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The Summons Paperback – Sep 27 2005
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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
Last year's historical family drama A Painted House and the Christmas satire Skipping Christmas demonstrated that Grisham is willing to take risks. But fans of his legal thrillers already knew that, with his last three, particularly The Testament, making Play-Doh of the rules of the genre. Sometimes Grisham's friskiness works, and sometimes it doesn't. There's much to admire in his newest thriller, particularly his colorful evocation of a Deep South legal setting, his first use of this milieu since his debut novel, A Time to Kill, and some finely drawn characters. Even so, this isn't one of his most satisfying books, for while the narrative engages, it never catches fire. The setup is prime Grisham: Ray Atlee, a professor of law at the University of Virginia, is summoned home to Clanton, Miss., to the deathbed of his father, legendary judge Reuben V. Atlee; also summoned is Ray's younger brother, Forrest, a chronic drug abuser. Ray arrives home first, to find the judge dead and more than $3 million stored in boxes in a cabinet cash not mentioned in the judge's will and whose source baffles Ray. Grisham does a wonderful job of digging into Ray's increasingly frazzled head as, stunned, the professor decides to keep the money a secret, even from Forrest, and to safeguard it until he figures out what to do. Greed, frayed nerves and fear plague Ray during the coming weeks, as he investigates, scrambling from one hideout to the next, becoming ever more aware that someone dangerous is following him and wants the money. Several scenarios Ray's indulging his passion for flying small planes; his playing some of the cash at casinos to test it for counterfeiting; his dealings with screwed-up Forrest and his father's cronies, notably an ex-mistress and a wily old attorney propel the story, and Ray, forward to the source of the money, a revelation that allows Grisham to take his usual swipes at big lawyerism but which will register for many as anticlimactic though there's a final twist that as nifty and unexpected as anything Grisham has wrought. Grisham's writing is silky smooth here, his storytelling captivating; but the novel's lack of action a stone thrown through a window is as violent as it gets and the dissipation of all tension too far from the end make this, while a clever tale, one that's just too quiet. Grisham's fans might as well trim their nails while reading this, because they sure won't be biting them.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
From a legal and personal perspective, this book raises some nice ethical questions:
1. What is the obligation to protect the reputation and memory of a deceased person?
2. How should an addict be protected from hurting himself?
3. How far should potentially illegal activities be pursued by an attorney who is an executor of an estate?
4. How should protecting property be weighed against protecting life?
5. Can you overcome the temptation to run off with something that no one knows you have found?
Attorney and law professor Ray Atlee is faced with all of those issues and more when he returns home to find his father dead and the living room filled with stationery boxes bursting with cash. First, he wants to know if the cash is counterfeit or part of some illegal activity. Second, he is concerned that his brother not go on a long cocaine-sniffing holiday from which he might not survive. Third, he's afraid someone will walk off with the money. Fourth, he begins to think how nice it would be to avoid paying taxes on the money. Fifth, he dreams about having it all to himself.
But life isn't that simple. Someone else seems to know about the money, and they are getting aggressive about retrieving it. What will Ray do?Read more ›
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.
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.
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.
Most recent customer reviews
Like most Grishyam books it holds your interest to the end.Published 23 months ago by William Chilton
This one was especially good. Love the twists at the end of his books. Have read most of his books.Published on April 29 2014 by Edward
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 morePublished on Sept. 18 2013 by James A. Anderson
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 morePublished on June 22 2011 by J Reader
Ray Atlee is a UVA law professor in Charlottesville, VA and receives the news that his father, Judge Reuben Atlee, has died. Read morePublished on Nov. 23 2008 by Douglas P. Murphy
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
Anyone calling this drivel a pleasent read should have never read anything decent in his life so that he is short of comparing. Read morePublished on July 18 2004