Picks and Pans Review: The Rainmaker
By John Grisham
Part of John Grisham's popularity no doubt can be traced to his skewering of the legal profession. Now he has shrewdly taken on another loathed group: the insurance industry.
Rudy Baylor, impoverished third-year law student, meets his future clients Dot and Buddy Black on a field trip that his class in Legal Problems of the Elderly (affectionately dubbed Geezer Law) takes to a Memphis senior center. Here he reads the Stupid Letter—wherein the Great Benefit insurance company refers to policyholder Dot Black as "stupid, stupid, stupid" for continuing to file a claim requesting a bone-marrow operation for her dying son. The letter will be key evidence in the David vs. Goliath lawsuit that Baylor soon files against Great Benefit.
A fully satisfying courtroom drama, The Rainmaker is most notable for its engagingly oddball characters. They include chain-smoking Dot and her nonverbal, "not right" husband, Buddy, who spends his days boozing in an old Ford Fairlane parked on their back lawn, and the ambulance-chasing attorney Bruiser Stone.
Grisham's writing has improved dramatically; passages in The Rainmaker are reminiscent of Pat Conroy. Only a subplot involving Baylor's crush on a battered wife seems strained. Still, this is Grisham's most barbed book since The Firm, and it is by far his most entertaining. (Doubleday, $25.95)
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