The Firm by John Grisham

The Firm by John Grisham

The Firm by John Grisham

 

The Firm, by John Grisham, is a cleverly plotted work of legal fiction written by John Grisham and published in 1991. It was immensely successful and was then, in 1993, made into a film with Jeanne Tripplehorn, Tom Cruise, and Gene Hackman. The Firm also spawned a television series in 2012.

This was Grisham’s second work, following A Time To Kill which was published in 1989. After The Firm’s success his first book then came to prominence and was also hugely successful, being made into a film. The film A Time To Kill starred Matthew McConaughey, Ashley Judd, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, Kiefer Sutherland, Oliver Platt, Donald Sutherland and Patrick McGoohan.

The name of the main character, Mitchell “Mitch” McDeere, must be ingrained into the minds of all lawyers and prospective lawyers in North America and beyond and especially to tax specialists.

The novel has terrific pace and great character development as it races through its cerebral path and cat and mouse chase.

John Grisham is one of the heavyweights in the written fictional word and rightly so.

McDeeres graduated with a top degree in accountancy and then went on to graduate, third in his class, from Harvard Law School. He had two brothers, one died in Vietnam and one is in prison, a fact he would rather keep quiet.

He is married to a school teacher, Abby.

Mitch gets a superb financial offer from a law firm in Memphis, Bendini, Lambert and Locke, a small tax law firm based in Memphis. After joining he is under great pressure to study and pass the bar exam. Mitch is assigned to the maverick partner, Avery Tolar.

Shortly before McDeere starts, Marty Kozinski and Joe Hodge, two of the lawyers in the firm are killed in the Caymans Islands, in a scuba diving accident. Mitch goes to the funerals and then finds out that three other lawyers who worked for the firm also died. His suspicions are aroused and he contacts a fiend of his brother, Eddie Lomax. Lomax is a private investigator and he agrees to start working the case.

Suspicious, he hires a private investigator, Eddie Lomax, an ex-cellmate of his brother Ray, to investigate the deaths of the attorneys.

Lomax is killed, but not before he warns McDeere to be careful. He had found out that the other three lawyers had also died suspiciously.

McDeere is targeted by an FBI agent, Wayne Tarrance. He finds out that the FBI are watching the firm.

McDeere goes to Washington, D.C. on a business trip where he is informed by the FBI that the firm is a front. It looks after the financial affairs of the Chicago Morolto crime family.

McDeere’s work has been honest thus far, but the lawyers are gradually enmeshed in the criminal side of the firm including tax fraud and money laundering operation.

The lawyers, once drawn in cannot leave, if they try to then they are killed.

Mitch finds out that Kozinski and Hodge were in contact with the FBI when they were murdered.

The firm’s security chief, DeVasher, becomes suspicious that he is getting involved with the FBI.

McDeere agrees to assist the FBI in return for 2 million dollars and his brother, Ray’s release from prison. Tammy Hemphill, Lomax’s secretary, helps McDeere to copy thousands of incriminating documents at great personal risk.

A leak in the FBI leaves McDeere exposed and he escapes stealing 10 million, as he does so, from one of the firm’s Grand Cayman bank accounts.

The FBI indicts many of the present and former members of Bendini, Lambert and Locke. They also indict a large group of suspected members of the Morolto family. The charges range from money laundering to, the not so sexy, mail fraud.

Mitch, Abby and Ray then live a contented life in the Caymans, living off the money.

John Grisham is an American attorney, politician and novelist specialising in legal thrillers. In an interview on the Charlie Rose show in 2016, Grisham said that his favorite author is John le Carré. The New York Times said of the book, ‘Mr. Grisham, a criminal defense attorney, writes with such relish about the firm’s devious legal practices that his novel might be taken as a how-to manual for ambitious tax-law students.’

John Grisham is one of my favourite authors and The Firm, one of my top picks for a holiday read.

Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett

Eye of the needle by Ken Follett

Eye of the needle by Ken Follett

The Eye of the Needle is a WWII spy thriller written by Ken Follett. The fiction novel was first published in 1978 by Penguin and was originally called Storm Island. This book was Follett’s first success and in 1979 he won the Edgar Award for Best Novel from the Mystery Writers of America.  The novel was made into a film in 1981 with Donald Sutherland.

