The 100 Books Project: The Pelican Brief.

“‘And I guess you think reporters are adored.'”


“The Pelican Brief” by John Grisham

This was my first time ever even really considering reading a Grisham novel. I’ve never even seen a Grisham movie. But it was there in my pile of books, and so I ready it and, while I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it either. Although I probably shouldn’t have looked up the cast of the movie halfway through reading it, because then I could have spared myself having to go through the remainder of it and continuing to think, “…whut?”

The story follows young, brilliant, and beautiful (of course!) law student Darby Shaw after shit hit the fan when she, on some sort of determined whim, writes a brief outlining a possible suspect for the recent murders of two Supreme Court Justices. She passes it on to her professor-slash-lover, who hands it to a friend in the FBI, and then it gets to the White House and touches a few nerves, raises a few flags, and now Darby is running for her life after a carbomb meant for her kills the professor-slash-lover. With the help of Washington Post reporter Gray Grantham, can they find the proof needed to publish the brief and bring the current presidential administration down…and still get out alive?

I feel a plot like this requires a bit of a suspension of disbelief, which is probably why I could never really write something like it myself. It was entertaining, and I think that’s mostly what it was going for, but I think I’d rather just stick with Bond. At least with Bond, they let the villains be outlandish in more than just one scene; we get one look at the bad guy called out in the pelican brief and it’s so randomly over-the-top and Bond-esque that you wonder if the scene is really even necessary. I did find a lot of the devices Darby uses to keep running interesting, as well as the many close calls, but it also made me think of how dated the book, published in 1992, could feel. No cell phones or email mentioned at all, which felt interesting and made me feel like I was reading about a much simpler time of criminal investigation. It’s not my style at all, all the law and politics and what have you, but it was written in a way that it didn’t get overwhelming, and I appreciated that, too. A nice, light read, really…

I should really check out the movie, but I don’t think I could with a straight face. Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington. Ohhh, so 90s.

One thing I was particularly incensed about, though, was Grisham’s habit of starting out his chapters with pronouns rather than characters’ names. I know it’s a little thing, but it was really irritating for me, personally, to have so many chapters start with “She did this” or “He was going to do this.” Then again, the language used in the writing in general wasn’t exactly poetic or lyrical…Ah, well. Different books, different intents, different audiences.

Books read: 13 out of 100.

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