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The King of Torts [Mass Market Paperback]

John Grisham
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (490 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 16 2003
The office of the public defender is not known as a training ground for bright young litigators. Clay Carter has been there too long and, like most of his colleagues, dreams of a better job in a real firm. When he reluctantly takes the case of a young man charged with a random street killing, he assumes it is just another of the many senseless murders that hit D.C. every week.

As he digs into the background of his client, Clay stumbles on a conspiracy too horrible to believe. He suddenly finds himself in the middle of a complex case against one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, looking at the kind of enormous settlement that would totally change his life—that would make him, almost overnight, the legal profession’s newest king of torts...

From the Hardcover edition.

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From Publishers Weekly

Grisham continues to impress with his daring, venturing out of legal thrillers entirely for A Painted House and Skipping Christmas (the re-release of which this past fall was itself a bold move) and, within the genre, working major variations. Here's his most unusual legal thriller yet--a story whose hero and villain are the same, a young man with the tragic flaw of greed; a story whose suspense arises not from physical threat but moral turmoil, and one that launches a devastating assault on a group of the author's colleagues within the law. Mass tort lawyers are Grisham's target, the men (they're all men here, at least) who win billion-dollar class-action settlements from corporations selling bad products, then rake fantastic fees off the top, with far smaller payouts going to the people harmed by the products. Clay Carter is a burning-out lawyer at the Office of the Public Defender (OPD) in Washington, D.C., when he catches the case of a teen who, for no apparent reason, has gunned down an acquaintance. Clay is approached by a mysterious stranger, the enigmatic Max Pace, who says he represents a megacorporation whose bad drug caused the teen--and others--to kill. The corporation will pay Clay $10 million to settle with all the murder victims at $5 million per, if all is accomplished on the hush-hush; that way, the corporation avoids trial and possibly much higher jury awards. After briefly examining his conscience, Clay bites. He quits the OPD, sets up his own firm and settles the cases. In reward, Pace gives him a present--a mass tort case based on stolen evidence but worth tens of millions in fees. Clay lunges again, eventually winning over a hundred million in fees. He is crowned by the press the new King of Torts, with enough money to hobnob with the other, venal-hearted tort royalty, to buy a Porsche, a Georgetown townhouse and a private jet, but not enough to forget his heartache over the woman he loves, who dumped him as a loser right before his career took off. Clay's financial/legal hubris knows few bounds, and soon he's overextended, his future hanging on the results of one product liability trial. The tension is considerable throughout, and readers will like the gentle ending, but Grisham's aim here clearly is to educate as he entertains. He can be didactic (" `Nobody earns ten million dollars in six months, Clay,' " a friend warns. " `You might win it, steal it, or have it drop out of the sky, but nobody earns money like that. It's ridiculous and obscene' "), but readers will applaud Grisham's fierce moral stance (while perhaps wondering what sort of advance he got for this book) as they cling to his words every step along the way of this powerful and gripping morality tale.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“Rousing . . . Another pedal-to-the-metal crowd-pleaser.”—People

“Offers everything one expects from Grisham . . . delivers with a vengeance.”—The Seattle Times

