John Grisham’s Gray Mountain

November 5, 2014

By Karen Martin for blood, dirt & angels

Maybe it’s time for John Grisham to get an editor who pays attention to detail.

Gray Mountain, Grisham’s latest legal thriller (published Oct. 23 by Doubleday), has an interesting enough concept: Samantha Kofer, 29, during her third year of being overworked at a huge, prestigious Wall Street law firm, gets laid off during the 2008 recession shenanigans and becomes an intern at a legal clinic in southwest Virginia coal-mining country.

Gray Mountain by John GrishamThat’s where she discovers that practicing law goes beyond corporate deal-making to involve working with real clients with real problems – the majority of them involving Big Coal. Legal, personal and environmental troubles ensue.

Grisham has never been much of a stylist – his speciality is believable dialogue – and his plots roll down predictable roads. But could somebody at Doubleday please notice that the author overuses supposedly humanizing actions over and over – such as writing that Samantha is all too often “sipping” coffee, a martini, wine, water, and whatnot, whether dining with her government-lawyer mother, discussing a no-salary internship with the head of the Appalachian legal clinic, getting the lowdown on coal mining while lounging on the legal clinic boss’s picturesque front porch before diving into a roast chicken dinner (followed by a few sips of coffee before calling it an evening), or getting to know an attractive rural-Virginia activist lawyer over coffee at a small-town diner – to the point of annoyance?

It’s distracting to the reader, and it’s the sort of repetition that makes the overall work feel sloppy.

If an editor can’t catch and correct useless place holders that show up over and over, what else is being overlooked? And if this irritating repetitiveness is practically the only thing that sticks in a reader’s head after working through 62 pages, it’s kinda hard to decide to keep going.

Especially since, upon randomly opening the book and arriving on page 219, there’s Samantha, arising before sunrise, “wide awake, sipping coffee and online.” Sigh.

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