An Officer And Four Gentlemen

What happens when four con men go head-to-head with the future President of the United States?

John Grisham's always been known for his legal thrillers - his stories and characters, all drawn from the legal profession, run deep with their explorations of race, friendship, loyalty and moral ambiguity. And so his latest thriller, "The Brethren", comes as a pleasant surprise - similar in vein to "The Rainmaker", Grisham adopts a much lighter tone and once again demonstrates to his wholly-captivated audience how a string of apparently unrelated coincidences can be woven into a strong, funny and enjoyable tale.

"The Brethren" spans two different worlds: one is the world of high politics, in which an unassuming Senator is being quietly anointed to become the next President of the United States by a powerful CIA chieftain, and the other is a low-security prison, in which a group of three former judges, known as the Brethren, are slowly fine-tuning a mail order scam. Unwittingly, they discover a piece of information that could do irreparable damage to the Senator's chances of becoming the next President - and as they slowly understand the import of what they know, they begin to see the possibilities of doing themselves some good out of it...

As you can imagine, "The Brethren" sometimes crosses the boundaries of plausibility; but the book takes itself so light-heartedly, and Grisham's treatment of his subject matter is so expert, that it's difficult to get annoyed. Of course, Grisham's no stranger to the bestseller list - each of his previous novels has sold millions, and he's had almost a decade's worth of experience writing legal thrillers - but by deciding to forego the high-brow philosophical wrangling that characterized previous thrillers for a romp through a career criminal's mind, he's brought a breath of fresh air to the been-there-done-that legal thriller, done himself a world of good...and given us a great read to boot!

This article was first published on 14 Mar 2000.