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The Associate    by John Grisham order for
by John Grisham
Order:  USA  Can
Dell, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, Paperback, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Twenty-five year old Kyle McAvoy is in his last year of Yale Law School. He's editor in chief of the Yale Law Journal, with everything in place for a highly successful career. Though he expects to end up in the big leagues of corporate law, he's idealistic enough to plan to start with a legal aid position helping migrant workers in Virginia, a decision that has pleased both his father (ex-Marine/street lawyer John McAvoy) and his professors.

However, Kyle's future is derailed by an event in his past, a frat party in which, after he had passed out from too much booze, a wild young woman (Elaine) claimed to have been raped. Even being charged as an accessory could destroy Kyle's future. Unscrupulous men, initially posing as FBI, now use this history - and a video made during the party - to blackmail Kyle into taking a job (as an associate at a huge Wall Street firm, Scully & Pershing) he doesn't want. They demand that he spy on his new employers, and watch him very closely.

Scully & Pershing is about to square off against another big firm, each representing a gigantic defense contractor 'in the mother of all lawsuits.' At the core of the dispute is a contract to build a space-age aircraft, and the documentation on which the lawsuit is based describes very advanced designs and technologies that are military secrets. Kyle wonders who his blackmailers represent - the other firm, a government agency, foreign interests?

Seeking a way out of the trap he's in, Kyle bones up on techniques from spy novels and persuades his best friend, broker Joey Bernardo (who was also in the video), to help him gather evidence on his blackmailers. In parallel with this, danger grows on another front. Baxter Tate, the frat brother who might actually have raped Elaine, comes from a highly dysfunctional and extremely wealthy family. After his latest stint in rehab, Baxter stays clean and sober and decides he needs to make amends. His controllers' reaction ramps up Kyle's desperation to extract himself from this terrifying mess.

How does he do it, and achieve a real life in the process? Read The Associate to find out. I highly recommend this legal thriller to anyone who is not contemplating joining a big law firm. If you are, be warned that this novel is likely to make you change your mind in a hurry.

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