Mystery/Thriller Book Reviews

The Internet Writing Journal, June 2003

Page Three of Three

The Protector by David Morrell

Warner Books, May, 2003
Hardcover, 416 pages
ISBN: 0446530689
Ordering information: |

The Protector
 by David Morrell Former Delta Force officer Cavanaugh (a pseudonym) is now a personal protection agent working for Global Protective Services. For those that can afford the steep price, GPS will provide top-level protection services for those in need of them; they can also help a client disappear and create a new identity. Cavanaugh is assigned to protect scientist Daniel Prescott who has developed an incredible drug: it activates uncontrolled, virulent fear in humans. Everyone wants this drug, including a foreign drug cartel which is determined to capture Prescott. Fear is the most primitive of human emotions. All people feel the same sensations when they experience fear, but whereas normal people may find the sensation unpleasant, adrenaline junkies (like the kind of guys who have what it takes to become a member of Delta Force) find the sensation quite pleasurable. But this drug changes all that and can turn the most hardened trained operative into a whining, terrified puppy.

Cavanaugh immediately gets a weird vibe off Prescott, and unfortunately, his instincts are right. Prescott has his own agenda, one that could get Cavanaugh and his entire team killed. When Prescott shows his true colors, Cavanaugh finds himself injured, on the run and quickly running out of options. He reluctantly calls on his wife, Jamie, for help (he's always tried to keep her out of his dangerous line of work) and soon the two are on Prescott's trail, while trying to stay alive themselves.

Nobody does the thriller quite like David Morrell. Morrell skillfully creates vivid, complex characters, and keeps the action coming, non-stop. The tradecraft featured in the book is fascinating: escape and evade techniques, car chases and how to control people and situations are all covered. But a trained operative doesn't even need sophisticated weaponry; in the right hands, common household objects can either save your life or become a lethal weapon. Morrell's hands-on research style really comes through in the stark realism of the action scenes. Cavanaugh's wife, Jamie, who does not have the training her husband does, is especially well-written: she's tough and funny, and adaptable. Fear is a universal emotion, and the scenes where Cavanaugh has to overcome his own fear are absolutely gripping. Morrell keeps the plot twists coming until the very last, addictive chapter.

--Claire E. White

The King of Torts by John Grisham

Doubleday, February, 2003
Hardcover, 376 pages
ISBN: 0385508042
Ordering information: |

The King of Torts
 by John Grisham Clay Carter is a stubborn young lawyer working for the Office of the Public Defender in Washington D.C. His longtime girlfriend is pushing for him to apply his skills at a good law firm and has even convinced her wealthy father to offer him a job at one, but Clay is stubborn and wants nothing to do with her upper-class parents. However, opportunity soon comes to him in a less honorable form. He is approached by the mysterious Max Pace, who tells him inside information about a large pharmaceutical company that has manufactured a drug with violent side effects. The cases involve criminals that Clay has been defending for the OPD. Max offers Clay millions to set up a new law firm, hire lawyers and start adding clients to take on the drug manufacturer. Clay accepts and the case is a huge success. Pace continues to inform Clay about more potential big money cases involving giant pharmaceutical corporations -- which he also takes and wins. Soon, Clay is extremely successful, famous and dating a hot, young model. But, how long can his good fortune last and are his huge class action cases really helping his clients?

The King of Torts is an excellent novel. Grisham dives into the bizarre world of medical tort claims and uncovers many things people would probably rather not know. In the big money class action claims lawyers attempt to grab up as many clients as possible and obtain a settlement, which results in lots of money for the lawyers and some money for the clients -- but not always as much as they might win in an individual lawsuit. Also, these lawsuits deal with people who might die or have died, making the issues involved tremendously personal. Grisham does a great job of explaining the underpinnings of tort law and giant medical and insurance companies while telling an exciting story at the same time. As usual, Grisham also writes realistic characters. Clay Carter's decisions to go after the big money and fame, despite the unethical law practices, are all too believable. And readers will love Patton French, the incredibly successful mass tort lawyer, who is quite happy being greedy, rich and flying on his Gulfstream 5. Highly recommended.

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