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.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

The Exchange by John Grisham

(42. - 1181.) - The Exchange by John Grisham - In reading Grisham’s books over the past 30 years I have admired the many different lawyers he has created. Some, such as Jake Brigance from Ford County in Mississippi, have appeared in more than one book so that we learn what has happened to them in life and the law. Most have been featured in a single book. I occasionally would think about a lawyer’s future after reading the book. Mitch McDeere was the young protagonist of The Firm

Mitch had been recruited at Harvard by a very successful Memphis law firm. Shortly after joining the firm the FBI cajoled, then threatened him, to report on the nefarious actions of the firm on behalf of the Chicago mob. It was more thriller than legal mystery but it was compelling. I thought the movie with Tom Cruise as Mitch and Gene Hackman as his mentor, Avery Tolar, was excellent. 

Now and then I would wonder what had happened to McDeere. He clearly could not have returned to Memphis where the firm collapsed and criminal indictments and then convictions abounded. I expected he would have stayed in the law unlike Rudy Baylor who was headed west to become a teacher at the end of The Rainmaker

I did not expect he would stay in the Caribbean sitting on the beach. I did not think he would have practised in the Caribbean. I had a partner who went to Providenciales in the Turks & Caicos Islands to be a lawyer. He was back within a year. Island life is attractive in the winter but very confining. 

I thought Mitch would have found a position in a mid-American firm and lived a quietly prosperous life. I was completely wrong. He was hired by Scully & Pershing, the largest law firm in the world. It is headquartered in New York and has 2,000 lawyers in offices around the world. Mitch had started work in the firm in London and moved to the New York office. 15 years have passed since he left Memphis. He is a partner. 

Mitch’s wife, Abby, is working for a publisher of high end cookbooks and they have 8 year old twin sons. Their personal lives could not be better.

Scully & Pershing has a strong commitment to pro bono work. Lawyers are expected to commit 10% of their time to pro bono clients. Mitch is currently aiding a homeless shelter and fighting evictions. 

Grisham’s next surprise was that Mitch has also represented two death row inmates fighting for their lives. Each time he was unsuccessful and his clients were executed. The cases have taken an emotional toll upon him. At the same time he has been caught up in the emotion, the tension, “the ticking clock” of death cases.

He returns to Memphis to meet Amos Patrick whose Capital Defense Initiative which only represents inmates on death row for over 50 years. Mitch is to defend a man whose execution date is 90 days away.

Just when I thought the book was another look at the death penalty comparable to the searing intensity of The Chamber, the case disappears with the death of the inmate and Mitch is sent to Italy and Libya to deal with a multi-national business law case. I am not sure why the portion of the book on the death penalty was included. I did not find a connection with the main story line. It is such an abrupt shift in the book I wondered if Grisham changed his mind on the theme halfway through writing the book.

Lannark, a Turkish construction company, is suing the Government of Libya for hundreds of millions of dollars for a bridge to nowhere it had built for Gaddafi.

I thought we were headed for a book dealing with high stakes litigation in the United Arbitration Board in Switzerland.

Once again I was wrong as there is a kidnapping of a Scully associate, Giovanna Sandroni, in Libya and Mitch must lead the firm’s response. Specialists in international hostage takings are called in. Major firms pay significant amounts for hostage insurance.

The actual theme is the effort to try to save and gain the return of Giovanna.

The process is interesting and includes Mitch’s wife, Abby. 

The book becomes a thriller much like The Firm became a thriller when Mitch and Abby go on the run being pursued by the Mob and the FBI.

Grisham is good at writing thrillers. The action is credible. There is not an excess of bodies. However, he is better at writing legal fiction. The hostage taking process has a limited connection with lawyers. The hostage taking could have involved other professions or businesses. I would have preferred Grisham making the litigation over the Libyan bridge to nowhere the theme of the book. There was lots of drama potential in the high stakes and international intrigue of the bridge.

I hope Grisham’s next book is back in a Mississippi courtroom where most of his best novels are set.

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) - Rogue Lawyer and Sebastian Rudd; (2016) - The Whistler; (2017) - Camino Island; (2017) - The Rooster Bar and Law Students and Integrity; (2019) - The Reckoning; (2019) - Cullen Post in The Guardians and The Guardians; (2020) - A Time for Mercy and Practising Law in Rural Mississippi and Rural Saskatchewan and Writing a Credible Trial; (2021) - Camino Winds; (2022) - The Judge's List; (2022) - The Biloxi Boys and Body Counts in Fictional Gang Wars (Ian Hamilton, John Grisham and Don Winslow)


  1. You know, I always wondered what happened to Mitch, too, Bill. I'm glad he's doing well, but for some reason, I'd never have imagined him in this sort of law environment. Well, it does sound like the sort of thriller that keeps your attention, and that's a good thing. As you say, Grisham does know how to write a compelling thriller.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. While there are bodies Grisham does not need to fill the book with death to create a thriller. I think Mitch might be back for a third book.