The Associate

If you plan on reading this John Grisham thriller, then don’t look at what follows. I give away the ending.

I admire JG’s storytelling enormously. The five I’ve read barrel along at a clip that will not let you set them aside. You keep wanting to read just one more chapter. And then another. The Associate is no exception; I went through it in three long sittings. But here’s the thing: it doesn’t end. It just stops.

The hook is intriguing. Hot-shot law graduate is blackmailed into joining a prestigious New York firm of attorneys so he can steal top secret documents from an upcoming lawsuit. The blackmailers appear to have the combined intelligence budgets – and resources – of the CIA, FSB, Mossad and MI6. Our hero can’t make a move without them knowing about it. Of course, he does. And you read on breathlessly, waiting for him to turn the tables on them one last time and lay the whole plot bare. Except he doesn’t.

The villains literally walk away just before the FBI burst in at the climax. We never find out who they were, why they wanted what they wanted, or who they were working for. We learn that there’s a mole in the law firm, but (s)he goes undetected. As for our hero, he quits the firm and finds another job, blithely dismissing any possibility of revenge by the blackmailers – when everything we’ve read about them suggests they’d do it the second he crosses them. Frustration is not the word.

For all that, I still enjoyed it. It was a great read. (And I won’t forget in a hurry his descriptions of 60 – 90 hour work weeks in windowless cubicles. They make combat in WW2 Stalingrad look inviting.) But as for that ending? I can’t decide whether JG had a deadline to meet. Or just didn’t care.

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