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Seriously, "The Rainmaker" is Grisham's funniest novel
am 2. Januar 2006
"The Firm" still remains John Grisham's best novel, but "The Rainmaker" is far and away his funniest. I have never read a book that better managed to hit my funny bone straight on without tipping over the edge into farce (i.e., John Irving at his best). This time around Grisham's would be hero is Rudy Baylor, in his final semester of law school and required by one of his professors to provide free legal advice at a Senior Citizens home. There he meets Miss Birdie, an old lady who apparently has millions of dollars salted away and who definitely needs a new will, and Dot Black, who's son Donny Ray is dying of leukemia while their insurance company refuses to pay for medical treatment. In the legal world a "rainmaker" is someone who brings in big clients (i.e., big money) to a law firm. When Rudy's future job suddenly disappears in the wake of a surprise merger, these cases might be his ticket to a promising legal career.
The villains are lawyers from a giant firm and a heartless insurance company, which is certainly stacking the deck but part of the fun as Grisham pours it on. As with "The Pelican Brief" there is a bit of misdirection at the beginning in terms of getting a read on the main character. Rudy is broke and has some shady friends in the legal profession, but the bottom line is he is a good guy and he will do the right thing. Even if it means playing David against Goliath in a stacked courtroom where the presiding judge is best buds with the great Leo F. Drummond of the giant law firm Trent & Brent, representing the Great Benefits Insurance Company. But then Rudy gets a break. The presiding judge suddenly drops dead and his replacement, Judge Kipler, is a plaintiff's dream. Rudy also has the truth on his side, but believe me, having the presiding judge on your side and having a key piece of damming evidence fall into your lap and finding the missing witness that has disappeared are all more important in the end.
The joy of this book is watching little Rudy beat the big bad guys. Every single lawyer's trick used by Drummond fails with Judge Kipler. Every dirty trick by the insurance company is exposed by Rudy, who comes up with some little twists of his own. Sure, all the rabbits getting pulled out of the hat is a bit excessive, but that is what makes this such a fun read. At the heart of this book is the quest for justice, but that does not mean we can not enjoy a little payback along the way. The romantic subplot between Rudy and Kelly comes across as something of a diversion from the main story, but at the end it gives the hero someone with whom he can ride off into the sunset. "The Rainmaker" is one of those books where you pick it up from time to time to read the good parts. If you saw the movie and enjoyed Rudy sticking it to the bad guys, then you should enjoy much more of the same in this novel.