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Rogue Lawyer Book Review


By Christian Fong

Although a novel about lawyers is nothing new for John Grisham, who has made his claim to fame writing several fictional books about court cases and the struggle of lawyers’ lives, Grisham puts a whole new spin on Rogue Lawyer by tackling some of society’s biggest social and ethical problems throughout the book.

Sebastian Rudd is a criminal defense attorney for an unnamed, conservative state who willingly takes on the toughest cases that no other lawyer would ever think of. From defending an accused child molester, an infamous drug lord, and an old man who shoots a SWAT agent that mistakenly breaks into his house, Rudd very much embodies the “us versus the world” persona. The novel is split into different parts, each part a vignette that gives us a different case and aspect of Rudd’s life. Seemingly unconnected at first, each story gives us a deeper look into who Rudd really is: a noble man fighting injustice at all levels, from his personal life to the entire justice system. Because of his willingness to take on everyone through his cases, including multiple gangs, the police department, and the state itself, Rudd has few acquaintances and even fewer friends. Rudd cares not if his clients are innocent or guilty, only that they receive a fair trial.

Perhaps even more interesting than the gripping story are the underlying themes that are presented throughout the novel. In the opening vignette, we are introduced to Rudd as he is in the middle of the courtroom, defending a drug addicted teenager accused of raping and murdering two girls. He realizes that the evidence against his client doesn’t add up, but the entire town has already convicted the teenager in their minds. Grisham subtly points out how many high profile cases work in society today: where the people already make their judgment before the trial is over, and break the sacred American tradition of “innocent until proven guilty.” The backwards, redneck town he is in is so thoroughly convinced that Rudd’s client is guilty that even the city officials refuse to send evidence in for a DNA check. Rudd is forced to do his own independent DNA analysis and is able to prove his client innocent. Despite the overwhelming evidence, as he walks out of the courtroom, the members of the town loathe him even more. Grisham points out the hypocrisy of the publicized justice system today, where the public often convicts defendants even before any proof has been presented.

One of the most compelling cases in Rogue Lawyer is the case of Doug Renfro, an elderly man whom has his home raided by a SWAT team. The SWAT team, mistakenly believing that Renfro is an online drug dealer, bursts into Renfro’s house in the middle of the night. Renfro, believing a burglar is in his house, opens fire on the intruders, and in the crossfire, an officer and Renfro’s own wife are killed. Grisham blatantly points out the police brutality and militarization that currently exists in our country. In Rogue Lawyer, the police department consists of trigger- happy cops who will shoot at anything that moves. During the Renfro home invasion, they even bring 6 SWAT members and a tank, all to apprehend one man. Grisham beautifully lays out his position on the police brutality that plagues this nation through this narrative.

Grisham’s other social point is somewhat confusing and weaker, but still effective. The final storyline in Rogue Lawyer deals much more with Rudd’s personal and ethical choices. His client is accused of kidnapping and murdering one of the police officer’s daughters. Rudd learns of the location of the body from his client, but is reluctant to share the information because of his confidentiality agreement with his client. The police force, forever corrupt, kidnaps Rudd’s own son, who lives with his divorced wife, and blackmails Rudd into giving up the location. During this story, we are able to catch glimpses of Rudd’s personal life, away from the courtroom. He likes his son (not loves), and wants to stay in his life as a father figure who is able to toughen him up. However, his wife, also a lawyer, is an extremely overprotective mother who constantly litigates for full custody of their son. The awkward family structure that is presented, with the unloving father, the confused child, and the helicopter mom, Grisham is unable to make his point clear about the unorthodox family.

John Grisham’s Rogue Lawyer masterfully interweaves social issues with a captivating story. This novel easily adds to the benefit of our humanity. This novel commentates on the flawed institutions in the United States today. Rogue Lawyer gives a chilling perspective of these issues from the point of view from a lawyer who seeks to provide justice for all, and while Sebastian Rudd may not be the most noble character, he may be the most dedicated to his job of defending the accused, no matter if they are guilty or not.

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