“Satisfying . . . a lot of fun . . . When you finish it, you’re ready to dash on to the next Grisham.”—Entertainment Weekly
“A thrill ride of twists and turns.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A tip of the cap to Citizen Kane July 5 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
John Grisham's The King of Torts focuses on a lawyer named Clay Carter. He's a small time attorney in the public defender's office who is handed an unwinable murder case. A young man has shot someone in cold blood and Clay has to defend him. Just as he is about to get his way out of the case, a man approaches him and gives him the opportunity to make a lot of money by dropping the case, quitting his job with the PD, and opening his own firm. He learns that the young man who he was defending may not have been completely responsible for the murder and a drug company wants things swept under the rug.
This starts a chain of events that leads him to the top of the legal profession by doing mass class action suits, settling the cases, raking a third off the top, and paying his clients the pittance they had been promised. He wants more than anything to get back his girlfriend, who dumped him when he had no foreseeable future. Now he has a new life, new woman, new friends, and even his own jet.
But things are not all well. He is blind to things happening right in front of his face. I mentioned in my title that this book is like Citizen Kane. The main character in that film, Charles Foster Kane, is only concerned with money and power, and he achieves it at the cost of all human personal relationships. Clay Carter is also power hungry, but in a different way. His wealth is more tenuous and he eventually succumbs to his desires.
This book is very well written, interesting, fast paced, and fun. I read it in one evening, without putting it down. The message is a good one and it is something different from Grisham. Not a second of this book is in a courtroom. The legal proceedings take place in the form of settlements. After the many books he has written, Grisham still has the ability to weave interesting stories around great characters. I loved this book.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Not one of his better efforts July 3 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Every time I finish a Grisham novel, I swear that I will never read another one. But later, in a moment of weakness while browsing an airport gift shop for a light read during the flight or flipping through a copy of his latest paperback that has been strategically placed with the other impulse items in the checkout line at the grocery store, I will pick up another.
Like all of Grisham's novels, this was an enjoyable enough read, although painfully familiar and predictable to anybody who has read 3 or 4 of his other legal thrillers. However, I found this one to be one of his weaker novels. I found the main character, one Clay Carter, to be very unbelievable. Whether he was running his very lucrative, $100 million dollar law firm almost solely on basis of the vague tips received from mysterious stranger that he knows very little about or was short selling 100,000 shares of a pharmaceutical company on the eve of his firm's filing a class action lawsuit against that company - after instructing his accountant to be very conservative with the books ("No sense trying to beat the government out of a some taxes. Pay them and sleep well") only four pages earlier, I had a hard time taking this character seriously. (What was more infuriating than the inconsistency regarding the insider trading incident was the fact that it didn't occur to Mr. Carter that there was anything illegal about the trade until about 200 pages later in the novel, and even then, he concluded that it was probably 'a gray area' - I guess Mr. Carter slept through those securities law courses at Georgetown Law School.)
But more than that, when I finished this book, I was left feeling less than satisfied. Mr. Grisham is usually very good about tying off all of the loose ends and packaging his endings with a nice moralistic bow. Unfortunately, he doesn't do so with this book.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great Grisham June 16 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I was really impressed by Grisham's King of Torts. I have liked almost all of Grisham's books, The Summons probably being my least favorite, but I thought Grisham really rebounded well here and wrote a great book.
As for all the negative reviews you see on this site, why are there people who have read all of Grisham's books, but hate all of them? Something doesn't make sense to me there. Boo you!
As for me, I have enjoyed a number of Grisham's later books, The Brethren and the Street Lawyer I thought were awesome, and you can put The King of Torts on that list.
Look, there may be parts of this book that are a little stretched or unrealistic, but the pages fly like an eagle in this one. It's a great story with a character you really care about. I could see myself being Clay Carter.
A lot of people won't like the ending to the book, but it's one you sleep on and agree with I think. I loved the King of Torts, and I look forward to reading the Juror. No, Grisham may not be William Faulkner, or take his works to an emotional or artistic high. But he's a darn good writer, and one of the best storytellers we've got.
In the King of Torts, Grisham delivers.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Not Grisham's Best June 10 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I read this book in two days in the middle of the Iraqi desert last year. I had some time on my hands and was able to burn through this book pretty quickly. Wasn't too impressed with it and moved on to my next novel in the stack to pass the time. First off, this is the fourth Grisham book I have read and I am noticing a disturbing pattern, suggesting that Grisham has gotten lazy in his writing. I knew how this book would turn out after the first hundred pages: he would win the day, get the girl, and watch it all come crashing down before making his escape in the end. Why does it seem that ALL Grisham's books end with the protagonist(s) leaving the country or fleeing to distant lands at the end of his books? The idea of someone finding the wonderous and profitable world of the class action suit that late in life seems rather naive for the narrator. A lot of plot devices additionally seem quaint, unbelievable and very predictable. I am giving this novel two stars because Grisham has made a novel about class actions seem exciting. An accomplishment in itself.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Legal Thriller Based On Greed
I found this book particularly interesting because I work in health care. Health care has spawned the side industry of health-related legal settlements. Read more
Published on Nov. 7 2008 by Douglas P. Murphy
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous!
This was my very first Grisham novel to actually read all the way through. I really enjoyed it! I was drawn in right from the beginning. Read more
Published on April 13 2007 by L. Murray
1.0 out of 5 stars Worst Grisham book ever...
I'm a fan of John Grisham and I've read almost all his books.
This 'King of Torts' was absolutely crap! Read more
Published on July 18 2004 by Remi
5.0 out of 5 stars awesome
AWESOME...his best book to date!! I read some of the negative reviews here (one about the temperature accuracy in Flagstaff- give me a break! Read more
Published on July 15 2004 by dave c
5.0 out of 5 stars One of His Best
I thought this was one of Grisham's best. I read "The Brethren" before this book, but didn't become quite as attached to the characters as I did in this book. Read more
Published on July 14 2004 by C. Davidson
3.0 out of 5 stars A captivating read, but not the best...
If this novel had not captured my interest from the beginning, I would be giving it a one star. The plot was very interesting, the there was a ton of suspense. Read more
Published on July 7 2004 by Andrew
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
This was an enjoyable book. I liked the humor. My favorite scene was the wedding reception. It's not really a thriller; it's a morality play about selling your soul. Read more
Published on June 15 2004 by A. Cardona
1.0 out of 5 stars I want my money back...
To be honest, I felt the need to purchase King of Torts after overhearing a co-worker boast of a excellent read. To say I was sadly mistaken is an understatement. Read more
Published on June 8 2004 by Rose
4.0 out of 5 stars If you like Grisham ...
If you are a Grisham fan, you will not be disappointed. If you question lawyer's ethics and morals, you will not be disappointed. Read more
Published on June 6 2004 by Carin
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