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The Summons [Paperback]

John Grisham
2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (685 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 27 2005
Once Judge Atlee was a powerful figure in Clanton, Mississippi--a pillar of the community who towered over local law and politics for forty years. Now the judge is a shadow of his former self, a sick, lonely old man who has withdrawn to his sprawling ancestral home. Knowing the end is near, Judge Atlee has issued a summons for his two sons to return to Clanton to discuss his estate. Ray Atlee is the eldest, a Virginia law professor, newly single and still enduring the aftershocks of a surprise divorce. Forrest is Ray’s younger brother, who redefines the notion of a family’s black sheep.

The summons is typed by the judge himself, on his handsome old stationery, and gives the date and time for Ray and Forrest to appear in his study. Ray reluctantly heads south to his hometown, to the place where he grew up and now prefers to avoid. But the family meeting does not take place. The judge dies too soon, and in doing so leaves behind a shocking secret known only to Ray.

And perhaps someone else.

From the Paperback edition.

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The Summons + The Brethren + The Street Lawyer: A Novel
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Product Description

From Amazon

Law professor Ray Atlee and his prodigal brother, Forrest, are summoned home to Clanton, Mississippi, by their ailing father to discuss his will. But when Ray arrives the judge is already dead, and the one-page document dividing his meager estate between the two sons seems crystal clear. What it doesn't mention, however, is the small fortune in cash Ray discovers hidden in the old man's house--$3 million he can't account for and doesn't mention to brother Forrest, either.

