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The Pelican Brief
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on August 31, 2016
I thought that the book was slow at first but it made up for it in the end. I could not put it down. I real page turner. Great book!!
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on February 19, 2010
THe movie was great, but having seen it repeatedly, and enjoying it every time, I was astounded at the extra information the book provided. Now I understand what was missing from an already outstanding story covered in the film. Thanks to John Grishams writing skills, drawing from his personal experiences and his astute grasp on current attitudes and reactions, this is indeed A WINNER..GLR
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on March 14, 2014
John Grisham is my favorite crime writer! I love The Pelican Brief as a suspenseful fast paced read. You always get transported into the midst of all the angst without being in danger yourself!! Love it.
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on January 20, 2018
Very entertaining.
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on April 22, 2017
Riveting from start to finish.
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#1 HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon April 24, 2008
If you are thinking about going to law school, this wouldn't be a bad novel to read to get a sense of what the profession is all about before you commit yourself to three expensive (and potentially boring) years of education. I don't recall a book that displays so many of the corrupt sides of legal practice and education in a single fictional tale. If that weren't enough, the book also delves deeply into the international assassination genre and creates a modern-day fictional version of investigating a government cover-up at the highest levels, a la Watergate.

But a pure heart among all the jaded ones can make a difference . . . that's the morale of this story as beautiful, dedicated, and brilliant law student Darby Shaw speculates on what motive might tie the assassination of two Supreme Court justices back to a pending legal case. Improbably (the weakest part of the story), she sniffs out the potential that no one else does -- that this is an attempt to fix an appeal.

The Pelican Brief as a title is a misnomer. Darby writes her thoughts (a crude essay, not a brief) about what might be going on and shares them with her professor lover who passes them along to a counsel for the FBI. Pretty soon someone is taking her ideas seriously, and the pages will fly through your fingers as fast as you can read until you get to the end.

John Grisham doesn't quite have his genres down in this book, and apparently the success of The Firm meant that his editors were more interested in getting The Pelican Brief published than making it better. You could fix this novel into a five-star effort with about two hours of editing to reduce the improbabilities and speed up the slow parts.

But if you don't mind having unlikely events pull a riveting story together, you'll have a lot of fun with The Pelican Brief. I listened to the reading by Alexander Adams and felt that the story worked better listened to than it would be if read silently.

I admire John Grisham for the imagination to conceive of such a wild story. He kept surprising me with his plot developments, and the trip was almost all fun.
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on February 17, 2004
The Pelican Brief by John Grisham is by far THE BEST JOHN GRISHAM novel I have read so far. The Pelican Brief starts out with the deaths of two Supreme Court judges, who get assassinated by a mysterious assassin named Khamel. Now law student Darby Shaw takes a shot in the dark and writes a brief on who killed the two Supreme Court judges. Now once she finishes it, she then gives it to her lover and professor to read it, then the FBI get their hands on it, and also the President who is intrigued by this little brief.
Now as the brief gets around, Darby's professor is killed by a car bomb which was intended for him and her! But she escapes thanks to his drunken state. Now she is on the run, and the killers want her dead at any cost. Then she runs into a Washington Post writer, and they get into contact. She tells him about the brief and joins the hunt for a mysterious man named "Garcia" who works for this huge firm in D.C.
Now escaping death many times, Darby then finds out who "Garcia" really is, they then discover the whole thing, and they report it in print, and now everyone is going down; including some of the President's men. Why did the huge firm want the Supreme Court judges dead? Simple. It was a case that involved a case involving the marshlands, and oil, the firm wanted to win the case, but they knew that they were going to lose if it went to the Supreme Court, so they hired a trained assassin to kill the two judges so if they can be replaced with two new judges. Interesting? I thought so.
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on August 2, 2001
John Grisham has written some good novels that fall into the "bestseller potboiler" category of fiction, but this is not one of his stronger works. The premise of a high-level coverup on behalf of a nitwit Reagan-esque chief executive is promising, and oil speculators are (now, more than ever) people that we love to hate, but Grisham's execution of his story line is simply overly cliched, contrived, and plodding. Once the basic dynamic of "see Darby run, see Darby outwit her pursuers" is established early on, the story bogs down for (literally!) a couple of hundred pages. We are beaten over the head with just how clever Darby is (especially for such a Babe), and with how nasty and Machiavellian the President's henchmen are. We go from one locale to another and another, always just one step ahead of the hapless bad guys. And--not to provide too much of a spoiler here-- it turns out that the *really* bad guy bears an eerie resemblance to the late Howard Hughes!
Enough, already.
Oh, one more thing: just how many references to we need to Darby's "long legs?" It actually might have been more refreshing and bold for Grisham to portray Darby as a plain, dumpy, but brilliant law student, but then, Julia Roberts sells more tickets at the box office, right?
And there's the crux of the matter: I think Grisham wrote this story fully intending from the beginning that this would be turned into a movie, so in terms of characters, plot, pacing, and ending, the whole affair is unabashedly Hollywood-esque. In fact, the book was made into a pitiably bad 1993 movie starring Roberts and Sam Shepard. While I can't really recommend the flick, at least you'll be done with it in a couple of hours, tops.
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on November 13, 2000
Fresh after finishing 'The Firm' I had my wife pick up a copy of 'The Pelican Brief' and began to devour it as quickly as I could. It didn't take long to be captured by the character of Darby and her innocent way of life. We find out that quite by accident, Darby writes a 'brief' that quickly catches the attention of someone--WHO exactly that 'someone' is, well it takes a while to find that one out. It also takes a little while to figure out exactly what is IN the 'brief' to begin with. Now I am NOT a lawyer and it was a little high on techno-babble from a legal standpoint, but basically Darby makes a total assumption about some land in Louisiana, and it turns out to be right on the money: a plausible explanation of the deaths of two members of the Supreme Court. More than plausible, she is 100% right, which is when she get's the attention of those who would rather see the author of this mysterious 'brief' silenced. Darby is suddenly on the run, wondering whether or not her next move will be her last. Paranoid and terrified beyond words, Darby makes a desperate move and contacts a Washington Post reporter in hopes of convincing him of her story. It takes some doing, but he eventually comes around to her side, and this is where life becomes really interesting for Darby and her journalist friend. I have to say one thing about the movie version, Julia Roberts really WAS THE perfect choice to play Darby. Other than that, don't bother with the movie (as usual), go straight to the bookstore and grab a copy of 'The Pelican Brief' and sit back and enjoy. Another winner from Grisham.
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on November 30, 1999
Let me say upfront that I don't think John Grisham is a good writer. That being said, I thought "A Time to Kill" was a very good book -- not quite at the level of "To Kill a Mockingbird," but still well-written. I wouldn't call "The Firm" a good book by any means, but it created an atmosphere of paranoia effectively.
"The Pelican Brief," however, began a downward slide for Grisham, the depths of which I stopped monitoring after "The Client."
First, "The Pelican Brief" is just too much to swallow. In "The Firm," Mitch had the FBI helping him -- sort of -- so you can suspend some disbelief and think that he might survive his employment with the mob. But in "The Pelican Brief," Darby is a second year law student with no help at all. It just strains credulity to believe that she could survive.
But that's hardly the worst flaw in the book. The worst sin committed herein is that Grisham CHEATS. In an effort to generate suspense, he withholds from the reader the information that would explain why everyone wants to kill Darby Shaw. Why? Because of the contents of the Pelican Brief, which she wrote. So while Darby knows why everyone is after her, the reader doesn't find out until two thirds of the way in, when Grisham finally deigns to share the brief with us. This is a mark of a lazy or untalented writer.
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