Reviews for Sparring Partners

by John Grisham

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

In "Homecoming," one of this trio of novellas, Grisham revisits one of his most popular characters, attorney Jake Brigance (from A Time to Kill, Sycamore Road, and A Time for Mercy). Here, Brigance is surprised to learn that a former colleague, who fled the country after stealing money from his clients, wants to come home. The story sets the reader up with certain expectations and then goes in an entirely different direction, leading to a satisfying and surprising conclusion. “Strawberry Moon,” the most emotionally resonant of the three novellas, is set during the few hours remaining in the life of death-row inmate Cody Wallace, who was convicted as a teenager and has spent half his existence awaiting execution. “Sparring Partners,” which is most like a Grisham legal thriller, puts readers on the metaphorical battlefield as two brothers, co-owners of a struggling legal firm, are forced to hammer out a truce; the warring brothers are wonderful characters, and the story is full of twists and turns. An absorbing collection and a real treat for Grisham’s fans.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Grisham's books have sold nearly 500,000 copies, a number that will take another leap forward with his first collection of novellas.

Publishers Weekly
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Thinly developed characters and underwhelming plots mar the three entries in bestseller Grisham’s first novella collection. “Homecoming,” the opener, underutilizes Ford County, Miss., attorney Jake Brigance, the lead of Grisham’s debut, A Time to Kill. A couple hand deliver a letter to Jake from Mack Stafford, someone they met on vacation in Costa Rica; he’s an old colleague of Jake’s who fled the county three years earlier after filing for bankruptcy and divorcing his wife. Mack asks Jake for help learning the level of risk he would face if he returned home to reconnect with family he abandoned, including his mother and daughters. The story line ends with a whimper, presenting no genuine ethical dilemmas. Readers will struggle to feel any sense of gross injustice in “Strawberry Moon,” about the last hours of a young man facing execution for a crime he aided in as a teen. Equally unmemorable is the title tale, which focuses on machinations at a law firm. Mundane prose doesn’t help (“It was one of those raw, windy, dreary Monday afternoons in February when gloom settled over the land”). Grisham has done a lot better. Agent: David Gernert, Gernert Co. (May)

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Three Grisham novellas show the less glorious side of the legal profession. In the first, Homecoming, Jake Brigance is a lawyer in a small Mississippi town with too many lawyers. One day, his office receives an envelope containing a note and enough cash for a one-week vacation to Costa Rica for Jake and his wife. All he’s asked to do is convey a message and relay the response. The offer/request is from Mack Stafford, an attorney who’d skipped town three years earlier with $400,000 of his clients’ money, leaving behind his wife, two teenage daughters, and clients who still don’t even know they’ve been bilked. Now he feels bad and wants to come home and reestablish contact with family. Will they want anything to do with him? No startling twists, but Mack is surprisingly sympathetic given what he’s done. In Strawberry Moon, 29-year-old Cody Wallace sits on death row for a botched robbery-turned-murder committed when he was 14. His brother had pulled the trigger on the homeowners and was killed in the shootout. Over the years, Cody’s lawyer has tried every legal trick and delaying tactic he could, and now it’s execution day. The only hope left is clemency from the governor. Meanwhile, Cody’s sole visitor has been his lawyer, although a Midwestern woman has corresponded with him and sent him books—lots of books. With execution imminent, he has one last wish that’s against prison rules and could get a friendly guard fired. The last yarn, Sparring Partners, features a most dysfunctional family of lawyers. Bolton Malloy is the disbarred head of Malloy & Malloy and is serving prison time for killing his wife, a most disagreeable woman whom no one misses. Rusty and Kirk, his two lawyer sons, despise each other as well as dear old dad, but their old man has forced them to sign an agreement never to leave the firm without paying a serious penalty. Bolton hopes to get out of prison soon, but the kids hope otherwise. So while the first two stories are touching, the last is anything but. You just want everybody to slither back under a rock—or maybe under separate rocks. Grisham’s fans will enjoy these tales of betrayal, hope, and dysfunction. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.