Title: The Pelican Brief
Author: John Grisham
Publisher: Islands Books; 1992
Genre: Fiction (Thriller)
Reviewer: Manuel Odeny
The brown pelican, the symbol of Louisiana State of USA in 1960, are quickly going extinct thanks to the oil exploration at the delicate Mississippi delta which Is the birds’ breeding ground.
Its is these birds that John Grisham gives The Pelican Brief its title in his masterful thriller of court room drama fast paced with gangsters, lawyers and sleazy politicians.
In a wave on conspiracy two USA Supreme Court judges are violently murdered. As Americans grapple with the shock, the FBI places its suspect list of Underground Army, Klansmen, Puerto Ricans and other conservative roughnecks.
Things only change when a second year law student in New Orleans take a long shot in the dark by detailing the killers behind the murders.
Darby Shaw, the young law student using public records speculates the murderer to be a crazy oil exploration magnate called Mattiece whose billion dollar oil reserve sits dormant as environmentalist wag war in the back loaded courts in a brief termed the Pelican.
Believing that the two judges would vote against him the magnate discreetly takes them down and pays the white house re-election campaign team a tidy amount for a favorable bench.
Things move discreetly until Darby Shaw’s Pelican Brief finds its way to the FBI before finaling settling at the White House with a snow balling effect of high class murders.
The murders seem uncoordinated: Shaw’s Prof dies in a car bomb, FBI lawyer is found dead in a hotel room, a young associate of a reclusive Republican law firm is mugged and an international renowned Arab assassin is gunned down in the streets of New Orleans as he tries to kill Darby Shaw.
Now the same murderers are on the hot heels of Darby Shaw.
The pieces of jigsaw finally fit together when Darby partners with Gray Grantham an investigative reporter with The Washington Post. As the scandal unfolds to surpass Nixon’s Watergate it threatens to put the president’s re-election on the hold.
The book has all the elements of a thriller: the little tit bits of facts craftily thrown about (history of brown pelicans), a dangerous assassin who murdered a Lebanese general as a teenager, a psychopath millionaire hell bend on destruction. To cap it all, a beautiful and smart damsel dodging hardcore gangsters partnering with a Pulitzer winning The Washington Post journalist as they dodge the bad guys, CIA, FBI and bombs going off as they try to nail the fools at the Capitol Hill.
The final ingredient is John Grisham’s ease of story telling and his knack of building thriller from law as he waxes the fable together to grip the readers to the book’s cover.