This blockbuster from the king of legal thrillers features twelve men and women who are swept up in a multi-million dollar courtroom battle. Big-time lawyers have investigated their backgrounds and are watching their every move -- and they'll stop at nothing to get the verdict they want. Now this jury must reach a decision in a high-stakes lawsuit against a huge tobacco firm. But the jury has a secret. They've chosen Juror #2 as their leader, and the verdict lies in his hands. A corporation's fate hangs in the balance and a grieving family waits, while lawyers fight for their professional lives. But when the truth about Juror #2 emerges, the gloves come off and the struggle begins for money and power.
Grisham is either remarkably prescient or just plain lucky; because with public concerns about the tobacco companies heating up, and two major nonfiction books currently garnering a lot of attention, he has come up with a tobacco-suit novel that lights up the courtroom. In a Mississippi Gulf Coast town, the widow of a lifelong smoker who died prematurely of lung cancer is suing Big Tobacco. Enter Rankin Fitch, a dark genius of jury fixing, who has won many such trials for the tobacco companies and who foresees no special problems here. Enter also a mysterious juror, Nicholas Easter, whom Fitch's army of jury investigators and manipulators can't quite seem to track-and his equally mysterious girlfriend Marlee, who soon shows Fitch she knows even more about what's happening in the jury room than he does. The details of jury selection are fascinating and the armies of lawyerly hangers-on and overpaid consultants that surround such potentially profitable (to either side) cases are horribly convincing. The cat-and-mouse game played between Nicholas, Marlee and Fitch over the direction of the jury quickly becomes hair-raising as the stakes inch ever higher. As usual with Grisham, the writing is no more than workmanlike, the characterizations are alternatively thin and too broad, but all is redeemed by his patented combination of expertise and narrative drive. What makes The Runaway Jury his most rewarding novel to date is that it is fully enlisted in an issue of substance, in which arguments of genuine pith are hammered out and resolved in a manner that is both intellectually and emotionally satisfying. It's a thriller for people who think, and Jesse Helms won't like it one bit. First printing of 2.8 million; major ad/promo; Literary Guild main selection. (May) ~ Mystery