Ever since I watched the movie The Paper Chase, I have been obsessed with the law. It was no surprise to me that after a few years at university I found myself a student at Western Law. After a few months in law school it was clear to me that I was better suited for a career as a law-librarian than a lawyer. Ultimately I found a job as a librarian at a public library, clearly destined to recommend legal thrillers in reader’s advisory sessions. I recently checked out the bestselling Gray Mountain by John Grisham, opting to listen to the Book on CD in my car. I was so engrossed in the book, that I was finding excuses to drive my vehicle (good thing the gas prices are so low)!
What makes Gray Mountain so appealing? The characters are adeptly fleshed out, with clear motives so the reader knows who to root for…(yes, we’re really cheering for the lawyers). John Grisham presents us with a young, naïve lawyer, Samantha Kofer, a third-year associate who focused on building projects at a huge Wall Street law firm. When the recession hits and Lehman Brothers collapses, Samantha long work hours come to an abrupt end as she is furloughed and led out of the building. Offered an opportunity to volunteer at a legal aid clinic for one year, Samantha is thrust from city life to country life in Brady, Virginia (in the heart of Appalachia). Self-confidence destroyed, she must learn to help real people with big problems and to adjust to small-town life.
Her new job introduces her to an unlikely mentor, Donovan Gray, a lawyer dedicated to fighting Big Coal companies and the hazards associated with strip mining. In Gray Mountain coal mining companies are synonymous with corruption, as laws are broken, regulations flouted, health and safety rules violated, and contracts with locals are not honored. Donovan is prepared to fight dirty and assume risk to achieve his goals. Will Samantha be drawn into the fight, sacrifice some professionals ethics for the greater good, and risk her life in the process?
I was both fascinated and appalled by the descriptions of strip mines in the Appalachian mountains, which are being reduced to rubble, leaving toxic water and a land stripped of animal life and forests. It certainly made me want to connect the dots, research the current state of Appalachian mining, and discover for myself whether this story is really a call to action.
A natural storyteller, Grisham tantalizes with the promise of possible romance between lawyers, the ethical lines crossed by lawyers in search of justice for their clients, and an intriguing premise. Place a hold on a library copy of Gray Mountain today!
If you like John Grisham, we invite you to try other legal thrillers by: