Book review: John Grisham’s The Rooster Bar is a potboiler that fizzles out
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Book review: John Grisham’s The Rooster Bar is a potboiler that fizzles out

John Grisham’s latest legal thriller is a wishful take on third-tier, for-profit educational institutions and what happens when three disgruntled students decide to bring its entire framework down.

books Updated: Nov 24, 2017 18:59 IST
Prannay Pathak
Prannay Pathak
Hindustan Times
John Grisham,The Rooster Bar,Camino Island
Cover of the book The Rooster Bar by popular John Grisham.

John Grisham isn’t an author — he is a genre, and The Rooster Bar is a purgatory for the cheated, the wronged, in essence, the proverbial underdog, and serves justice in the most wishful way possible.

The book begins with brief backgrounds on four friends, all enrolled in a shady law school named Foggy Bottom that has accepted them as part of an elaborate scam, which involves getting students to pay exorbitant tuition fees on the back of student loans, even as the disgraceful infrastructure and the deplorable teaching resources leave them woefully underprepared for the insurmountable bar exam, and eventually jobless.

Zola’s predicament as an African immigrant in the United States — a Muslim and a woman at that, rings a bell in the present times, with a staunchly right wing sentiment swaying most of the world. Mark and Todd are stock types that overestimate themselves and get sucked into the trap of attaining graduation for a better life, but Grisham makes it clear that it is the institutions’ prerogative to decide eligibility for college admission, accountability for debt, and eventual employability. Gordy’s bipolar syndrome is treated rather superficially, and his lapse into withdrawal and build-up to suicide are right out of a TV show. His end is but a foregone conclusion, as the cause slowly consumes him, promising a gripping finale, and leaving in its wake a hunger for revenge.

Cover of the book The Rooster Bar by John Grisham.

If not for a few inconsistencies – like a bunch of below average law students deconstructing and systematically taking apart a sophisticated scam – The Rooster Bar could have managed to make a compelling read, but Grisham’s mastery at the genre, with his characteristic sharp dialogue and visual detail, still ends up salvaging the book.

  • Title: The Rooster Bar
  • Author: John Grisham
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
  • Price: Rs 399

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First Published: Nov 24, 2017 18:59 IST