Ray's efforts to keep his find a secret, figure out where it came from, and hide it from a nameless extortioner, who seems to know more about it than he does, culminate in a denouement with an almost biblical twist. It's a slender plot to hang a thriller on, and in truth it's not John Grisham's best in terms of pacing, dramatic tension, and interesting characters (except for Harry Rex, a country lawyer who was the judge's closest friend and in many ways is the father Ray wishes he'd had. He's so vivid he jumps off the page). But Grisham's legions of fans are likely to enjoy The Summons even if it lacks the power of some of his classic earlier books, like The Firm, The Brethren, and The Testament. --Jane Adams --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Beck offers a fine performance in this no-frills production of Grisham's latest, despite its lack of overall narrative zip. University of Virginia law professor Ray Atlee stumbles upon more than $3 million in cash in the rural Mississippi house of his dead father, then tries to discover the source of the money and elude an increasingly persistent and menacing extortionist. Beck is a dynamic reader and excels at tackling the challenge of capturing the characters' Southern twang in the story's dialogue. Ray's voice is refined and authoritative, while that of his black sheep brother, Forrest, carries a slight crack that befits a person lacking in confidence and maturity. Family friend and local lawyer Harry Rex stands out the most, and Beck also deftly portrays a smarmy, boozing Delta attorney who calls himself the "King of the Torts." But even with these intriguing, well-rounded characters and a nice evocation of the legal system's more unsavory machinations, the plot won't move listeners to the edge of their seats. Beck, however, does well with what he has, which is a decently written but rather sluggish tale of suspense with a quirky cast and one good twist at the end. Simultaneous release with the Doubleday hardcover
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
Most Grisham books can be described as having weak characterization but a strong plot or theme ("The Firm" comes to mind). Not this one. Basically, as I read this book, I kept waiting for there to be an actual plot. Forget it. There is no plot to speak of.
Basically (no spoiler here) the protagonist's father is an honest but tyrannical judge. He dies. The protagonist finds a whole lot of cash money in his estate that cannot be explained. Can't be bribes because the judge was honest. So where did the money come from? That's the "plot." You get this in the first few pages. I won't "spoil" the rest, except that there is hardly any more to spoil.
This is one of Grisham's weaker books. It was readable, and his description of the "King of Torts" lawyer was funny, if stereotypical. But make no mistake, there isn't much of a story here. It is almost as though Grisham lost interest in this one even as he was writing it.
I'll give it two stars because it was not so bad that I didn't finish it.
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3.0 out of 5 stars It is Grisham, but not at his best March 25 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Judge Reuben Atlee of Clanton, Mississippi, an irascible Southern aristocrat, now alone and wizened, has typed a brief letter on his old Underwood summoning his long-departed sons to discuss the disposition of his estate. But that discussion never occurs as Ray Atlee, a law school professor, arrives to find that his father has died in his sleep. In addition a last-minute will is discovered. His wayward younger brother Forrest is little concerned other than for Ray, the named executor of the estate, to not cheat him out of his share of what seems to be a rather modest estate. But Ray's simple administrative task gets abruptly complicated when he discovers millions in boxes stuffed in a cabinet.
Ray decides to remove the money from the Judge's house, place it in a storage rental unit in his Virginia college town, and determine the source of the money and who knows about it. He almost immediately becomes concerned that he is being watched. "The Summons" basically follows Ray in his inter-state travels and his paranoia over the stash of money. Break-ins of his apartment and photographs of the storage unit received in the mail intensify his apprehension. He is able through some skillful subterfuges to narrow the potential list of sources of the money as well as those who may know of it.
As some reviewers have noted, the book becomes a little repetitious in following Ray's journeys and his incessant moving and guarding of the money. The plot borders on the too simple with such concerns as the authenticity of a last minute will not being timely examined. And the ending is almost predictable and slightly confusing at the same time. This is hardly the most gripping Grisham novel that I have read to this point.
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5.0 out of 5 stars May be one of Grisham's best novels to date March 9 2004
By Larry
Ray Atlee is summoned back to his childhood home by his ailing father, Judge Reuban Atlee. Judge Atlee is dying of cancer and, presumably, wants to settle his estate with his sons, Ray and Forrest. However, when Ray arrives at the home, he finds his father already dead. The estate doesn't amount to very much. However, as Ray searches the house on his own, he comes upon a large sum of money not accounted for in the will. The cash totals 3.5 million dollars. After the house is broken into and searched, Ray realizes he is not the only one who knows about the money. As he takes the time to decide how he should handle the situation, he becomes more and more threatened by the shadowy presence of his pursuers.
John Grisham, as one of the world's bestselling and best known writers, should set a very high standard for himself. The reason he is so well regarded is much in evidence here. The writing is very strong with a profound sense of place. The characters are well thought out and it is their vivid realism that propels the story along. In a sense, Ray Atlee reminds me of the Dick Francis hero with his strong set of values which must be upheld at any cost. This may be one of John Grisham's best novels in quite some time. However, even at his most mediocre, he is better than the vast majority of writers working today.
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By "anuhc"
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Since 8th or 9th grade, I¡¯ve been a huge fan of John Grisham and this time it was surely quite fun, but did not leave me with an impressive bang.
This book is about three men, Judge Atlee, who has been in the court for a long time and now ill and senile. To hand his will to his sons, Ray and Forrest, he types up a summon. Ray is the eldest and a Virginia law professor. On the other hand, Forrest does not have a job and have gone to rehab many times for drinking.
First of all, similar to most of Grisham¡¯s books, he uses the 3rd person perspective, and it works quite well. The narrator brings out the character¡¯s emotions and tells what they¡¯re thinking, though in my opinion, it could¡¯ve added a little bit more tension if he used 1st person perspective. The story doesn¡¯t just open up, it firmly builds a background knowledge of Judge, Ray and Forrest¡¯s life, so that we could understand much thoroughly. One of the factors that make Grisham¡¯s book so great is that I could picture it as I read. The confluence of the narration, conversation between characters, reactions and emotions are very realistic and attention grabbing. From the beginning to the climax, Grisham successfully keeps readers interested, by putting in some mysterious events. However, at the end, everything just happens too quickly. The mystery is not solved and he may have thought it could be better to leave it just unsolved, so that readers can ponder upon it. However, I surely could have enjoyed it more if Grisham added some pages to tell me what happened. Overall, this book was not as good as Grisham¡¯s prior pieces, but still, a good and solid writing.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Like most Grishyam books it holds your interest to the end.
Published 1 month ago by W.Dale Chilton
5.0 out of 5 stars Love John Grisham books
This one was especially good. Love the twists at the end of his books. Have read most of his books.
Published 4 months ago by Edward
2.0 out of 5 stars Skip This One!
I was extremely disappointed with this book. Almost no suspense and a lacklustre plot. Well below John Grisham's standards. There are far better Grisham novels out there. Read more
Published 12 months ago by James A. Anderson
4.0 out of 5 stars Not for most Grisham fans.
The Summons differs from the bulk of Grisham's body of work in that it relies heavily on suspense and contains very little action. Read more
Published on June 22 2011 by J Reader
4.0 out of 5 stars Two Different Worlds
Ray Atlee is a UVA law professor in Charlottesville, VA and receives the news that his father, Judge Reuben Atlee, has died. Read more
Published on Nov. 23 2008 by Douglas P. Murphy
2.0 out of 5 stars A Law School Hypothetical Problem Turned into a Slow-Moving Novel
One of the problems of being a lawyer is that you can start to think like one all too much of the time. Read more
Published on Nov. 29 2007 by Donald Mitchell
4.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed this book very much
I could not put it down until it was done. I cannot think of a better way to spend a rainy afternoon. Can't wait to get my hands on the author's next works.
Published on Sept. 24 2005
1.0 out of 5 stars Dumb!
Anyone calling this drivel a pleasent read should have never read anything decent in his life so that he is short of comparing. Read more
Published on July 18 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars I guess I'm in a minority here - I loved this one
I'd go into the plot but that's been done already. Needless to say I enjoyed reading Ray Atlee's odyssey, well-written by Grisham, with one of those "I can't believe I didn't... Read more
Published on July 7 2004 by John
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, quick read
Grisham goes back to Clanton in "The Summons," a book about two brothers and their estranged dad. Read more
Published on June 21 2004 by Moonlight Graham
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