Amongst the popcorn fiction writers, John Grisham is one of my favorites. Almost all his novels deal with lawyers and the narrative is usually fast and gripping and readers need not put in too much of a thought into his books. This makes him my favorite for fast reads during travel. So this festive season, I took up Grisham's The Testament as my travel companion.
Troy Phelan is a rich and eccentric businessman. He has married thrice and divorced thrice and has a litter of 6 children from his three marriages. Troy hates his family as none of them have been able to prosper on their own and looks on them as parasites on his wealth.Before committing suicide, Troy makes a strange will in which he promises to pay off the current debts of his children, but the rest of his 11 billion USD worth of property would go to one Rachel Lane.
Josh, his longtime lawyer and friend, has the difficult duty of finding Rachel Lane and fulfilling the conditions of the will. Josh soon finds out that Rachel is an illegitimate daughter of Troy and is working as a missionary with an organization which tries to preach religion to the remote tribes of the world. After some digging he finds out that she is somewhere in Brazil.
Josh enrolls one of his best litigation lawyer Nate O'Riley to go and meet Rachel and tell her about the will. Nate has been in and out of rehabs in the past few years of his career is currently a difficult proposition for Josh to handle in his firm. So he decides to send him on this trail, till he sorts out his issues within the firm.So Nate sets off to find the reclusive Rachel. In the meanwhile,all the 6 children of Troy decide to fight against the will and will goto any extent to term that Troy was out of his mind, so that they can get a big piece of the estate.
Does Nate find Rachel? Do the 6 children manage to prove that Troy was out of his minds when the will was written? Check out this novel from John Grisham for the details.
I usually like occupational novels i.e. novels dealing with a specific occupation. That is why I used to love Perry Mason novels written by Erle Stanley Gardner. Erle's novels used to deal with a lot of court room drama and actual lawsuits filed in various courts. In stark contrast, though most of John Grisham's novels also deal with the law and lawyers, there is hardly any courtroom drama. Most of the novels deal with lawyers on the run and the novels primarily deal with his run and escape rather than the actual court case.
Testament is the first John Grisham novel that I have read which has a bit of court room drama. Looking at the way the drama was potrayed, I feel that he should do more of it. That portion of the novel was not only interesting, it was pretty gripping. But the sad part is that only a small portion of the novel is devoted to this section. Most of the novel is about the chasing around Brazil for Ms. Rachel Lane and John Grisham's narration of the episode was really boring and put me to sleep a lot of times. This definitely is not his strong point, yet in most of his novels he spends a lot of pages on this kind of scenario description.
Coming to the content itself, again he flatters to deceive. The story begins well and then fades away. At least the ending could have been much different and better.
Spoiler begins here :I think he had no business killing off Rachel Lane and would have been better off by making her stage her own death to get rid of the money in a proper way.
Spoiler ends here
The story chugs along in a stop-start manner with sections dealing with the lawsuit moving fast and the sections dealing with searching of Rachel Lane moving slow. This more or less breaks the rhythm of the novel. Another thing that struck me about this novel was that all the characters in this book seem to be eccentric in one manner or the other. Troy jumps off the building after writing an extraordinary will, Nate is shuttling back and front from the rehab, Rachel wants to get lost from the world, Troy's children - each one of them is shady and spoilt. This also kind of gives a wholly unrealistic feel about the novel.
All in all another lawyer related popcorn fiction from John Grisham. The novel gets an average three star rating from my side.