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The Summons


The Summons

Whenever a new John Grisham legal thriller hits the bookstores,
there's bound to be a buzz about it. Most readers can't wait to get
their hands on another tale of the less-than-stellar law
professionals and the twisted legal system that are Grisham's
forte; other readers complain that it doesn't begin to measure up
to his first and still most popular book, A TIME TO KILL, and
proceed to nitpick the storyline to pieces. Frankly, I've never
understood what the problem is --- I've thoroughly enjoyed every
single one of them for their individuality, underlying humor, and
the ironic sense of justice that emerges in surprising ways. THE
SUMMONS is another superbly entertaining romp through the field of
legal maneuvers and a prime example of Grisham's talent for drawing
characters who represent our human fallibility.

Enter the fallible human, Ray Atlee, a law school professor and the
son of a prominent Mississippi judge. Life in Virginia, far from
his father's influence, is fairly sedate except for his recent,
unexpected divorce. The painful truth was that Ray's wife preferred
a marriage with wealth, to a marriage without it. Naturally, Ray
views the whole affair from the lofty moral plane of one who
believes his values are more grounded. Even the advances of a
comely student that has the entire male faculty on edge, is a
pitfall he avoids. But his convictions are about to take a
disquieting tumble.

Ray's father, the curmudgeonly Judge Atlee, is near death and sends
a formal summons to both Ray and his ne'er-do-well brother,
Forrest, to return home to discuss the final arrangements for his
estate. Since neither of his sons followed in their father's
professional footsteps, which led to a lifetime of strained
relations all around, Ray isn't particularly thrilled at the
prospect of a family reunion. Reluctantly, he packs his bag and
makes the long drive to his ancestral home of Clanton, only to find
that his father has already passed away. But while awaiting his
brother's arrival, Ray accidentally discovers something even more
shocking. The honorable Judge Atlee, revered for his unwavering
commitment to integrity and justice from the bench, has a secret
stashed away in his library. Boxes of hundred dollar bills. Lots of
boxes. And Ray is the only one who knows about them --- or is

THE SUMMONS is a tale of the consequences that befall a man faced
with an overpowering temptation. Like other Grisham characters who
are neither completely the hero nor the villain, Ray is thrown an
ethical curve which he could not possibly be prepared to handle.
And despite his conviction that he's doing the right thing for the
right reasons, it's inevitable that his flimsy rationale will fall
apart, disaster soon to follow. It's at this point, that Grisham
will have readers squirming just a bit, knowing that given the same
circumstances, they might make the same self-serving decision.
While we might not find ourselves driving helter skelter across the
countryside, evading the law and the lawless, hoping we'll live to
enjoy our good fortune; THE SUMMONS is certainly a story with a
moral. It's also hugely entertaining and another Grisham bestseller
you should add to your collection.

Reviewed by Ann Bruns ( on January 23, 2011

The Summons
by John Grisham

  • Publication Date: December 17, 2002
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Dell
  • ISBN-10: 0440241073
  • ISBN-13: 9780440296003