Book Reviews From the Vault: The Summons

The Summons is the very first John Grisham book that I have ever read. Despite its flaws, I actually quite liked it and look forward to reading more of his books.

In the past, I have only heard of John Grisham – an author known for his legal thrillers, but never read any of his books. This all changed when a little book called The Summons came my way. It was published back in 2002, but that did not deter me at all. Since Grisham is one of the most popular authors ever, it only made sense to get to know him as a reader by starting off with The Summons, and it made for a good, not great, introduction to his work.

The Summons is about a lawyer named Ray Atlee, who (along with his drug-addict brother Forrest) receives a summon from his father Judge Atlee to return to his childhood home in Clanton, Mississippi to discuss the will. Upon arrival, Ray discovers that not only the judge is dead, but also over $3 million in cash that was not previously accounted for. While Ray tries to figure out where his dad got the money from, another person knows about the cash and makes veiled threats against Ray because of it.

The book definitely grabbed my attention in the beginning with the main characters’ back stories and the moment that Ray discovers the money. However, my interest varied throughout the novel. For example, Ray spends a good portion of the first half gambling the found cash to see if his father managed to get them that way. This would have made sense if he did this for a chapter or two, but no, this gambling goes on for multiple chapters. Luckily, I became intrigued again when Ray starts receiving the photographs indicating that someone else knows about the money too. But it waned again when Ray was meeting with minor characters to talk about where the money really came from. I realized that whenever something happened, it held my interest, yet when there was a lot of talking, it did not hold it as much. And that depended on what they were talking about. I get that there is a lot of legal speak, which I am not fluent in, but whenever the subject turned to the money, I was all ears.

Speaking of the money, readers and reviewers alike have noticed that everything revolved around it in this novel. Characters – major and minor – can’t stop talking about it, but then again, when someone finds a lot of money, it will weigh heavily on their minds for days, weeks, and even months on end. As a result, I didn’t mind that Grisham made the it the most interesting character in the novel with perfectly good stakes around it.

And yes, there is a twist at the end that definitely threw me for a loop. I will not spoil it, but I will say this: the twist makes the story a cautionary tale about how people use money. Too bad the story had to end abruptly after that.

Overall, The Summons is a good, not fantastic, introduction to John Grisham. It contains characters that people can be intrigued by and a really interesting turn at the end. Also, no one can go wrong with finding tons of cash. At the same time, I can’t help but notice the parts that dragged on and how it ended suddenly. I would recommend it to people who are either John Grisham lovers or want to get into his work. Either way, people will like it for the most part.

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Published by emilymalek

I work at a public library southeast Michigan, and I facilitate two book clubs there. I also hold a Bachelor's degree in History and Theatre from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI; a Master's degree in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI; and a Graduate Certificate in Archival Administration also from Wayne. In my downtime, I love hanging out with friends, play trivia and crossword puzzles, listening to music (like classic rock and K-pop), and watching shows like "Monty Python's Flying Circus"!

4 thoughts on “Book Reviews From the Vault: The Summons

  1. I liked the honesty of your review. Most people rave about Grisham’s style as if he could write nothing less than spectacular. If you publish as much as he does there has to be a stinker once in awhile. If this book’s main character is “money’ than I will bypass it, as I would rather read, and have, books on money management and strategies. Thanks for the heads up.


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