Book #1 of the 2015 Reading Challenge – The Summons by John Grisham


Read a book with bad reviews.

Actually, I started reading The Summons by John Grisham last year…around December 15th when I was on Allure of the Seas’ 7-night Caribbean cruise (take me back, please!). It took me almost a month to finish, which is not because the book is super long or super hard to read…it’s Grisham, after all.

That being said, I don’t think it was Grisham at all. I’ve only read a few of his other novels, the last one being The Firm, which I read last summer at my parents’ house in Denmark. The first Grisham novel that I read was A Time to Kill and both were the kinds of books that sucked you in from the first 5-10 pages with well developed characters, plots…books that you just didn’t want to end. Ever.

The story moves just about as slowly as I imagine things generally do in the South. It’s got a lot of potential (a dead judge, boxes full of money, a son who is a drug addict (Forrest), another son who is a lawyer (Ray), a few bad guys (we never really find out who they are), the dead judge’s suspicious “girlfriend”, etc.), but unfortunately these elements and characters are never really put to great use.

Spoiler alert – – –

The story is simple. Two sons receive a summons from their father (a prominent judge in Clanton…somewhere in the South, USA) who is dying of cancer. The lawyer son, Ray, arrives first at their old childhood home and finds the judge dead on the couch (no big deal, we knew he was dying anyways). He rummages around the house for a bit and discovers some hidden boxes filled with cash – lots of cash!

The rest of the book is basically about how Ray tries to hide the money from everyone (including his own brother, a no good drug head) while trying to figure out where the money came from (was his dad a corrupt judge?) and what to do with it.

Grisham throws in a few “I know what you did” elements and some bad guys who break into Ray’s apartment, etc., for good measure.

However, I still think he could’ve done so much more with this story. If only the judge had been corrupt and his death had sparked an investigation followed by a court hearing/case, etc., then the story might had had some meat on its bones. But there’s not even that…and the money just came from another lawyer who won a big case in the dead judge’s courtroom and decided to give the judge 10% of his winnings. Maybe that’s illegal or not…I don’t know, but the fact was revealed so casually in a conversation between the lawyer and Ray, without any subsequent consequences that it seemed like it was not a big issue.

If the story is meant to be about morals and “what would you do in this case”, then I still think it’s a weak one. Ray doesn’t do anything with the money…he just moves it around, hides it in a self storage facility and in the end we don’t even know what happens to the money, because nothing happens. It doesn’t even change him (his character), apart from making him more nervous about who’s following him, who’s watching him move the money and who might know that it exists.

The end of the story reveals that it wasn’t the judge who sent the summons to his sons – it was Forrest, who knew about the money first but kept it secret, because he wanted to see how Ray would handle finding it and what he’d do with it. The story ends wide open and sort of just fizzles out like a soda that’s been left open for too long.

How on earth this one could become a #1 New York Times Bestseller…I have no idea.


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