The Partner by John Grisham

John Grisham’s A running man casts a long shadowThe Partner is a riveting mystery story with a knock-your-socks-off ending.

The novel opens with the kidnapping and brutal interrogation of Danila Silva in a remote Brazilian town.

Silva’s real name is Patrick Lanigan. A former partner in a Biloxi law firm, he supposedly burned to death in a horrible car accident six weeks before a fortune was stolen from the law firm’s off-shore accounts.

His captors have spent four years and $3.5 million finding him.

What did Lanigan do that makes finding him worth that expenditure of time and money?

The interrogation doesn’t reveal where the money went, but it does alert the FBI to Lanigan’s whereabouts. They move in.

Lanigan hires an old pal from law school, Sandy McDermott, to represent him.

By showing the burn marks from the interrogation, Lanigan manages to get himself confined in a hospital room instead of a prison cell.

Despite his unpopularity with his former law partners and his “widow,” Lanigan has a lot of people who like him. The judge at Lanigan’s first court appearance drops by his hospital room for pizza.

Lanigan has planned his caper well,  but Grisham’s plotting of The Partner is even better.

The Partner by John Grisham.
Doubleday. ©1997. 366 p.
1997 bestseller. 1st place (tie)
my grade: A

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

The Embezzler is too good to be memorable.

The Embezzler is the story of a man, a society, and an era.

Of the three, only the society and the era are memorable.

The Embezzler by Louis Auchincloss

Houghton, Mifflin, 1966, 277 pp. 1966 bestseller #9. My grade: B+.

Embezzler dust jacket has title in red against stock market page of newspaperGuy Prime belongs to a Manhattan family who claim society membership because their forebears married people who were distinguished.

Guy has a talent for making people like him, which, he realizes, is as big an asset as brains or ambition.

Guy’s best friend, Rex Geer, lacks even Guy’s marginal social credentials, but he makes up for them in brains, hard work, and integrity.

Rex goes into banking, Guy becomes a stockbroker.

In the depths of the Depression, Guy uses stock belonging to clients as collateral for three of his ventures.

Setbacks in 1936 bankrupt Guy.

His attempt to avoid bankruptcy leads to discovery of his embezzlement and five-years in jail.

Louis Achincloss allows Guy to tell his story, then gives Rex and Guy’s wife, Angelica, opportunity to tell their versions.

All three are over 70, recalling events 35 to 55 years earlier: It’s unlikely that any one comes close to an objective account of who Guy was.

Readers will forget Guy quickly, like a jigsaw puzzle that might have pictured either Mount Hood or a basket of kittens.

© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

The Street Called Straight May Find Fault With Readers

By the Street Called Straight we come to the House called Beautiful
—New England Saying

Basil King’s 1912 bestseller The Street Called Straight is an arresting character study which will probably be totally baffling to most of today’s readers.

The story begins as Peter Devanant,  the orphan son of medical missionaries whom he never knew, goes to dinner at the Boston home of Henry Guion and his daughter, Olivia.

As conversation swirls around Olivia’s  coming wedding to an English army officer with a brilliant future, Peter sees Olivia was right to refuse his own proposal a decade before. She’s clearly out of his league.

Peter learns that Guion anticipates being arrested soon for embezzling trust funds. He seizes the opportunity to use his wealth for good by offering Guion an interest-free loan for an indefinite period.

The remainder of the novel examines what is the right and honorable thing for each character in the plot to do.

The Street Called Straight is not a great novel, but it’s well-plotted with every complication delicately foreshadowed. King makes Peter and Olivia grow in believable ways. And there’s really no minor character who doesn’t contribute to readers’ understanding.

The novel’s faults are primarily in ourselves.  For contemporary readers seeped in self-esteem, honor is simply an adjective tacked to ceremonial positions:  academic honor society,  military honor guard.  I’m afraid 21st century readers will  find the idea that people  would choose poverty and imprisonment just because they value their self-respect so bizarre  that they’ll toss aside The Street Called Straight for a plausible novel about zombies.

The Street Called Straight
by Basil King
Illustrated by Orson Lowell
NY Grosset & Dunlap, 1911, 1912
Project Gutenberg eBook #14394