The Associate by John Grisham
reviewed by Rebecca Lerwill
Five years ago, young Duquesne student Kyle McAvoy made a crucial mistake; he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. The place was his own apartment, where a wild party took place and two of his fraternity brothers were involved in a sexual act with an underage groupie named Elaine Keenan. After heavily drinking and smoking weed, Elaine drifted in and out of consciousness during the sex act, then cried rape a few days later.
The police investigated but was unable to build a case against the fraternity bothers due to the fact that Elaine had no physical evidence of rape and she was known to be a drug user and extremely promiscuous.
After graduating from college Kyle and his friends worked hard to forget the incident and move on with their lives. Fraternity brother Baxter, with a rich family backing him up, moved to Los Angeles to become a Hollywood star and Joey Bernardo, another Beta-brother, went ahead with a career in the stock market.
At present time Kyle finishes his law degree at Yale and just before he takes his bar exam the past finally catches up with him. He is contacted by a shady character named Bennie Wright, who first introduces himself as an investigator, but soon turns out to be an operative heavily involved in corporate espionage. A video tape of the alleged rape is shown to Kyle and, though he never touched the girl that particular evening, the scene happened in Kyle's apartment nonetheless, and Kyle is in the picture as one of the drunken fools earlier that night. Where does this video come from, five long years after this fateful event?
Kyle doesn't know and it doesn't matter. What matters is, however, that his world suddenly comes to a screeching halt. If given to Elaine Keenan's attorney, the video could do incredible damage to Kyle and his Beta-brother's lives and careers. Kyle's plans, after passing the bar exam, had consisted of doing pro bono work for the underprivileged but Benny's blackmail changes those charitable plans drastically. Kyle is forced to take a job in New York City's biggest law firm and spy for Bennie on a high profile law suit the Pentagon is somehow involved in.
He involuntarily enters dangerous terrain when he prepares a path littered with criminal mischief, while trying to survive the pressure of being a first-year associate in a law firm that many of his co-workers compare with a meat grinder. Planned a career in law, now Kyle is breaking the law and if caught would face jail time and disbarment for life. Bennie's video could do similar damage, however, and Kyle finds himself in a sticky situation without much choice.
While trying to get to the truth behind ominous Bennie Wright, Kyle omits and prepares his career to be soiled by corporate espionage. Soon, things take an even uglier turn when one of Kyle's fraternity brothers is brutally murdered.
Desperately fighting against the clock and pressured by lethal criminals, Kyle's only way out seems to be to confide in his father, a lawyer with his own firm, tucked away in small town Pennsylvania. Besides the obvious embarrassment of telling his father he is an accused rape accomplice, can Kyle outwit a dangerous league of professional operatives all the while covering his tracks as on of New York City's biggest law firm's associate?
John Crisham shines in his latest thriller The Associate. The enticing story of corporate espionage, blackmail and murder won't allow you to put this book down until the last page is turned. Crisham gives the reader a glimpse of the work of young associates with its insane pressure and long hours. But what makes this story 'real' is his nudge to think about a serious 'real-life' question: When does sex become rape?
I thoroughly enjoyed The Associate, as I did most of Crisham's work. However, I only recommend this book to readers who can dedicate the few hours it takes to zip through this thriller. Don't pick it up thinking you will finish it later. It won't work.