About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham

In my previous post I discussed Sebastian Rudd, the star (I use the word deliberately) lawyer of The Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham. This post will actually discuss some of the cases in the book.

In the book’s opening case Rudd is defending a young man charged with murdering a pair of young girls in a small town some distance from his home city. Rudd is furious. The police have manufactured evidence, the prosecutor is exaggerating the evidence and the judge is not restraining the legal assault upon his 18 year old client.

While not material to the defence Rudd is convinced his client is actually innocent. He is being railroaded to appease a frightened and vengeful community.

A series of alibi witnesses are credible in their evidence but ignored because of their lifestyles on the fringe of society. Thwarted at every turn Rudd desperately knows he must solve the murders to save his client.

Fortunately, there is a realistic alternative. Defence counsel dream of having a believable option other than the accused. Grisham, in Rogue Lawyer, goes further than a different plausible suspect. Rudd finds the evidence that proves his client did not commit the crime.

In defending such a pariah it is probable that Rudd had to actually solve the crime to save the client. I thought of the real life Saskatchewan case of David Milgaard convicting of murdering a nurse while he was still a teenager. While evidence piled up that cast doubt about the verdict it was not until DNA evidence identified the actual killer that Milgaard was released. He spent 22 years in jail.

The only difference between Grisham’s fictional character and Milgaard is that Grisham’s accused would have been dead long before 22 years as he was facing the death penalty in the trial.

Unlike most legal mysteries Grisham goes through several cases with Rudd during the course of the book. Dealing with multiple files is what real life lawyers experience. No lawyer I know handles a case at a time as in most legal mysteries. While a lawyer may concentrate on a case the lawyer is constantly dealing with dozens of other files.

Few books talk about cash flow and overhead. In Rogue Lawyer there is a constant discussion of money as there is in real life legal practice. Rudd is daily making sure he has enough money coming in to meet his obligations. It was somewhat unreal how much money he is willing to put into defending people who have no ability to even pay expenses. Large firms may do expensive pro bono defences but for a solo practitioner it would be reckless to spend the amounts Rudd does on defending those who cannot afford him.

Grisham, as with Michael Connelly, has a gift for hooking the reader. The second story is titled the Boom Boom Room. Rudd explains the name:

I follow two guards dressed in full military gear through a maze and come to the Boom Boom Room. It is nothing more than a large holding cell where the condemned is placed precisely five hours before his big moment. There, he waits with his lawyer, spiritual adviser and maybe some family. Full contact is allowed, and there can be some pretty sad moments when Momma arrives for the final hug. The last meal is served precisely two hours before the final walk, and after that only the lawyer can hang around.

In a riveting story he is with his mobster client, Link Scanlon, in the Boom Boom Room on the evening Link is about to be executed. In an incredibly compelling saga bombs start going off around the state as the moment for execution nears. I raced through the chapter as fast as I could read, even faster.

The title of the chapter immediately brought to mind a boom boom room in real life Saskatchewan. It involved a rec room in a house in Prince Albert, a gay judge, a criminal defence lawyer and young Indian men from northern Saskatchewan. It is not hard to determine it was a different boom boom room. Maybe another day I will discuss the Saskatchewan boom boom room.

Some of the cases are more exaggerated than customary in a Grisham book but they are fascinating. As well, some of the cases such as the first in the book discussed above, have a real life equivalent.

Rudd is not a saint. He is unethical at times which troubled me. What is left of a legal system if all involved are unethical.

Grisham turned his imagination loose with Sebastian Rudd. There are moral issues addressed in the book but the drama of the narrative will only let you reflect upon the injustices of the American criminal justice system after you have finished the book. I recommend you read the book before it appears on the big screen. It is No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list  and I expect will be there for many weeks in 2016.

Grisham, John – (2000) - The Brethren; (2001) - A Painted House; (2002) - The Summons; (2003) - The King of Torts; (2004) - The Last Juror; (2005) - The Runaway Jury; (2005) - The Broker; (2008) - The Appeal; (2009) - The Associate; (2011) - The Confession; (2011) - The Litigators; (2012) - "G" is for John Grisham - Part I and Part II; (2013) - The Racketeer; (2013) - Grisham's Lawyers; (2013) - Analyzing Grisham's Lawyers; (2013) - Sycamore Row; (2014) - Gray Mountain and Gray Mountain and Real Life Legal Aid; (2015) - Sebastian Rudd; Probably hardcover


  1. Thanks very much, Bill, for your thoughtful discussion. I think one of the things I like best about Grisham's work is that it feels to me as though he paints a realistic portrait of what it's like to be a lawyer. As you say, real lawyers handle more than one case at a time. They're concerned about cash flow. They're limited by what they're allowed and not allowed to do. And they're not perfect. I like it that Grisham shows those aspects in his novels, plus tells a good story. I hope you will post about the Saskatchewan boom boom room.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I admire Grisham's ability to create interesting lawyers who reflect actual lawyers. He may exaggerate but the core is credible.

  2. I thought Rogue Lawyer was both social commentary and a lot of fun. Grisham is able to combine both of these aspects in a very polished way.
    The stories about the youth who is innocent but whom the town is willing to lynch is quite good. The medias role is shown, too. That helped to reveal a lot about U.S. "justice."

    And the part about the cage fighting was chilling. The point that this was the only way out of poverty for some young men is another commentary on our society.

    And also the SWAT raid of an elderly couple's home, with terrible results, was very well-written. This does happen here. In a case in Detroit a few years ago, a 7-year-old girl, Alyana Jones, was killed in such a raid.

    I enjoyed what Rudd did to win for his client, and also that he cooperated with the police to help them find a perpetrator which led to another horrific social problem.

    There's no one who can write this kind of book like Grisham -- and with humor, no less. I was laughing throughout this book. It was like having great ice cream on an August day, just a treat.

    Also, a book recommendation: Pleasantville by Attica Locke. It features an African-American attorney, Jay Porter, who has many mysteries to solve and a desperate defendant to protect.

    Locke is not a lawyer, so some of the finer points of the law are not dealt with, but this book is so much better than many on the best-seller lists. She writes good character development, for one thing.

    1. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. Grisham does not always write books with humour. This book showed he can write humour effectively.

  3. There are other Grisham books that are quite witty. Have you read "The Rainmaker"? It's about a lawyer who uncovers an insurance company which runs a scam to deny payments for medical care. It is hilarious in parts, and I laughed at much of it.

    "The Last Juror" is a lot of fun, especially as it discusses a lot of eccentric characters who live in Clanton, Miss. I remember laughing at some of their antics.

    Grisham also likes to include a quirky, progressive, elderly alcoholic lawyer who gives advice to the young lawyer. This type of character is in several of his books. Perhaps he knows lawyers like this.

    1. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. You make excellent points. I do not believe there is another author as skilled at creating interesting lawyers. Fortunately some have a good sense of humour.

  4. Thanks for the lawyer's take on this book. And am intrigued by that reference to the local boom boom room. A hint of scandal? Tell us more...

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. More than a hint of scandal ......