A rising Chicago lawyer, returning to his little Kansas town as executor of a perverse will, ends up battling the powers that be on behalf of a legally incompetent client.
Henry Mathews hasn’t exactly heard Council Grove calling to him; if his late father hadn’t drawn up oil-pumping rancher Tyler Crandall’s will, he’d never be revisiting the place where his parents died. And the will’s initial revelation—that Crandall has essentially disinherited his lickspittle son Roger to leave the bulk of his vast estate to Raymond Boyd, a crazy local character called Birdman because of the companion vulture he talks to—is hardly calculated to make its executor the most popular man in town. But Henry can’t help feeling for the supposed legatee, who instantly becomes the target of every shot Roger and his unsavory allies can fire; his unplanned alliance with Amanda Ashton, a state environmentalist convinced that the oil wells are dangerously close to discharging a corrosive chemical cocktail into the water table, is hard to break; and his real life in Chicago, when he has a chance to return to it, suddenly seems a lot less real. The trouble is that apart from Amanda, nobody in Council Grove, including the saintly simpleton Henry takes on as his client, wants to see him get involved with a case that suddenly seems his last chance at salvation. How can he possibly survive the alliance of big money, big politics, and a long dirty history nobody’s willing to bring to light?
Yes, of course it all sounds familiar, but Arvin (The Wind in the Wheat, not reviewed) gives his people and the spreading mystery they’re sitting on an impressive gravity that’s almost better than freshness. Grisham fans won’t be disappointed; more than a few of them may find themselves, like Henry, actually switching their allegiance midstream.