John Grisham’s The Runaway Jury blends a mystery into a courtroom drama in a most unusual way: Readers know what’s happening and who’s doing it, but they don’t know why until the last minute why it’s being done.
The novel is set in contemporary (1990s) Biloxi, Mississippi, where a widow is suing tobacco companies for actual and punitive damages in death of her husband. Similar cases have been tried elsewhere, but juries in those cases did not agree on verdict.
Both sides know a decisive victory for the plaintiff would start a stampede of suits against the tobacco companies. Two teams of “the brightest legal minds and the largest egos in the country” are assembled to do battle.
Although both sides have done extensive pretrial investigation of the 194 potential jurors, neither side has been able to learn anything about Nicholas Easter, a 27-year-old clerk in a Computer Hut store.
Readers see the shenanigans of the courtroom adversaries and the mysterious behavior of Easter and Marlee. She’s a sexy blonde who calls the tobacco company’s lawsuit manager with advance information about what will happen in the next court session.
Grisham’s story is riveting and the historical detail is an education in itself. The insights for public speakers are priceless.
The Runaway Jury by John Grisham
Doubleday. ©1996. 401 p.
1996 bestseller #1; my grade: A
©2020 Linda G. Aragoni