Monday, January 26, 2009

"The Associate" by John Grisham

"The Associate"
By John Grisham

Reviewed by Janet Maslin
New York Times

John Grisham kick-starts his latest morality fable just as he has kick-started so many others: by introducing the warring forces of good and evil. On the side of the angels: Kyle McAvoy, idealistic editor in chief of The Yale Law Journal. As “The Associate” begins, Kyle is coaching a basketball team for underprivileged kids in New Haven as he waits to graduate and pursue his career of choice. He has accepted a $32,000-a-year legal aid job so he can help migrant workers in Virginia.

But there is a sinister stranger with a “slick head” and “calm hairy hands” in Kyle’s future. He shows up to broach a different career plan. This vaguely foreign-sounding man, calling himself Bennie Wright and aided by a team of fake F.B.I. agents, announces that he would like Kyle to become a $200,000-a-year associate for a high-powered New York law firm. Translated from the Grisham-ese, what that means is that Bennie — acting on the same kinds of murky but all-powerful motives that used to fuel Hitchcock plots as he sets up a corporate espionage scheme with Kyle as its patsy — would like Kyle to sell his soul to the devil.

Kyle is a brash, attractive good guy. (Think back to “The Firm.” Mr. Grisham has.) Why would he agree to an about-face like that? Because he has to. Quicker than you can say, “Duke lacrosse team,” Bennie brings up an ugly college episode that involved Kyle, his Duquesne University fraternity brothers and a woman named Elaine who now claims to have been raped by four of them at a party. Bennie has a cell-phone video record of the incident that is remarkably clear, even though all participants were too drunk to remember whether the sex was consensual.

To read the rest of the review by Janet Maslin, please click here.

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