fun read - but no more. While I can recommend it to most, one should not run out and make this purchase while expecting greatness. In fact, the ending wraps up in a simple conversation. It is done in a way where I felt more closure could of been stated, but I suspect Grisham assumes we will know what happens next and he did not feel the need to write it. This might be considered writing style, more than anything else.

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