368 pages in hardcover
Review by Dave Vizard
Most of the time, readers of John Grisham can count on him to deliver a legal thriller that’s a thoroughly enjoyable, fast-paced, page burner with plenty of colorful characters and local scenery.
“Gray Mountain,” the Southern author’s most recent work, does all of that, but it’s just a tad too predictable for my taste. Early on, I had the feeling that he was writing by formula.
Consider the basic plot. Sweet and lovely Big City lawyer gets bounced out of her job during the economic crash of 2007-2008. She gets to keep some benefits and possibly come back in a year when the economy rebounds if she takes an unpaid internship at one of a dozen or so non-profits where lawyers are in great need. Our heroine, Samantha, ends up in Appalachia working for a legal aide outfit trying to save coal miners from everything evil: coal companies, black lung, devastation of the environment, bankruptcy, domestic violence – you name it, they got it.
Of course, she meets Mr. Wonderful, a man named Gray, who is not wielding a whip, a chair, a gagging ball, and is totally shade-less. No, this Mr. Gray is a brilliant lawyer who has dedicated his life to fighting coal companies, the very villains who have leveled his family and Gray Mountain. Problem is, Mr. Hotstuff is killed in a mysterious plane crash by … guess who? See what I mean? That leaves poor Samantha to take up with his brother, equally dashing but a terd in college and not lawyer material.
As time passes, Samantha becomes more and more enthralled with the people of Appalachia who need her and less eager to return to New York where no one needs anybody. You can see where this is going. I don’t have to tell you the ending. And that’s the problem with this book – predictable. I wanted exciting plot twists and daring turns in the story, but there were few.
“Gray Mountain” is very timely and topical, also Grisham trademarks. Readers will learn a lot about Appalachia, local customs and culture, as well as the business and history of coal mining. But that’s also part of the Grisham formula.
It is, however, still a pretty good read. I did not feel cheated. I give it 3 stars out of a possible 5.