Book Review #15 (crime never looked so good)

The Appeal
by: John Grisham.

the appeal cover

So you know how a few weeks ago I talked about how I rarely read genera fiction….well I just worked my way through the new John Grisham book, The Appeal. (Way to play the hypocrisy card, I know) But come on! I work at his publishing house, and they put this on in my inbox as a freebie. I didn’t go looking for it on a shelf….it was IN my inbox. It’s like giving a new pair are shoes to a puppy….those shoes will be ripped to shreds in a matter of hours. So there, I’ve read my first legal thriller. I’m a big fan of shows like Boston Legal and Law and Order. Plus I’m a sucker for films like Michael Clayton and the Pelican Brief. Right away I know I’ll probably enjoy this more than say…a historical romance (I’m sure this isn’t going to be another Golden Tulip).

How was it? Not bad. But, I still like my court-room dramas to come from film, the immediacy of TV/film seems better suited to the timing of a court room. But, the book isn’t bad. The writing is solid. Grisham keeps things simple and quick. The pace is nice, and he knows how to move a plot a long and how to slow it down to build up the suspense. All in all it’s a nice ride.

But….the characters. I don’t mind when a TV show simplifies a character, and relies on visual stereotypes and cultural myths to create “real” people. It’s all a part of Hollywood. I get it. The point is to create a character as quickly as possible and get them doing things. However, I expect more from a book, when you’re reading a book you’ve got the space on a page for characters to develop. I understand that in a thriller the goal is the same: get to the plot as quickly as possible and get people hooked. So I was a little disappointed to find that the characters in Grisham’s book were the same ones that you find in ANYTHING (movie/TV show) churned out for mass-market consumption. The evil corporate bad guys are just that…greedy, evil, sleazy, and powerful, nothing more. The good guys are poor, church going, smart, family oriented, white, kind, and generous. Nothing more. The good guys get regular exercise, are up on all current affairs, and get the recommended amount of fiber too. Jeeze… who writes a character based on general statistics and myths of the “common” man? I don’t care who you are. No one is all sweetness and light. Everyone has something dark/interesting/secret about them. They can be kind, generous, loving, and good, but they have SOMETHING that makes them worth writing about. Every character has something about them that makes them come alive from the page. Sadly, ALL of these characters were missing that something. They were missing that spark that changes the good writing to great writing. Grisham was missing that thing that makes characters worth reading and watching.

The whole thing is so purely plot driven that I’ll just get my crime drama from TNT, and skip the disappointment of a good writer that could be so much better.

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