The Client | Critical Review by Tom Nolan

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of The Client.
This section contains 508 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Tom Nolan

Critical Review by Tom Nolan

SOURCE: "The Grisham Formula Revisited," in The Wall Street Journal, March 12, 1993, p. A6.

In the following review, Nolan finds the plot of The Client implausible and the characters unappealing.

John Grisham established a formula for generating suspense in his first runaway bestseller, The Firm: An innocent citizen is caught between the opposing and uncompromising forces of organized crime and federal law enforcement. The protagonist defies both camps to fashion a unique way out of the dilemma.

Mr. Grisham hews to the formula in his new novel, The Client. Here the innocent confronted with unappealing options is Mark Sway, an 11-year-old Memphis boy, who is present when mob lawyer Jerome Clifford commits suicide.

Clifford's hottest client, a New Orleans hood known as Barry "The Blade" Muldanno, has been indicted for the murder of a senator, although the apparent victim's body has not yet been found. Clifford knows the location of the corpse and reveals that information to young Sway before killing himself. Local and federal law enforcement officials want Sway to tell what he knows, but the mobster's minions warn him not to.

Afraid to talk lest he jeopardize the lives of his family and himself, Sway all on his own gets himself an attorney, retaining for the sum of $1 the services of 52-year-old Reggie Love, a shrewd and capable advocate specializing in protecting children's rights.

Love has her hands full looking out for this urchin. Among those arrayed against Sway are a sanctimonious, publicity-hungry U.S. attorney and a gaggle of determined FBI agents. The tough fourth-year lawyer soon has them all tied in knots, though, including the FBI—"the Fibbies," as the gangsters call them, or "those clowns," in the words of Mark Sway.

A great deal of disbelief must be suspended in order for this plot to unfold. Does it make any sort of sense for the mobsters to "warn" this boy to keep quiet? Wouldn't they prefer to eliminate the potential witness outright? Too much heat would be generated were they to commit such an outrageous crime, one hood says. More heat than for the murder of a senator?

And how does keeping silent protect Sway at all? Surely telling what he knows is Sway's only way to safety. Why would the bad guys come after him once the secret was out? And if the villainous Muldanno can elude FBI surveillance in order to hire people to harass and threaten the child-witness and his lawyer, couldn't he just as easily persuade some cronies to move the corpse he's so worried will be found?

Eventually Muldanno does just that, but only in order to set up a contrived slam-dunk sequence in which Sway and Love outwit a bunch even clumsier than The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight.

Just as aggravating as these implausibilities is the personality of the book's "hero," a tot who is alternately smug, patronizing and whiny—probably the most obnoxious child in American fiction since the little terror in O. Henry's "The Ransom of Red Chief." By midpoint of The Client, this reader found himself rooting for "those clowns."

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This section contains 508 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Tom Nolan
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