During WWII the Allies tried to convince the Nazis that the D-Day landings were to be at Calais and not in Normandy. They made up a fictitious First United States Army Group (FUSAG) to this end, with fake tanks, buildings and dummy radio traffic to give the impression of an army ready to land at Calais.   In 1940 London Henry Faber is a German spy, called the needle, die Nadel’ in German, named for the stilleto knife he uses to kill people. Faber kills his landlady after she catches him making a radio call to Germany. The novel tells of David and his wife Lucy. He is an ex-RAF pilot who is diabled and they have moved to Storm Island off the coast of Scotland.

MI5 has recruited or hanged all German spies except Faber who is very cunning.  Godliman and his assistant Bloggs work for MI5 and are trying to catch him.

Faber is sent by the Nazis to check FUSAG is real and he finds in fact that it is a deception. Faber then heads to Scotland to rendevous with a German Uboat to escape with the information back to Germany. Faber is tracked to Scotland by MI5. After stealing a boat to get to the sub he is shipwrecked on Storm Island.   David and Lucy care for him but he kills David after he finds out about him being a spy. Lucy, who was unhappy in her marriage is getting out of the bath and about to put on her lingerie when Faber walks in and sees her naked. After this they fall for each other and Lucy sleeps with Faber Lucy finds her husband’s body and realizes that Faber has killed him.   Faber tries to radio the Nazis information about FUSAG but Lucy blows the electricity in the cottage to cut the radio. Unable to send a radio message and unable to kill Lucy who he now loves, Faber tries to escape down the cliff to swim to the waiting U-boat. Lucy throws a rock down on him and after one hits him he falls to his death.

The RAF then attack the Uboat. MI5 send a false radio message with Faber’s call sign to trick the Germans into believing that the invasion will be at Calais. Bloggs comforts the Lucy and then eventually gets married to her.

Ken Follett is an enthrawlling writer and I would strongly recommend his novels to you.

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There’s no escape by Ian Serraillier

Theres no escape by Ian Serraillier

Theres no escape by Ian Serraillier

Ian Serraillier  was born on 24 September 1912 and died on 28 November 1994. He was a British novelist and also a poet. Probably best known for his children’s books, he also wrote novels for adults such as There’s no escape which was published in 1956. . He was born in London and in 1918 his father died in the flu pandemic when he was six years old. He went on to be educated at Brighton College and next took his degree at St Edmund Hall, Oxford and becoming an English teacher.  He was granted conscientious objector status in World War II because he was a Quaker. His first children’s novel was published in 1946 and was quickly followed by several more adventure stories. His best known work,

In There’s no escape Maclaren, who is the chief of secret agents, arranged to parachute Peter into war-torn Silvania (nominally an unspecified county in the Balkans), where he was tasked with rescuing  Dr Helpmann before the enemy caught him and extracted information about his new discoveries. Peter agreed to go reluctantly.

This is a fast-moving adventure story by Ian Serraillier, set in wartime Europe with a dark cloud hanging over it. The book is an easy read which has a taut plot featuring parachutes, inventions and secret codes. One of the first books I ever read and many times since, re-read.

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The Gold of Malabar by Berkely Mather

The gold of malabar

The gold of malabar

The Gold of Malabar was written by  British author, Berkely Mather, in 1967 Berkely Mather was a Nom de Plume for  John Evan Weston-Davies, whose family emigrated to Australia shortly before World War I.

