I just finished “reading” the Associate by John Grisham.  I have to quote reading because I actually listened to someone else — Erik Singer — read it to me.  I have a 45-minute-plus, one-way commute to work, and a good audiobook can make it something I almost look forward to… almost.  Anyway, I’m going to use the word (and variations of) “read” in describing my experience, even though I never touched a single page.

The Associate is the story of young Kyle McAvoy.  At the start of the novel, Kyle is attending Yale and holds the prestigious honor of being editor of the Yale Law Review.  Giant Wall Street law firms are dangling golden carrots in front of his nose, hopeful to recruit him.  But Kyle is an idealist, so he’s decided he’s going to work for peanuts, helping real people with their legal troubles in BFUSA (at least for a few years, then he’ll sell out).

Unfortunately, there’s a bit of nasty business in Kyle’s past — something happened while he was an undergraduate that, if it should resurface; could at minimum be a major embarrassment that tarnishes his budding reputation, and at maximum; could land his ass in jail.  Enter Benny.

Benny (if that is his real name) has thorough knowledge of said nasty business and, in fact, has evidence that was only rumored to exist.  If this evidence were to fall into the wrong hands…

Benny leverages this intel to blackmail Kyle into entering the world of corporate espionage.  Who is Benny?  Who do he and his goons work for?  How can Kyle get out of this mess?

This was an easy story to get drawn into, even if at times you’re screaming at the pages — at Kyle — for some of the dumbass decisions he’s making.  There’s tension and suspense and intrigue.  There are characters… sort of.  I only stopped reading when I had to.  But as I crept up on the final chapters, I started to get really worried.  Was this going to be like other Grisham books?

Yes and no.

Grisham has a way of fascinating you with the details.  He’s like Crichton in this regard.  They can explain things — processes, procedures, functions, routines — that would probably be boring as sh!t to actually have to do, but learning the how and the why behind them, at least to me, is extremely interesting.  There’s a lot of that in this book, especially around how a big Wall Street law firm works.


But also like Crichton (no disrespect to the departed), he can’t end a book.  I think this is the fourth Grisham book I’ve read where the main character finishes the story by saying “Eff it,” and walks away.  As I neared the end of this story, like other Grisham and Crichton books before, I found myself thumbing through the remaining pages (I know, it was an audiobook, but I’ve read some books too — I’m speaking metaphorically) trying to calculate if the author had enough room to end the story properly.  He didn’t.

So back to my question:  Was this going to be like other Grisham books?  Yes, because it was a fascinating ride that ended on a big WTF moment.  No, because it wasn’t quite as good.  I’ve read some other reviews, so I can’t take credit for this thought, but I agree with it:  The Associate was a big, intense page-turner about nothing.  Aside from one character who gets capped by the baddies, nobody changes and none of the major questions are answered.

Would I recommend this story to someone?  Yeah, I would, but with a heads up that the ending is going to suck.  I think it would be a quick easy read, or, if you go the audiobook route like me — it pleasantly killed about 8 round-trips to the office during commute hours.  Yes, I liked it — it was entertaining.  Ultimately, what I’m going to remember the most about the book though, is its crappy ending.