cover image The Rooster Bar

The Rooster Bar

John Grisham. Doubleday, $28.95 (368p) ISBN 978-0-385-54117-6

Inspired by an Atlantic article, this insightful, if flawed, novel from bestseller Grisham (Camino Island) highlights the disturbing world of for-profit legal education. Friends and third-year law students—Mark Frazier, Todd Lucero, and Zola Maal—are deep in debt. All they want is to endure their last semester at Foggy Bottom Law School in Washington, D.C., and never return. But their world changes when their friend and classmate, Gordy Tanner, commits suicide before he can reveal publicly the conspiracy he’s unearthed: FBLS admits unqualified students in order to profit from their student loans, and the school’s owner, a Wall Street lawyer turned investor, owns a bank that specializes in student lending. When Gordy’s suicide leads Mark, Todd, and Zola to realize that they are victims of a scam, they decide to drop out of school, change their identities to avoid creditors, and practice law without a license. After they make a series of missteps, their disgruntled clients and creditors start to close in, but they still manage to pull off the perfect crime and finish what Gordy started. Mark and Todd feel like the same person at times, and what drives their choices isn’t always clear. This intriguing story has some suspenseful moments, but thinly constructed characters dilute the impact. Agent: David Gernert, Gernert Company. (Oct.)