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The Pelican Brief Mass Market Paperback – February 1, 1993

4.1 out of 5 stars 487 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (487 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,249,117 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an oldy, but a goodie...John Grisham does a terrific job with this story about a law student who unwittingly solves the murders of two Supreme Court justices and finds herself on the run from hit men hired by both a sleezy oil prospector and the White House Chief of Staff. She ends up putting her faith (and her life) in the hands of an award-winning journalist in Washington, who helps her gather evidence to prove her theory about the killings and hold those responsible. It's fast-paced, smart and though at times a bit cliché in its obvious disdain for politics and politicians (not to mention sleezy oil prospectors looking to destroy Louisiana wetlands), still a great story. Well worth the read.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is obviously the era of Grisham's finer works. The Pelican Brief certainly belongs in that category. Though I do wonder about a theme in the author's books where there's an inappropriate relationship going on (i.e. affairs, suggested affairs.) Here, it's a law student who's sleeping with her professor. Thankfully, she's smart on her own, or I'd really hate this book.
So let's delve into Darby Shaw. She's awesome! For starters, I like her name, "Darby". I've never heard it before but it works so well. Like I said, she's smart...exceptionally smart in fact, and that's always a huge plus with me. The fact that she soon finds herself in peril because of what she knows or might know and is consequently in fear for her life makes her human, and that again is a plus for me. Her dialogue is also witty and worth listening to. We need more female protagonists like her out there.
The reporter, Gray Grantham, was good too, though Darby wins. He was smart for sure, but he never showed himself as being as smart as her. I'm absolutely thankful that he wasn't made out to be her hero or knight in shining armor. These two actually work together to expose the conspiracy at hand and I enjoyed every bit of the ride.
My main problem, apart from this audio book being abridged, is the villain. I'm completely fine with there being an unseen menace for the protagonists to deal with, but this villain, Victor Mattiece, appears once and only briefly. I'd have liked it better if he never appeared in the book and was only talked about as was the case most of the time. His brief appearance without any encores was just too out-of-place for me. Also, there was a hint of romance in the book, which I could have done without.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It's always a relief to sink into a well-written novel without fear of cringing. John Grisham's novel plots can seem similar, which is the reason I only gave it four stars, but even similar plots and two-dimensional characters don't cancel the joy of allowing a great story to sweep one along. I love the detail, gleaned from John Grisham's decade of practicing criminal law
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