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The Partner
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Money is essentially the principal character in Grisham's new thriller. It is a very large sum of it-$90 million, to be exact-that has motivated Gulf Coast lawyer Patrick Lanigan to concoct a scheme to disappear that is even more elaborate (if less convincing) than the one in the recent The Big Picture. It is money that drove a crooked defense contractor to try to pry loose a huge sum from Washington, and got Patrick's greedy law firm involved in the first place. And it is varying sums of money that enable Patrick to bribe his way out of a collection of indictments against him a yard long-including one for first-degree murder-when he is eventually found in his Brazilian hideaway and brought back to the U.S. to face the music. Already, at the end of The Runaway Jury, Grisham was displaying his fascination with the techniques of moving huge sums rapidly around the world, and here it becomes a key plot device. Even when tortured by his captors, Patrick can say he doesn't know where the money is, because only his Brazilian lover, fellow lawyer Eva Miranda, really knows-and no one knows where she is. To call the plot of The Partner mechanical is at least partly a compliment: it is well-oiled, intricate and works smoothly. But its cynicism is remorseless: Lanigan is hardly a hero to warm to, despite his ingenuity (he puts on a lot of weight before his disappearance, just so he can take it off later and look altogether different). He is all calculation, and when it seems, at the end, as if someone has double-crossed him too, it is difficult to muster any sympathy. In Grisham's world money rules, and it is a sign of weakness to ignore its power. Not that the author is likely to do so, anyway; every indication is that his latest will rake it in once again. 2.8 million first printing; major ad/promo; Literary Guild, Doubleday Book club and Mystery Guild main selections; simultaneous audio. (Feb.)

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