I Can Read: A Prereview of The Associate

'Legal' and 'thriller.' Two words you never thought you'd see together.

There they were all stacked up on a table by the checkout lane of Ralph’s Fine Foods: newly minted copies of John Grisham’s latest John Grisham. The Associate. And at 40% off! It was a Butterfinger in a beartrap, I knew, but I reached in anyhow and transferred the gleaming volume to the baby seat of a shopping cart filled with avocadoes, toaster waffles, hoisin sauce and Brawny paper towels.

Impulse purchases always shame a bit, but they have a zing, too, and buying books at a grocery store has a lowdown zing all its own. I still fondly remember the demimonde loucheness I felt tucking a lurid LeCarré — The Honourable Schoolboy — in amidst the Campbells cans back in the 20th century.

At least the LeCarré was a cheap paperback. The Grisham boasts cardboard flanks. Even at 40% off a hardcover junkola legal intrigue can’t be characterized as other than a squandering of wealth. But it’s not so much the expense. The shame in the case of The Associate lies in putting yet another book atop the already tottering “To Read” stack. Oh, I’ll get to it, sure, but when? What was the hurry?

So I handed it to Madame NiceWork for her entertainment and to assuage my guilt. She buzzed right through it. One go. A good sign, unputdownableness. Now Mme NiceWork generally prefers better reading than the rubbish with which I cloud my brain, but can recognize the charm of zippylit when it makes its brief but dashing appearance on the stage. Unfortunately, in the case of The Associate, despite its evident grip, she pronounced the ending “disappointing.”

There you have it: a pre-review. Disappointing. But I’ll read it anyhow — Grisham has me and he knows it, the fiend — and after I have done so and have formed an opinion, I will urge you on or warn you off. Until then, shopper, look neither left nor right as you roll forward to pay for your broccoli.

The Associate, by John Grisham, Doubleday Books, 373 carefully crafted pages.


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