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The Pelican Brief Mass Market Paperback – February 1, 1993

417 customer reviews

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Mass Market Paperback, February 1, 1993
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Editorial Reviews Review

John Grisham's head was full of movies when he wrote The Pelican Brief, which is such a brisk page-turner you could use it to dry your hair. He had Julia Roberts in mind for the heroine, Darby Shaw, a brilliant Tulane law student who comes up with an ingenious theory to explain the baffling assassinations of two Supreme Court justices in one day. They were shot and strangled by ace international terrorist Khamel, who loves the film Three Days of the Condor, but government gumshoes don't get what connects the deaths. Silly government guys! They died so the conservative president, who just wants to be left alone to play golf, will appoint new, conservative justices who will help out a case involving an industrialist who is the enemy of pelicans and other living things. It's all spelled out for them in Darby's brief. She likes to do legal feats to impress her boyfriend, her boyish law prof Thomas (who, like Grisham, prefers to shave at most once a week, and is cool, smart, and antiauthoritarian). The prof likes to paint her toes red, in homage to Susan Sarandon in Bull Durham. (Sarandon also starred in the film version of Grisham's The Client.)

But when Thomas gets splattered by a car bomb meant for Darby, she escapes the hospital and hooks up with a Washington Post reporter, Gray Grantham, who sleuths like the guys in All the President's Men.

Grisham wishes he hadn't written The Pelican Brief quite so quickly (his first novel, A Time to Kill, went through dozens of drafts), but Pelican's very breathlessness contributes to its dreamy, cinematic chase-o-rama atmosphere.

From Publishers Weekly

In this tale of the aftermath of the assassinations of two Supreme Court justices, Grisham delivers a suspenseful plot at a breakneck pace, although his characters are stereotypes. The hardcover was on the PW bestseller list 48 weeks and the mass market was No. 1 last week.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 436 pages
  • Publisher: Island; Reprint edition (February 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099382911
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099382911
  • ASIN: 0440214041
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.2 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (417 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,174,974 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 34 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on November 9, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"The Pelican Brief" by John Grisham is an exciting novel with an amazing plot. It begins by introducing the character Khamel, a crazed killer who is paid to murder two Supreme Court Justices, named Rosenberg and Jensen, both who have received many death threats but refuse to let the FBI protect them.
In New Orleans at Tulane University, Darby Shaw, an attractive second year law student, was trying to sove the mystery behing the killings. Darby had a thirteen page brief on who she thought killed the justices. The brief was passed on to many people and it finally came to the President, who after reading the report became very scared. The FBI wanted to pursue the lead, but after a phone call from the President that told them to back off it, they decided to look at other suspects.
In the meantime, reporter Gray Grantham received a call in the middle of the night from "Garcia" who said that he might know something about the case.
Darby was on a date with her lover/professor when he got a little too drunk to drive. Darby insisted that she drive or walk, and to her surprise, he told her to walk. When the professor got into his car and started the engine, the car exploded, killing him on the spot. Darby called a friend of the professor, Gavin, and told him what happened because he was the first to see the brief which was later named "The Pelican Brief".
Through all of this chaos, Darby managed to stay alive and found time to meet Gray Grantham in Washington D.C. He learned her entire story and in order to confirm it all, they had to find "Garcia". They knew that he was a lwyer at a small firm in Washington D.C., so they asked the many interns there if they recognized a picture of him. One out of seven did, so they go to meet him.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on November 18, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The pelican brief is a slow but exiting book which is the base of the book for the movie: The Pelican Brief. Most of my friends watch the hit series Law & Order and so do I. So when I asked my Librarian if there were any books like it, he told me books by John Grisham. I got hooked into the book really fast. Some people dont realize what happens in the complicated world of politics, internal affairs, and what hey do to get their job down. I suggest this book who is interested in the Law or what they do.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kris on November 23, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Someone assassinates two Supreme Court justices (the assassin is a burned out terrorist named Khamel, but the powers that be are baffled. They have no clues.

Darby Shaw spends a few days in the law library and figures out who wanted the hit, in order to stack the Supreme Court. This puts her in jeopardy, and people keep getting murdered around her.

Scary? Well, it might have been, but somehow, we know (I knew) that Darby was going to make it in the end and the "bad guys" were going to have their comeuppance. That was never in doubt.

So, not so scary.

What was interesting was Grisham's description of the law firms, and the lawyers, in Washington, D.C. This was eye-opening, the numbers, the morals, and the career ladder that such people follow.

What was interesting, but stupid, was the President. It's hard to imagine a President this stupid, but I wonder was the model Mr. Ron? And this golfer President turns the real business of running the nation over to a young smoothy by the name of Fletcher Coal, who is one of the "bad guys," in a way, but he has some good traits, too: He can work incessantly and seems to be pretty intelligent. He just lacks, what, heart?

I've read better books by Grisham. There is a story here, but not a page-turning story. Just kind of, "Okay, who's going to fail to assassinate Darby this time?"

I didn't see the movie, but the book seemed to be tailor-made for Hollywood, also, another down-side (compare Grisham's Bleachers, a more recent effort, which does not seem to be targeted so prominently toward a movie script).

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By TheVictorian on August 21, 2013
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book is boring and confusing. The only parts I enjoyed were the parts I remember vividly from the movie. The movie cuts this overblown dull read into a pretty fast-paced story, and also casts Denzel Washington as Grantham, a great choice in my opinion. In the book Grantham is an older white guy who fancies Darby. In the movie, Grantham is a straight arrow, decent guy played by the ever awesome Denzel. Reading the book I just couldn't picture Grantham as white. I think it's awful that in the end of the book the Grantham character winds up in a relationship with Darby. It makes sense in the context of the book but I am glad they dropped it for the movie.

Grisham knows his stuff when it comes to lawyers and law and law school and law companies - and he should - he's a lawyer; and he knows how to write about politics and intrigue, but his style is uninspired, prosaic and confusing. Beyond the obvious key players such as Darby, Grantham, Coal, Voyles etc. - main characters I recall vividly from the movie, I was totally confused with who was who and what their purposes were. There's just too many characters in this story. And the assassins are incapable of finding and killing a 20-year-old girl but they can get everyone else? That was silly. Most of the book was about bumbling killers and then trying to find "Garcia" using a tedious process of elimination of law students that interned at the evil law company. It really dragged. The biggest annoyance - and this is another problem with Grisham's style - was they way he started many chapters and introduced a lot of characters with "He" or "She." We meet someone for the first time and Grisham's like "She was sitting at her desk and watching the..." or "He sat on a park bench and watched the..." or whatever.
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