He published fifteen novels and a book of short stories whilst also writing for radio, television and for films.   Mather enlisted in the Royal Horse Artillery but failing to gain a commission he next joined the Indian Army where he became a sergeant at the outbreak of World War II. Serving under Slim in the Iraq campaign he finally ended the war as an acting lieutenant-colonel. After Indian independence in 1947, he rejoined the British Army, entering the Royal Artillery and eventually retiring in 1959. The Achilles Affair Mather’s first novel, was published in 1959 and was a minor best-seller. His second novel ‘The Pass Beyond Kashmir’ written in 1960 received high praise from Ian Fleming and Erle Stanley Gardner and it did even better. It is said that Ernest Hemingway owned copies of these two novels

A desperate adventure starting with a prison escape in search of gold. A thoroughly exciting novel which traces its way across India. While banged up in a prison in Goa Mike O’Reilly speaks with a dying Dutch prisoner called Rokkjer. He gives O’Reilly a gold medal asking him to bring it to a Buddhist monk called Nu Pau in Bombay and to say, “Rokkjer said to keep faith.” Rokkjer also gives a mysterious quote of, “Pythagoras, northeast, and the word is try, try, try…”  O’Reilly escapes into a dangerous world of greedy looters all looking for the secret map that will bring them to the hidden cache of gold………………

This is a classic adventure written by a skilled author who clearly knew India. Unputdownable…..if that’s a word!

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The Racketeer by John Grisham

The Racketeer

The Racketeer

The Racketeer by John Grisham tell the story of the life of Federal Judge Raymond Fogletree and his sudden and mysterious death. It’s surprising that these Judges don’t run into more difficulties when considering the enormity of the cases they deal with and the, sometimes, severe sentences they have to hand down to very dangerous individuals and organisations.

John Grisham states that in the USA only four active Federal Judges had previously been murdered, someone had just increased it to five.

The Judge’s body, along with that of his young secretary had been found in his lakeside cabin in the basement. The FBI had found the bodies after being alerted to the Judges disappearance by his law clerk. The clerk had become worried when the Judge didn’t turn up for Court on the previous Monday morning. The FBI checked the crime scene and found no forced entry and no indication of a struggle. Only the bodies showed evidence of a crime and the FBI felt it was someone close who had committed it.

The storyteller did not know the Judge but he did know why he was killed and who had done killed him. The only problem, a fellow lawyer, he now languished in prison.

The Racketeer is a piece of murder, mystery fiction which has a dark Noir feel to it. As always a tense and clever plot which has strong currents flowing through it. Well worth a read. Well done Grisham!

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The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco

The Prague Cemetery

The Prague Cemetery

The worldwide best seller, The Prague Cemetery (Il cimitero di Praga, in Italian) is a fictional novel by Italian author Umberto Eco which was published in 2010.

The novel starts in Paris, France in March 1897. A man who is variously a secret agent, adventurer and forger is asked to investigate assassination and political intrigue which may affect the future of Europe. His name is Captain Simone Simonini.

Various  non-fictional characters appear in the novel including are Sigmund Freud, Maurice Joly  and Eugène Sue. The novel touches on freemasonry, conspiracy theories,  and devil worship.

This is a fascinating book from Umberto Eco which, as always is written very well and which has an intricate plot. Well worth a read.

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The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, is a 2003 mystery-detective novel. It tells the story of Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu who investigate a gruesome murder in the Louvre Museum in Paris. It relates to a supposed battle between Opus Dei and the Priory of Sion. The title of the novel relates to the murder victim being found in the Louvre in the Grand Gallery. His body was naked and artificially posed to resemble Leonardo da Vinci’s famous drawing called, the Vitruvian Man. A pentacle is drawn on the victims chest in his own blood and a cryptic message scrawled beside his body.

The fictional book has been very successful though, it has come in for criticism on many levels.

In a 2008 issue of The Paris Review Umberto Eco said , “Dan Brown is a character from Foucault’s Pendulum! I invented him. He shares my characters’ fascinations—the world conspiracy of Rosicrucians, Masons, and Jesuits. The role of the Knights Templar. The hermetic secret. The principle that everything is connected. I suspect Dan Brown might not even exist.”

During a lecture, the writer Salman Rushdie said, “Do not start me on ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ A novel so bad that it gives bad novels a bad name.”

Stephen Fry has been more vitriolic saying of Dan Brown’s work, “complete loose stool-water” and “arse gravy of the worst kind.” He went on to say, “I just loathe all those books about the Holy Grail and Masons and Catholic conspiracies and all that botty-dribble. I mean, there’s so much more that’s interesting and exciting in art and in history. It plays to the worst and laziest in humanity, the desire to think the worst of the past and the desire to feel superior to it in some fatuous way.”

