An intelligent, low-key thriller, The Summons
continues John Grisham's exploration of the common decencies of a strain of American commercial story-telling in literature and film that we often link to the work of Frank Capra or O Henry. He is not afraid of parable or of setting up situations that are at once archetypal and attractively specific. This is a tale of two brothers--one is righteous, more or less, and one is not--and a question of their inheritance. Ancient Mississippi judge Atlee summons his two sons to his deathbed, but dies before he can explain himself, leaving Ray, who arrives on time unlike his drunkard brother Forest with the difficult problem of the three million dollars in used notes which are lying around the house in shoe-boxes. Ray worries about his father's posthumous reputation, about the Inland Revenue Service and about how quickly Forrest could drink himself to death with unlimited funds.
Grisham is very acute indeed on how the best of intentions lead Ray not to any significant crime or atrocity but to quietly unconscionable behaviour. And then he realises he is being followed... Grisham can build suspense out of remarkably little and has a real gift for understanding the quiet anxieties of an ordinary man. --Roz Kaveney
All of Clanton, Mississippi, came out to pay their respects to the late Judge Atlee. Even though he had been ousted from office nearly 10 years previously he was held in high esteem by his legal colleagues and all those he helped either through the courts or through his endless charity. His two sons, Ray, a Professor of Law and Forrest, a dissolute alcoholic and substance abuser, are the only heirs. Following a summons from their father a week earlier, Ray arrives in Clanton first to discover his father already dead from cancer in the family home. Before his brother arrives he makes the bewildering discovery of $3million in cash, carefully packed away in boxes in a side cabinet. Unwilling to tell Forrest of his discovery in case he squanders his share on drugs and alcohol, Ray begins a journey to discover its origin. Thus begins a tale of tawdry casinos, intimidation and crooked tort lawyers. A return to the legal settings after his diversion in "The Painted House", this is an easy read, and pleasant enough, addressing both the moral dilemmas involved in such a discovery and the difficult relationships that can exist within a family.