The Runaway Jury – John Grisham

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John Grisham is a graduate of Mississippi State University and Ole Miss Law School. After completing his law degree in 1981 he practiced law for about 10 years, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1983 and served until 1990. John Grisham has givrn up his law practice to write full-time. He began writing in 1984, and three years later finished his first novel, A Time To Kill, published by Wynwood Press in June 1988. He is the best-selling author of A Time to Kill, The Firm, The Pelican Brief and The Client and Runaway Jury. He lives with his wife and their two children on a farm in Oxford, Mississippi.

Runaway Jury is a legal thriller like the rest of Grisham’s novels.
The story revolves around a land mark trial that is taking place in Biloxi, Missisipi. The giant Tobacco company Pynex and its head Mr.Jankel, part of the powerful four ,are being sued by Celeste Wood, whose husband had died from causes related to cigarette smoking. The Judge Harkin is taking the middle ground , he never realised that this was going to be his biggest case ever, nor did he dream of being unknowingly manipulated by a member of the jury..

The powerful four have formed The fund with enough money to be used for manipulating the case in their favor, and anything and anyone connected with it, including the jury.The man in charge of this fund and the manipulations is Rankin Fitch.

For the Defense, Durwood Cable is the prime lawyer and for the plaintiff Wendall Rohr was the prime lawyer. Even as the 2 lawyers are battling it out inside the court, the powerful four have employed Rankin Fitch , a devious expert who had won many of their cases earlier, by manipulating the jury, and this time the stakes were high and he was determined to win..

But the jury was being manipulated from day one , with a lot of effort from Fitch and his goons, but more effectively from someone within ..The jury starts behaving strangely taking the judge into confidence , with one of the jurors complaining about being watched and followed everywhere.The judge Feels that it is safer to have th jury sequestered.

But manipulations continue and Fitch finds himself and his gang being outsmarted by two people, one is Nigel , who is part of the jury and a mysterious woman who called herself Marlee, and she corners Fitch with accurate details of everything that is going on behind the scenes…Now Fitch is bent on discoveing who Marlee is , trying to dig into her mysterious past, present, every single detail about her , especially the murky details of her mysterious past, if any and outsmart her..

And things take interesting turns as the trial progresses..

My views

This is yet another excellent book by John Grisham, that is very witty and very suspenseful. The plot is intricate , fast paced and very interesting.One cant help laughing out loud at some of the humorous situations and the way Grisham puts it across. Fitch and his escapades, though deadly make you laugh. The intricacies of the legal world , the manipulations that go into winning or loosing a case , behind the scene work by the jury manipulator, makes for an absorbing story. Fitch , who never takes things for granted and having promised Victory to the big four is ready to go to any length to ensure that he delivers what he has promised.

The 12 jury members and their own private lives and how it gets entangled in the case is all very interesting. I love the way John Grisham has neatly put together the very complicated set of characters and their lives and stories and the coming together of all of these in respect to the case..

The detailed and well thought out manipulations by Nigel and Marlee and the grudging admiration it draws from Fitch makes the narrative very absorbing. Fitch becoming the target of the very game that he had been playing with the others , and the way the entire legal process is manipulated for personal gains forms the main subject matter here, also makes one think how far can one trust the legal system?

On the flip side I was quite amused at the way the Judge is manipulated by the jury members while being sequestered demanding their right for private time which the Judge terms as ‘Conjugal visits’ during weekends, which makes the jurors angry since many of them are unmarried and felt restricted by the use of the word ‘Conjugal’, later forcing him to change it to ‘ Personal visits’ and the poor judge has no other option but to go along with their wishes.
Another hilarious account is about Church visits on Sunday mornings, when most of the jurors left supposedly for four hours of ‘ much -awaited ‘ worship, felt drawn by spirits, when they all headed in the general direction of some unnamed church and later ended up in casinos and elsewhere..

I would say that this is one of Grisham’s best novels. I had earlier read his novel ‘The Firm’ and loved his style of writing and now after having read ‘The Associate ‘ and ‘ The Runaway Jury’ , I can safely say that he is the best in his subject – Legal thrillers .

I definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in suspense thrillers …a must read legal thriller .

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