John Grisham has issues. This is no surprise to Grisham fans; many of his novels make a statement about one issue or another. His latest novel, Gray Mountain, takes on the coal industry, as well as addressing legal issues of the rural poor. I did enjoy Gray Mountain, but the issues distracted from the story more than Grisham usually allows.
The story: After years of contracts and skyscrapers at a huge New York firm, the recession forces downsizing, and she takes an internship at a legal aid clinic in tiny Brady, Virginia. She gets a quick course in black lung disease, strip mining, and the evil, unethical practices of big coal. The story progresses in classic Grisham fashion, although the death of a key character caught me by surprise. The ending winds up rather quickly, with most of the resolution left to assumptions. Again, this isn't necessarily uncharacteristic of Grisham, but seemed to be more the case with Gray Mountain.
I wonder about the coal industry. Grisham paints them as pure, unadulterated evil. They lay waste to pristine landscapes and treat miners like dispensable tools. The only positive nod to the coal industry was a reference to a bumper sticker that read "Like electricity? Love coal!" I do love electricity. But is there any way to defend the coal industry? Not according to Grisham. It might have been more interesting had there been some characters sympathetic to coal.
The bottom line is that this is not the best of Grisham's novels, but mediocre Grisham is still pretty terrific. Grisham fans will love it, and even if this is the first Grisham novel you read, I thnk you would be sufficiently impressed to want to pick up some of his other novels.