Michelle's Reviews > The King of Torts

The King of Torts by John Grisham
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's review
Oct 14, 2011

liked it
bookshelves: legal-thriller, adult-fiction
Read in October, 2011

Several years ago, I read everything John Grisham wrote. I guess, though, burnout set in, and after I read The Brethren, I was done with Grisham. I liked The Brethen enough. I guess. I just can't say that I remember it very well. In any case, I was tired of legal thrillers. Other than An Innocent Man, which doesn't really count because it is a true story, after all, I haven't read a Grisham novel for well over ten years.

And this was decent. But I'm thinking of stories like The Partner, The Firm, and The Pelican Brief. I might be suffering from memory loss - but the way I remember those stories is different than the way I think The King of Torts reads. I remember those first stories being intense and exciting. I remember that I couldn't stop reading because they were filled with clever plot twists.

The King of Torts isn't a thriller like those first Grisham novels. J. Clay Carter II is a lowly public defender in Washington, D.C. But his luck is about to change. When Carter decides to take a generous but shady offer and start up his own shop, he finds himself in the midst of very large mass tort litigation cases, and he is probably in over his head. He's making millions, hiring paralegals and attorneys left and right and buying expensive boats, jets, homes. In fact, he's spending it with reckless abandon while his personal life is spinning wildly out of control. But Mr. Carter takes comfort as he becomes the newly crowned "King of Torts."

Maybe this is why I didn't love it. It isn't the thriller I was expecting. But even more, I really detested torts in law school. Not because the reading wasn't interesting or even because they class discussions weren't engaging - they were. How can you not be interested in cases that include a dolt who saws off his fingers after ignoring clear and precise safety warnings placed all over his new saw and who then goes and sues the manufacturer anyway? It's a train wreck, and you can't turn away from it. But the sleaziness of such nonsense...I mean what lawyer takes a case like that...it just never sat right with me. However, these tort lawyers, they are something else; they are the epitome of every shark lawyer joke ever made. Very stock...I really don't believe every tort attorney is this low. And several do really good work for people who deserve compensation. Mr. Carter and his new pals are not doing such work.

And as Mr. Carter slips further into the morass of mass tort litigation, he finds his moorings slipping right along with is personal life. I wanted to think more of Carter, but since I didn't really see what kind of guy he was before - he actually seemed like kind of a jerk from the beginning - I wasn't surprised to watch his fall. I think if Grisham wanted me to feel any sympathy for him, Carter needed to be more sympathetic from the start. Classic lack of character development.

However, the story was engaging enough and the twist at the end was interesting, if a bit predictable, kind of. And I did appreciate the angle it took on mass tort litigation. Is it abusive even if a drug company manufactures a dangerous drug? Shouldn't lawyers know who they represent rather than file mass cases for thousands of individuals they have never met face to face? I'd never given it much thought, but I have now, and it doesn't sit quite right with me.

It isn't my favorite Grisham, but it was good. And I'm now reading The Appeal, so...I guess I'm sort of on a Grisham kick.
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