Picks and Pans Review: The Brethren
Grisham's 11th novel in as many years features the popular author's favorite narrative scenario—a smalltime lawyer gets trapped in a sinister conspiracy that spins far beyond his control. What's missing in this dud of a thriller are Grisham's other trademarks: flawed but likable heroes, plot twists grounded firmly in the law and, most important, intelligent writing.
The story centers on a trio of felonious former judges—nicknamed the Brethren—running a profitable mail sting from inside a federal prison. At the same time, the CIA is planning to rig a presidential election to make sure their pro-defense candidate gets to the White House. Things take a wildly implausible turn when the two scams converge, leading to some pointless intrigue and a strangely dull ending that fails to deliver any emotional payoff. What's more, you'll need a subpoena to find a single sympathetic character, or even a well-drawn one. Grisham showed signs of stretching as a writer in his last thriller, The Testament, but here he takes a big step backward. This court rules against the disappointing Brethren and appeals to Grisham to take more time with the next one. (Doubleday, $27.95)
Bottom Line: Bears little family resemblance to Grisham's finest