Within the high-powered milieu of the public defender's office in Washington DC, Grisham's protagonist is an ambitious young lawyer who finds himself saddled with what appears to be a nothing case: one of a wave of crack cocaine killings that are the bane of the capital. But as Clay Carter investigates, he finds that something more than a random street murder is involved here and a massive conspiracy becomes apparent. The stakes are suddenly very high indeed.
If the skulduggery here (involving one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world) is a tad familiar, Grisham remains nonpareil when it comes to delivering a smoothly engineered plot. A fresh touch is Carter's desire to break free from the routine cases he has been handling: this quickly becomes a case of beware what you wish for. Another innovative touch is the refusal to tie up the narrative in the expected ways: The King of Torts has much more verisimilitude in this area than most legal thrillers. One more thing, Grisham's prose now has a sardonic, satirical quality that suggests the Tom Wolfe of Bonfire of the Vanities. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Grisham reigns supreme... another tremendous tour de force" (Sunday Express)
"A rollercoaster ride" (The Times)
"This novel has incident to burn, a clean, pacy style and a conclusion that will blindside the reader" (Telegraph) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From the Publisher
From the Back Cover
The Office of the Public Defender is not known as a training ground for bright young litigators. Clay Carter has been there too long, and, like most of his colleagues, dreams of a better job in a real firm. When he reluctantly takes the case of a young man charged with a random street killing, he assumes it is just another of the many senseless murders that hit Washington D.C. every week.
As he digs deeper into his client's background, Clay stumbles upon a conspiracy too horrible to believe. He suddenly finds himself in the middle of a complex case against one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, looking at an enormous settlement that would totally change his life - a settlement that would make him, almost overnight, the legal profession's newest king of torts...
'Grisham reigns supreme... The King of Torts is another tremendous tour de force' Sunday Express
' A rollercoaster ride' Time
'Grisham at his best, combining a gripping plot and an illuminating insight into the seamier side of legal business' Mariella Frostrup, Open Book--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
THE SHOTS THAT FIRED the bullets that entered Pumpkin's head were heard by no less than eight people. Three instinctively closed their windows, checked their door locks, and withdrew to the safety, or at least the seclusion, of their small apartments. Two others, each with experience in such matters, ran from the vicinity as fast if not faster than the gunman himself. Another, the neighborhood recycling fanatic, was digging through some garbage in search of aluminum cans when he heard the sharp sounds of the daily skirmish, very nearby. He jumped behind a pile of cardboard boxes until the shelling stopped, then eased into the alley where he saw what was left of Pumpkin.
And two saw almost everything. They were sitting on plastic milk crates, at the corner of Georgia and Lamont in front of a liquor store, partially hidden by a parked car so that the gunman, who glanced around briefly before following Pumpkin into the alley, didn't see them. Both would tell the police that they saw the boy with the gun reach into his pocket and pull it out; they saw the gun for sure, a small black pistol. A second later they heard the shots, though they did not actually see Pumpkin take them in the head. Another second, and the boy with the gun darted from the alley and, for some reason, ran straight in their direction. He ran bent at the waist, like a scared dog, guilty as hell. He wore red-and-yellow basketball shoes that seemed five sizes too big and slapped the pavement as he made his getaway.
When he ran by them he was still holding the gun, probably a .38, and he flinched just for a instant when he saw them and realized they had seen too much. For one terrifying second, he seemed to raise the gun as if to eliminate the witnesses, both of whom managed to flip backward from their plastic milk crates and scramble off in a mad flurry of arms and legs. Then he was gone. One of them opened the door to the liquor store and yelled for someone to call the police, there had been a shooting.
Thirty minutes later, the police received a call that a young man matching the description of the one who had wasted Pumpkin had been seen twice on Ninth Street carrying a gun in open view and acting stranger than most of the people on Ninth. He had tried to lure at least one person into an abandoned lot, but the intended victim had escaped and reported the incident.
The police found their man an hour later. His name was Tequila Watson, black male, age twenty, with the usual drug-related police record. No family to speak of. No address. The last place he'd been sleeping was a rehab unit on W Street. He'd managed to ditch the gun somewhere, and if he'd robbed Pumpkin then he'd also thrown away the cash or drugs or whatever the booty was. His pockets were clean, as were his eyes. The cops were certain Tequila was not under the influence of anything when he was arrested. A quick and rough interrogation took place on the street, then he was handcuffed and shoved into the rear seat of a D.C. police car.
They drove him back to Lamont Street, where they arranged an impromptu encounter with the two witnesses. Tequila was led into the alley where he'd left Pumpkin. "Ever been here before?" a cop asked.
Tequila said nothing, just gawked at the puddle of fresh blood on the dirty concrete. The two witnesses were eased into the alley, then led quietly to a spot near Tequila.
"That's him," both said at the same time.
"He's wearing the same clothes, same basketball shoes, everything but the gun."
"No doubt about it."
Tequila was shoved into the car once again and taken to jail. He was booked for murder and locked away with no immediate chance of bail. Whether through experience or just fear, Tequila never said a word to the cops as they pried and cajoled and even threatened. Nothing incriminating, nothing helpful. No indication of why he would murder Pumpkin. No clue as to their history, if one existed at all. A veteran detective made a brief note in the file that the killing appeared a bit more random than was customary.
No phone call was requested. No mention of a lawyer or a bail bondsman. Tequila seemed dazed but content to sit in a crowded cell and stare at the floor.
PUMPKIN HAD NO TRACEABLE father but his mother worked as a security guard in the basement of a large office building on New York Avenue. It took three hours for the police to determine her son's real nameÑRamn PumphreyÑto locate his address, and to find a neighbor willing to tell them if he had a mother. Adelfa Pumphrey was sitting behind a desk just inside the basement entrance, supposedly watching a bank of monitors. She was a large thick woman in a tight khaki uniform, a gun on her waist, a look of complete disinterest on her face. The cops who approached her had done so a hundred times. They broke the news, then found her supervisor.
In a city where young people killed each other every day, the slaughter had thickened skins and hardened hearts, and every mother knew many others who'd lost their children. Each loss brought death a step closer, and every mother knew that any day could be the last. The mothers had watched the others survive the horror. As Adelfa Pumphrey sat at her desk with her face in her hands, she thought of her son and his lifeless body lying somewhere in the city at that moment, being inspected by strangers.
She swore revenge on whoever killed him.
She cursed his father for abandoning the child.
She cried for her baby. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.