Book Review: John Grisham's “Rogue Lawyer"

By Douglas Soule on December 11, 2015 from Book Review via

Rogue Lawyer is like a factory-made cupcake: enjoyable depending on who is eating it. Those more exposed to the other works of author John Grisham may be able to sense its mediocrity. None the less, Twinkies sell well for a reason, and they may-- like me--be able to savor it.
This novel portrays a judicial system with startling realism, more corrupt than how the elderly regard today’s youth. Defense lawyer Sebastian Rudd has a tough time ridding his clients of their predetermined guilt and with nothing to thank for it but some cash from sketchy origins. Affiliation with cold-blooded criminals generally isn’t a well-respected trait. Ironically, it can bring out the murderous qualities of those considered the most morally and politically just.
From the start, the reader is tossed into a court unethical enough to be well-regarded by the judge and jury’s Confederate ancestors.  Dodging the pre-Civil War ideologies of a town too small to be known by anyone a mile away, Rudd crafts a judiciary lasso to safeguard his client from death. The death penalty can be a desirable source of vengeance. For the murder of two adolescent girls, surely it is a righteous punishment. Well, unless the man, uh, didn’t commit the murders.
In this case, Rudd knows the man being charged by this small-town court is innocent. Yet, this does that matter, if those who decide his guilt are already convinced of it? Blaming his client for not only murder, but also a connection to Satanism--who wouldn’t, with his fascination with death metal?-- Rudd has to fight through all the crud as arduously as a teacher in a conference with a helicopter parent. In short, escaping alive--or without going insane--seems an impossible task.
After this case in the hollers, Rudd is tugged toward the big city politics of a city called the City. This furthers the danger to his wellbeing, but thankfully he has a partner named, uh, Partner? Partner is his guard and assistant. If it weren’t for him, Rudd would have long since been sprinkled deeply with shrapnel. His previous office was firebombed, which isn’t an accommodating attribute to one’s work environment. Now, he works in his van, bedecked with equipment, like a mini fridge. Virtually living in a van with a partner named Partner, the only thing that could make this weirder is if “Free Candy” was spray-painted upon the vehicle’s sides.           
Sebastian Rudd covers more famous cases than those of a small town. When offered a position defending a renowned gangster, one who is incarcerated for the murder of a judge, he accepts the case despite how people will judge him for it. When that gangster orchestrates the blowing up of governmental buildings hours prior to his death sentence, Rudd does the only rational thing--defends his client and hopes that being in his position wouldn’t- literally- backfire. Of course, it does. It wouldn’t be entertaining otherwise.      
The militarization of common police officers is the government’s way of overcompensating for their employees’ small pensions. With gear that would befit a soldier in Call of Duty, a certain team of cops in the City raided a house, shooting a sleeping dog (they discharged prematurely, go figure), killing an innocent wife, and arresting an innocent husband. When your wife and dog are murdered in their home by corrupt, violent “peace” officers, who ya gonna call? Sebastian Rudd, duh. In this chunk of judicial warfare, outrage and thrill are common emotions experienced by the reader. Considering how in modern, nonfictional society, it is common to fight your charge of jury duty using any means necessary--usually last minute doctor visits which confirm some previously undiscovered flaw in your body that inhibits your ability to sit down for a few hours--who knew a legal case could be so engaging?
Spending such long hours in a courtroom can limit a lawyer’s time for courting. Sebastian Rudd, despite his infamous, bad boy reputation, experiences the same problem as many others--getting girls. This issue is made worse because he already has had-- and divorced-- a wife. The baby that arose from the carnage definitely complicated matters. Exposing the reader to the miscellaneous relationships of the main character makes him more real, expanding him in a way that his wife wasn’t able to. Rudd is not just a lawyer.
He is also a normal, sometimes-jerkish person. Who we exclusively are is defined by how society perceives us, and since most members of society are very vocal about their perceptions of others, we learn a lot about Rudd by how others treat and talk to him. His treatment is usually malicious, based on the (kind of) false notion that he inherits the criminal traits of those he defends. Fortunately for the reader, false notions create the conflict that is craved for in a novel.  
While defending citizens from crooked prosecutors is noble, Rudd’s soul isn’t entirely innocent. What makes this book’s title Rogue Lawyer, is the roguish actions committed by him. Collecting blood for DNA testing is best done using needle or a vampire. Yet in one instance, Rudd has the face of a suspected murderer bloodied using a fist, collecting the DNA sample after the suspect was beaten, with a casual grace as if he were taking a sample from a booth at Sam’s Club instead. Rudd gambles in the courtroom with the sentences of his clients, which earns him a decent wage. On the side, he gambles using cash too, making bets with some buddies-- a few of them known felons-- on the outcomes of ring fights. The outcomes of ring fights are usually the same as the outcomes of the fights during political debates--nationally televised and internet-acclaimed, depending on how chaotic.
John Grisham has written a novel that-- considering its relatively short length--has surprisingly intricate plot points. Although things end rather anticlimactically, it is still a book worth reading, especially since it won’t take long to finish.

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