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The Pelican Brief [Hardcover]

John Grisham
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Mar 1992
In suburban Georgetown a killer's Reeboks whisper  on the front floor of a posh home... In a seedy  D.C. porno house a patron is swiftly garroted to  death... The next day America learns that two of its  Supreme Court justices have been assassinated. And  in New Orleans, a young law student prepares a  legal brief... To Darby Shaw it was no more than a  legal shot in the dark, a brilliant guess. To the  Washington establishment it was political dynamite.  Suddenly Darby is witness to a murder -- a murder  intended for her. Going underground, she finds  there is only one person she can trust -- an  ambitious reporter after a newsbreak hotter than Watergate  -- to help her piece together the deadly puzzle.  Somewhere between the bayous of Louisiana and the  White House's inner sanctums, a violent cover-up is  being engineered. For somone has read Darby's  brief. Someone who will stop at nothing to destroy the  evidence of an unthinkable crime.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Books; First Edition First Printing edition (Mar 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385421982
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385421980
  • Product Dimensions: 24.3 x 16.3 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,311,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Long before his name became synonymous with the modern legal thriller, he was working 60-70 hours a week at a small Southaven, Mississippi, law practice, squeezing in time before going to the office and during courtroom recesses to work on his hobby--writing his first novel.

Born on February 8, 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to a construction worker and a homemaker, John Grisham as a child dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Realizing he didn't have the right stuff for a pro career, he shifted gears and majored in accounting at Mississippi State University. After graduating from law school at Ole Miss in 1981, he went on to practice law for nearly a decade in Southaven, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. In 1983, he was elected to the state House of Representatives and served until 1990.

One day at the DeSoto County courthouse, Grisham overheard the harrowing testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim and was inspired to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl's father had murdered her assailants. Getting up at 5 a.m. every day to get in several hours of writing time before heading off to work, Grisham spent three years on A Time to Kill and finished it in 1987. Initially rejected by many publishers, it was eventually bought by Wynwood Press, who gave it a modest 5,000 copy printing and published it in June 1988.

That might have put an end to Grisham's hobby. However, he had already begun his next book, and it would quickly turn that hobby into a new full-time career--and spark one of publishing's greatest success stories. The day after Grisham completed A Time to Kill, he began work on another novel, the story of a hotshot young attorney lured to an apparently perfect law firm that was not what it appeared. When he sold the film rights to The Firm to Paramount Pictures for $600,000, Grisham suddenly became a hot property among publishers, and book rights were bought by Doubleday. Spending 47 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, The Firm became the bestselling novel of 1991.

The successes of The Pelican Brief, which hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and The Client, which debuted at number one, confirmed Grisham's reputation as the master of the legal thriller. Grisham's success even renewed interest in A Time to Kill, which was republished in hardcover by Doubleday and then in paperback by Dell. This time around, it was a bestseller.

Since first publishing A Time to Kill in 1988, Grisham has written one novel a year (his other books are The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, A Painted House, Skipping Christmas, The Summons, The King of Torts, Bleachers, The Last Juror, The Broker, Playing for Pizza, The Appeal, and The Associate) and all of them have become international bestsellers. There are currently over 250 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 29 languages. Nine of his novels have been turned into films (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, A Painted House, The Runaway Jury, and Skipping Christmas), as was an original screenplay, The Gingerbread Man. The Innocent Man (October 2006) marked his first foray into non-fiction, and Ford County (November 2009) was his first short story collection.

Grisham lives with his wife Renee and their two children Ty and Shea. The family splits their time between their Victorian home on a farm in Mississippi and a plantation near Charlottesville, VA.

Grisham took time off from writing for several months in 1996 to return, after a five-year hiatus, to the courtroom. He was honoring a commitment made before he had retired from the law to become a full-time writer: representing the family of a railroad brakeman killed when he was pinned between two cars. Preparing his case with the same passion and dedication as his books' protagonists, Grisham successfully argued his clients' case, earning them a jury award of $683,500--the biggest verdict of his career.

When he's not writing, Grisham devotes time to charitable causes, including most recently his Rebuild The Coast Fund, which raised 8.8 million dollars for Gulf Coast relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He also keeps up with his greatest passion: baseball. The man who dreamed of being a professional baseball player now serves as the local Little League commissioner. The six ballfields he built on his property have played host to over 350 kids on 26 Little League teams.

Product Description


"The Last Juror: 'Terance Mann's reading is Atticus Finch with knobs on, a really great performance' Guardian"

"The King of Torts: 'Ruthless calculation and overpowering greed make the story of Clay Carter's dizzying rise to "king of torts" a cracking good tale' Sunday Times"

"The Brethren: 'A riveting tale, well up to Grisham's normal high standard, expertly read by Michael Beck' Scotsman" --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Book Description

Killing, corruption and cover-up. Can college-student Darby Shaw stay alive long enough to reveal the truth? --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
HE SEEMED INCAPABLE of creating such chaos, but much of what he saw below could be blamed on him. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Nowhere near brief enough 17 July 2013
By G. M. Sinstadt VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If it is plot you are after, The Pelican Brief has several. There is the billionaire mastermind holed up on a Caribbean Island. There is the assassin - a Master of Disguise who speaks a number of languages. There is the threat to an endangered species. There is the turf war between the FBI and the CIA. There is the White House, corrupted by a power-mad aide while the President practises his putting on the floor of the oOval Office. There is the investigative journalist writing "the biggest story of his career." There is some legal background as is common with Grisham. Oh, and there is a sexy 24-year-old with long legs. In short, every cliche bar the kitchen sink.

