11 May 2012

The Heirs of Perry Mason

Legal thrillers | John Grisham, Mark Gimenez

Strange how all legal thrillers have covers with a man in a suit hurrying in silhouette against an almost monochrome background. Or maybe that's the sampling effect: I've just finished John Grisham's The Appeal and Mark Gimenez' The Colour of Law. The Appeal has a shadow on a red background, Grisham's name in large letters; The Colour of Law is green with the mandatory silhouetted man, the book name bigger than the author name. Mark Gimenez is billed in blurbs as “the next Grisham”. So. Face-off time.

The Appeal is about the appeal against a jury verdict that finds a chemical company guilty of having poisoned the water of a town with toxic wastes. The owner wants to ensure that the Supreme Court (of the State; this terminology is confusing to Indians like me, who have only one Supreme Court) rules in his favour. For some reason, some states in the USA elect their Supreme Court judges. So, he tries to buy his man into the slot. The tale gets murkier and murkier, and I despaired of the rabbit being pulled out of the hat, braced myself for not getting my mandatory happy ending.

The Colour of Law is a more personal story. A hotshot corporate lawyer makes an election speech which a judge takes seriously enough to appoint him as the defending lawyer for a black prostitute accused of murdering the son of a Presidential candidate. Does he manage to wiggle out of it, or does he lose everything? No spoilers here; the back cover warns you he loses his wife, his house, his cars, his fat salary...

Honestly, I preferred The Colour of Law. It's more optimistic. The Appeal is relentless in showing you how easily the justice process can be subverted with enough money. And there lies the loss of appeal. Grisham wants to tell you something. Gimenez wants to show you something. Betrayal vs. redemption. Which is likely to be the more attractive story?

Gimenez really does write like the early Grisham: fast-paced, witty and pithy. I cringed at some of the descriptions (do people really think like that?) but they remain at all times in character. There is some lyrical writing there, and strong characters, like Boo. (Oh, yes, this is Gimenez' tribute to To Kill a Mockingbird).

People in the USA should read The Appeal and do something to improve the situation. People everywhere can have a great time with The Colour of Law. I'm going down to look for more books by M Gimenez.


The Appeal:
The clerk tapped lightly on the judge's door, then took a step inside and proudly announced, 'We have a verdict,' as if she had personally labored through the negotiations and now was pesenting the result as a gift.
The judge closed his eyes and let loose a deep, satisfying [sic] sigh. He smiled a happy, nervous smile of enormous relief, almost disbelief, and finally said, 'Round up the lawyers.'

The Colour of Law:
Run-down strip centers offered pawn shops and liquor stores. Ramshackle frame houses slanted at twenty-degree angles, their paint peeling like skin from a badly sunburned body. Sofas sat on droopy porches, old cars were jacked up on cement blocks in the yards, garbage was backed up at the streets, and black burglar bars guarded every door and window of every house and storefront as if each structure were its owner's personal prison.

No comments:

Post a Comment