And he has a father, a very sick old man who lives alone in the ancestral home in Clanton, Mississippi. He is known to all as Judge Atlee, a beloved and powerful official who has towered over local law and politics for 40 years. No longer on the bench, the Judge has withdrawn to the Atlee mansion and become a recluse. With the end in sight, Judge Atlee issues a summons for both sons to return home to Clanton, to discuss the details of his estate. It is typed by the Judge himself, on his handsome old stationery, and gives the date and time for Ray and Forrest to appear in his study.
Ray reluctantly heads south, to his hometown, to the place where he grew up, which he prefers now to avoid. But the family meeting does not take place. The Judge dies too soon, and in doing so leaves behind a shocking secret known only to Ray.
And perhaps someone else.
©2002 Belfry Holdings, Inc.; (P)2002 Random House, Inc., Random House Audio, a Division of Random House, Inc.
The book was enjoyable but in the manner of a cheap vanilla ice cream cone; nothing remarkable or extraordinary. And the ending was a too convenient monologue that neatly tied up most of the loose ends. A few mysteries were left unsolved, leaving me wondering if I'd missed key clues and should have figured some of it out myself. But, not being too dreadfully invested in the story, it was easy to turn it off and not worry about the faceless, never-named antagonist.
As this is my first audio book, I can't really rate the narrator. I was pleased, though, to be able to easily follow the narrator as he switched his tone, cadence, and in one case, accent, to switch from one character to another.
I'd venture to say that most of us view a Grisham book as a reliable, suspensful and intriguing read. This book falls far short of the "formula" and is Grisham's poorest effort. Many books start slow as they introduce the characters and build the scene. However this book stays slow, with a lack of plot twists, suspense and believable characters. A good audio book gives you the urge to park in the back of your office parking lot to listen a little longer before starting your day. No worry here, you'll be right on time and may even decide to work late to postpone the drive home.
Grisham must have been paid by the word for this interminable book. It's main characters are drawn from the Handbook of Literary Cliches, and its plot - what there is of it - would be stretched to fill a short story. Its protagonist, suposedly a professor at a very prestigious law school, is seriously stupid. As an example, here's a man who was raised in a small Mississippi town, supposedly knowing about firearms. Yet he picks up and uses a pistol, without checking on whether or not its loaded (it's not). After making his big discovery, he does nothing but dither about. We're supposed to be sympathetic because his wife left him for a rich man. After the first hour or two, my sympathies were entirely with the wife. Listening to this dullard deal with his father's illegal legacy, his substance-abusing brother, and his own insecurities is more tedious than enjoyable. Not worth buying.
Today, October 5th, I login to Audible and noticed The Summons is on the top 10 buyers list. Oh boy, I think many of these buyers are going to be disappointed.
There are two reasons why I finished The Summons: Michael Beck is the narrator and I am a Grisham enthusiast.
Having read The Last Juror, one of Mr. Grisham's best narrated by Michael Beck, I found it exciting to be back in Clanton Mississippi with characters like Harry Rex; however, The Summons was tedious. The story line was... The plot was to keep you riveted wondering where did the money come from, who else was after this money and did the judge really die of cancer. At the end, for me, the book was disappointing and weak.
If the story is boring, then give me some interesting information to ponder, some new words, some interesting quotes, great jokes, introduce me to some other work. There was nothing. Chapter 31 has some interesting data on Tort litigation, which Mr. Grisham covered extensively in his other great book The King of Tort.
For the listeners who also like to read along, the hard cover is also lacking. The book is mostly comprised of four and five word simple sentences and there are no words beyond grade school vocabulary. I had read Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov prior to reading The Last Summons, and my goodness, it was the equivalent of going to University for a few semesters and then to grade school. The Summons offers no educational challenges.
The only good element about The Summons is the narrator and it has a nice twist at the end.
I couldn't wait for this one to end. I will NEVER listen to another Grisham novel. I never cared about the story or its characters. Worse than a toothache. If you want to hear great legal thrillers, listen to Phillip Margolin.
With Michael Beck's charming southern accent and Grisham's wonderful story telling technique, this book was impossible to put down. Fact is, I purchased the audio version, and have listened three times. If you like Grisham and Beck, immediately get your hands on this one.
Michael Beck did a wonderful job of bringing the story to life. I've been a big fan of John Grisham for many years, and I believe this is one of his best works to date.
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