Grisham's latest has plenty of 'Appeal'

In a new legal thriller, the author takes on Big Business polluters who manipulate a corrupt political system.

The appeal of John Grisham's ubiquitous novels can be found in his latest work, "The Appeal," a smoothly plotted legal thriller tying together corporate corruption, politicized judicial systems and long-shot litigators. As the drama unfolds, Grisham unleashes a torrent of scathing assessments on Big Business and the zealous guardians of tort reform. Indeed, one might mistake John Grisham for John Edwards on the stump in these pages.

No matter. There will be little trouble finding bipartisan consensus on Grisham's expert pacing and plot. Sure, Grisham still crams too many expository comments into dialogue (a small-town Mississippi cafe owner spends a lifetime explaining the particulars of toxic chemical dumping with the expertise of an environmental engineer) and often creates cartoon characters (Good Guy, Bad Guy, Aggrieved Woman, etc.). The plot spins around a Wall Street tycoon determined to reverse a $41 million jury verdict against a chemical company that has poisoned the water of a small Mississippi town. To exact revenge, he rigs a state supreme court campaign in hopes of securing the inevitable appeal in his favor. A deft twist late in the novel leaves almost everyone unhappy – except readers, who are sure to deliver a unanimous verdict in favor of Grisham yet again. Grade: B+Erik Spanberg

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