To make it work would have taken a better writer. Grisham seems never to revise, never to wonder if something could be better expressed. So someone asleep is "dead to the world" (more than once). Two nurses "sort of" drag a patient; the journalist "sort of" dances to the phone. People "ease into" a room, "ease through" a door, traffic "eases" downtown. And "rather unique" is meaningless; there are no fractions of uniqueness.

Characterisation is one dimensional and sometimes plain unbelievable: the girl vacillates between being immobilised by fear and making inordinately detailed plans for her escape - only to put off discussing them in one instance until she had had "a bite to eat." On another occasion "there was not a second to lose." And for the nice girl she is portrayed as the phrase "spill my guts" sits uncomfortably.

This is a very long, tedious book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Legal Thriller without the thrills 8 Feb 2013

I was disappointed with this overall and feel that the 6 out of 10 is slightly generous. The previous Grisham novel I have read, "The Partner", was a solid page turner whereas this one never really got going. I couldn't get into the main story and it felt like Grisham was trying to keep a fast pace and glossed over a couple of areas which could have been fleshed out more and created a better overall read.

The thing that annoyed me first was the obsession Grisham had with drumming home the fact that Darby was a good looking, young, smart female. I got it the first time she was described; I didn't need every male character to then mention how stunning she was. Hit men who are paid to hunt her down and kill her are busy oohing and aahing at her good looks. Do the bad guys only hire hit men who think with the wrong kind of gun? Even the guys who are in grave danger go on about it. Give it a rest!

I do have my qualms with this book and whilst it never got flowing as I expected there were some good ideas overall. But once you understood the conspiracy and what she wrote in the brief, there were over a 100 pages left it took a little nose dive in pacing and interest. The characters weren't great either so they couldn't keep the story going at the end. Talking of endings, this one was rubbish. I genuinely wanted to throw the book on the floor when reading the last chapter.

Obviously I wasn't impressed but I will read more from this author and put this one down as a misunderstanding. I much prefer the Mickey Haller series by Michael Connolley and would recommend them to anyone looking for a good legal thriller but I have a few more of Grisham's novels lined up and hoping he can supply me with a good thriller down the line.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Time Filler 15 May 2008
The Pelican Brief is a good time filler.

I took four sessions to finish the 420-odd pages, and didn't feel pressed for time - it is a rapid read.

The plot is sort of realistic in that you can imagine someone wanting to bump off a couple of American Supreme Court justices to change the `political' make-up of the Supreme court - but the book does stretch credibility a little with the descriptions and personalities of both the victims and their executioner - it seemed as though Gresham had gone through a check list of `most likely to make a best seller' qualities and selected them for inclusion.

The same too with his heroine, Darby Shaw, who is a least female and intelligent - more intelligent than most of the other characters in the book. However, she never really escapes the cliché of female as victim in need of a good man to support her. Why did she have to be a blond bombshell? Why couldn't she have been short, stumpy even, and ugly? Why does the book have to end in such a `happy ever after' way on a beach?

One answer is the sales figures - and film rights.

All the way through I felt I was getting exactly what I wanted - no surprise other than a needed plot twist, no truly ambiguous character - just good guy and bad guy (and a very obvious - you got it wrong, good guy portrayed as bad).

And some very film-able locations - including Washington, New York and a pre-deluge New Orleans.

It occupied me pleasantly enough, but I ended with a - that's it? and so what? Turned the light off, and slept well.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but vaguely dissatisfying 24 April 2002
By A Customer
This was my first John Grisham novel, and while it won't deter me from reading any of his other works, I'm not exactly going to be jumping on his bandwagon either. The premise of the story is simple enough. A brilliant young legal student writes her own theory about who murdered two Supreme Court judges and why. What she doesn't realise is that her theories are actually bang on target, and before long, the bad guys are out to get her.
For the first two thirds of the novel, I couldn't put it down. It was a bona fide page turner, but as more and more of the story unfolded, I couldn't help but feel that Grisham was somehow cheating me out of a better novel. The vast majority of the characters we meet in the book have already read the contents of Darby's brief, but Grisham decides to leave the reader completely in the dark until the last act. It reeks of convenient plot device : here we have twenty odd characters wandering around with full knowledge of The Brief, and not one of them feels the need to talk about its contents, just so Darby can have her big Narrative Moment several hundred pages into the book. I haven't seen the film, but it doesn't take much thinking to know how Julia Roberts must have played it!
And it's pretty much downhill from there. With the big mystery out of the way, the novel devolves into the usual scenarios. Will the bad guys find Darby ? Will she expose the villains ? Will she survive ? It doesn't take a genius to work it out, and the continual cat-and-mouse chases are fairly standard, been-there-done-that, thriller fare.
The last hundred or so pages of the novel are padded out beyond belief. I kept waiting for something more to happen, and when it didn't, I wondered why Grisham didn't just wrap them up into one small chapter.
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