With The Firm, John Grisham introduces a common theme in many mainstream books: a young man with no ties to anything or anyone, who goes against a corrupt Leviathan. In this case, the Leviathan is a shady tax firm owned buy the classic Italian mob family, the Moroltos. Mitch McDeere is the boy wonder from a white trash family who is seduced by the money of the law firm of Bendini, Lambert, & Locke. When he realizes that the firm is not what it seems, he becomes determined to destroy its money-laundering escapade. Other than the surface motivation of money, Mitch does not appear to have any other reason to go after the firm.
There are too many unlikely coincidences in Grisham’s novel. First, Mitch hires a private detective named Eddie Lomax (which his brother Ray knew from prison) who is killed by the devious partners of the Bendini Firm. Lomax’s secretary and mistress, Tammy Hemphill, then becomes Mitch’s collaborator in the plot to foil the firm. Tammy goes as far as to prostitute herself to Mitch’s supervisor, Avery Tolar, in order to steal secret and incriminating files stored, as luck would have it, in a vacation condo in the Cayman Islands. Second, Mitch’s brother Ray, who was incarcerated for killing a man in a bar fight, speaks several languages fluently: a trivial detail until Mitch needs to confuse the FBI and mob of his whereabouts. Another handy trait is that Ray can also kill a man with his bare hands and minimal noise, “Skills learned in prison.”
In addition to having Tammy and Ray, Mitch enlists the help of a Barry Abanks, owner of a dive lodge in the Cayman Islands. Abanks’ son was killed along with two of Bendini’s associates who were in the process of informing the FBI of Bendini’s disreputable business. Naturally, Abanks would want to revenge his son’s death by helping Mitch, even driving the get-away boat and furnishing a guide at the end of Mitch’s great escape. Furthermore, Abbey, Mitch’s devoted wife pretends to leave him, spending weeks away from Mitch, apparently without much apprehension.
All of these people who have helped Mitch seem to have reasons for doing so, but why does Mitch have a vendetta against the firm? Why does he start poking his nose in where it doesn’t belong? Surely he is not afraid that Wayne Tarrance, the characteristically dim-witted, overconfident FBI agent. There is little character development to Mitchell Y. McDeere; no more than he grew up in a broken home, graduated from Harvard after hard work, and refused to check up on his mother. Grisham examines none of the motives of this handsome young lawyer. In truth, Grisham does not develop any of the characters to their full potential. He leaves them lifeless and uninteresting. Every character, the scheming mob, the conventional FBI agent, and the righteous fresh lawyer, is stereotypical of the standard overrated Hollywood film role. More character enrichment would make The Firm a better-quality novel.
Contrary to the raving reviews touted inside the cover, this novel is neither intelligent nor suspenseful. There is little in the way of a plot line; the bad guys are chasing the good guys, the good guys are pursuing the bad guys, and everyone spies on the other. The Firm gained its esteem from the elaborate, but predictable, escape scene and the amount of money involved in it, not from any lawyerly insight from John Grisham.
The Firm, By John Grisham