John Grisham has made his name with legal pot-boilers and page-turners. But many of them have unusual twists of plot or out-of-the ordinary characters. The Testament (link right) bears some simliarities to The Summons in that they both feature the wills of a dying man, drunks who are trying to straighten themselves out, and a fight over inheritance. But The Testament is a bit deeper than some of Grisham’s other work.
Mulit-billionaire Troy Phelan signs a single page holographic will leaving his fortune to a previously unknown illegitmate daughter, then jumps fourteen stories to his death. Nate O’Riley is dragged from rehab and sent into the Pantanal jungle to find Rachel Lane, who is working as a missionary to remote Indian tribes. Nate has to persuade Rachel to sign an acknowledgement of the will -and preferably take the money, which will otherwise go to the wastrel Phelan children.
The meeting leads to a change for both Rachel and Nate – between whom there appears the beginnings of an affinity. Without spoiling the plot, I can reveal that Nate re-evaulates the practical necessities of life, and Rachel realises that she cannot pretend that her fortune does not exist.
In some senses the writing is not as strong as Grisham’s other novels – perhaps because the issues here are more personal than political. But the characters are gripping. I certainly felt some empathy with both Nate and Rachel in the struggle to establish and maintain a moral compass. In this respect, the book reminds me of Bleachers which explored the issue of loyalty surrounding a small-town football team.