I just finished John Grisham's new release, Gray Mountain. Writing a review and blogpost about it leaves me feeling somewhat ambivalent. I need to be honest about it and it hurts not to be able to praise it unconditionally.
Several years ago I stopped reading certain contemporary romance authors because they were writing by formula. Three paragraphs into those stories, the reader could have completed the manuscript.
That's the way I felt about Gray Mountain...written by formula. Young, inexperienced lawyer meets important social/environmental problem. She, in this case, should have been in over her head, but she manages to survive and make a difference. Throughout the book, I never wondered if she would win, if she would make a difference, I knew she would. The question that drove the plot was how would she do it.
There was not, however, one big climatic courtroom scene as there usually is. But, and this is something new, the lack of such a scene seems to keep the door open for a sequel for this lawyer and her fellow Brady, VA lawyer friends, for by no means were all of her cases and interests solved.
This was a treatise on big coal, strip mining, environmental destruction, and black lung disease. All compelling subjects. The protagonist and her friends tackled all of these problems. Along the way lives were lost, secrets told, and ambitions altered.
Being a Grisham fan, I wanted to love the book. I didn't. It was a good book, but not one of his best books. I must admit, however, that the book keep me involved and kept me reading. I read the book immediately upon release, and completed it in a two days.
While I was writing this review four reviews of the book, all from newspaper or magazine reviewers came across my desk. They all disagree with me. "Powerful", "Gripping", "His best legal drama in years," and "Takes suspense to new heights." Well, two of the characters did go flying several times.
If you are a Grisham fan, you will read the book, and you might simply say, 'not one of his best.' or you might disagree with me completely. If you are trying to introduce Grisham to new readers, don't start with this book. Others have more memorable characters and are more compelling.
Still, I am now awaiting John's next novel.