Stephen King said of Dan Brown’s work that it was like, “Jokes for the John,” calling this level of work the “intellectual equivalent of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.”

The New York Times said the book was “Dan Brown’s best-selling primer on how not to write an English sentence”.

The New Yorker reviewer Anthony Lane said its “unmitigated junk” and described “the crumbling coarseness of the style.”

Among others, linguist Geoffrey Pullum called Brown one of the “worst prose stylists in the history of literature” and saying Brown’s “writing is not just bad; it is staggeringly, clumsily, thoughtlessly, almost ingeniously bad.”

Roger Ebert described it as a “potboiler written with little grace and style,” and then went on to say “I should read a potboiler like The Da Vinci Code every once in a while, just to remind myself that life is too short to read books like The Da Vinci Code.”

The author has also been embroiled in legal battles over alleged plagiarism in two of his novels.

I thought Tom Hanks who played Robert Langdon, Audrey Tautou and Sir Ian McKellen were very impressive in the film and that managed to transform the written work into something quite acceptable.

However, I have to agree with the other detractors as I did feel that the book was surprisingly purile, badly written and I found it quite turgid. Not what I expected. I wouldn’t personally bother reading any others that he writes.

He said of The Bourne Trilogy by Robert Ludlum that, ‘Ludlum’s early books are complex, smart, and yet still move at a lightning pace. This series got me interested in the genre of big-concept, international thrillers.’

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The Once and Future Spy by Robert Littell

The Once and Future Spy

The Once and Future Spy

The Once and Future Spy by Robert Littell is a novel about espionage and counterespionage involving the CIA. Stephen Coonts once said of Littell, “Eric Ambler invented the modern spy novel. Robert Littell perfected it. ‘The Once and Future Spy’ is a classic spy story.”
The plot involves a highly secret plan known only to a small group of specialists within Langley, the CIA headquarters. The plan was ultra-secret but someone has leaked it. There are deadly consequences for the plotters if they cannot trace the source. At the same time a CIA operative, known as ‘the Weeder’, is at work on a highly sensitive matter. The Weeder is obsessed with American history and a particular American hero. A clash occurs between the Weeder’s and Washington’s clandestine worlds creating difficult moral choices with far reaching effects.

Several of his novels have become New York Times and Washington Post bestsellers.

A clever, inventive novel from a world class fiction writer.

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The Salzburg Connection by Helen MacInnes

The Salzburg Connection by Helen MacInnes

The Salzburg Connection by Helen MacInnes

The story begins near to Salzburg, Austria, when a photographer called Richard Bryant dives into the Fintersee Lake, high in the mountains, to retrieve a large chest that had lain there for many years. Unknown to him, he is observed by others. This sets off a deadly chain of events.

Sometime later a lawyer, called William Mathison, to Bryant’s photography shop to ask about a photo book of the Austrian lakes that is said to be commissioned by Bill’s client, the publisher James Newhart. Anna, Bryant’s wife gives Bill correspondence from Eric Yates who previously claimed to be Newhart’s representative. Soon after Bill leaves, Anna’s brother Johann Kronsteiner is told, by family friend Felix Zauner, that Bryant has been killed in an accident. Bill finds that he is being followed. A desperate tale involving Austrian Intelligence, Mossad, Chinese Communists, CIA, Nazis and the KGB ensues. The secrets that lay hidden in the chest since the war were explosive.

This novel, by Helen MacInnes is one of my favourites. The start of the novel is very evocative and the suspense continues throughout the book. The story was written in 1968 and took inspiration from true life events. It had been suspected for many years that, near the end of the war, elite Nazis had trekked into the Austrian mountains and had hidden gold in the depths of many of the remote lakes. The most famous lake being Lake Toplitz which began to give up some of it’s secrets in the late 1950s as divers searched its depths.

A novel of high intrigue, spies and Neo Nazis and a very good read – particularly on a European skiing holiday on a dark night.

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