John Grisham has a reputation of either nailing a story right until to subterranean levels or simply falter in the roots and make a hash of things throughout. The Runaway Jury initially seemed to fall amongst the latter category. However, the book got a revival midway and the end was a signature Grisham visceral denouement which evoked a mouth-gaping reaction from the readers.
Grisham, who is known across the globe for his legal thrillers, penned down The Runaway Jury in the year 1996. It had mixed-bag of reviews across the community of bibliophiles. One of the primary reasons for the same is that the thriller was bereft of the final killing zeal right until the middle of the story. Despite having the prowess of narration, Grisham’s narrative seemed a wee bit tardy and it felt at one point of time that this is nothing but a listless litany being spouted by some ordinary high school kid, who is trying his best to impress his admirers.
The story revolves around a legal bout between Rankin Fitch, who was hell-bent to bail out the stalwarts of the tobacco industry, and Wendall Rohr, who was backing Celeste Wood, who lost her husband to lung cancer, being a ramification of lifelong smoking. However, the game was not decided by anyone of them. Nicholas Easter and Marlee, his compatriot, embezzled the show as they made a mystifying entrance in the case and manipulated the entire jury to vote in favor of what according to them was the right decision. Easter was Marlee’s boyfriend and aided her in avenging her parents’ death who died due to cancer, being a cause of smoking.
The story initially suffered a few hiccups as Grisham was giving us a preamble to his characters. A few like Loreen Duke, Lonnie Shaver, Stella Hulic and others seemed to be forcibly written into the story, which could have been done in a more opportune way. Main characters like Nicholas Easter, Marlee, and Rankin Fitch hovered around the periphery of the story right until the legal bout kicked-off.
The narration seemed to be an exchange of words between a grumpy boss (Rankin) and his hapless associates and paralegals who seemed to be toothless. However, Grisham rendered Durwood Cable, the lawyer who was defending Fitch, to be a fierce and a competent individual who knew his tricks well.
One of the nexuses of the plaintiff’s evidence was a biblical slip scribed by some individual way back in 1930, which incriminated the industry of using excessive nicotine in order to get smokers addicted. Haplessly, Grisham gave it no importance and left it as a cog episode.
The character rendition was apt for the big shots like Fitch, Marlee, and Easter. However, the others seemed to be simply puppets dancing to the tunes of these three. The judge seemed to lack a baritone of his own which accords him the power to rule the jury.
Nicholas Easter portrayed himself as an individual, whose past was oblivious to anyone barring Fitch who dug extremely deep to unspool it in order to win the case. Marlee exhibited extraordinary calm to keep her tracks covered unless Fitch decided to unveil it but it went down the drain. Rankin Fitch, the man who was the crux of the story, played the dark bloke who has delivered victory for bigshots in exchange of dibbs and was ready to do the same again only if Easter was not in his way.
However, the end of the story seemed to be a messianic one as Marlee’s past was unveiled and both Marlee and Easter pulled off a stunner in conning Rankin Fitch and avenging the death of Marlee’s parents. To rub salt in Fitch’s wounds Marlee returned for one more time to pay back the money which Fitch gave her in exchange of the verdict. It gave an explosive statement in the end to Fitch which probably could have read, “When the hunter becomes hunted”.
The novel is good for a one-time read if you are too abhorrent to blood but if you are looking for a fast-paced thriller that will curdle your blood and will give you goosebumps, The Runaway Jury is bound to disappoint you.