The Brethren

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Read by Michael Beck
4 Cassettes, 6 hours

Trumble, a minimum security federal prison, is home to the usual assortment of criminals- drug dealers, bank robbers, swindlers, embezzlers, tax evaders, two Wall Street crooks, one doctor, and at least four lawyers.

Trumble is also home to three former judges who call themselves The Brethren: one ...
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Overview

Read by Michael Beck
4 Cassettes, 6 hours

Trumble, a minimum security federal prison, is home to the usual assortment of criminals- drug dealers, bank robbers, swindlers, embezzlers, tax evaders, two Wall Street crooks, one doctor, and at least four lawyers.

Trumble is also home to three former judges who call themselves The Brethren: one from Texas, one from California, and one from Mississippi. They meet each day in the law library, their turf at Trumble, where they write briefs, handle cases for other inmates, practice law without a license, occasionally dispense jailhouse justice, and spend hours hatching schemes to make money.

Then one of their scams goes awry. It ensnares the wrong victim, an innocent on the outside, a man with dangerous friends, and The Brethren's days of quietly marking time are over.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Known for his taut courtroom dramas and David versus Goliath plots, John Grisham takes a slightly different tack with his newest novel, The Brethren. While he continues to dip his toe into the waters of legal and not-so-legal hijinks, Grisham sails this boat into the tumultuous waters of terrorism, spies, world politics, and the U.S. presidential election. This one has the political intrigue of a Tom Clancy novel and the biting sarcasm of Primary Colors mixed in with Grisham's usual brisk pacing, tight plotting, and high-wire suspense.

As with all Grisham thrillers, conniving and duplicity reign supreme in The Brethren. And they come in many forms, from a trio of scheming judges inside a federal penitentiary to the behind-the-scenes manipulation of world events by the CIA. Intelligence gathered by the CIA has identified a new subversive with both the ability and the inclination to become a powerful but menacing world ruler. This future despot's plans not only pose a threat to the United States, but to global stability and world peace. Unless something is done, the pared-down military capabilities of the U.S. will be unable to handle the onslaught, leaving the door wide open for this maniacal terrorist. But the CIA has a plan, one that involves several carefully choreographed machinations that must remain secret. Part of that plan is the manipulation the upcoming presidential election to assure that the country's populace will be behind the CIA's carefully chosen candidate -- one who will support the buildup of U.S. military forces.

While the CIA is putting their plan into place, three convicts at Trumble, a federal prison in Florida, are hatching their own scheme. Trumble is a minimum security facility with decent food, no razor wire, and no armed guards. The criminals here are mostly white collar offenders -- embezzlers, money launderers, tax evaders, and -- a Grisham staple -- crooked lawyers. Trumble is also home to three former judges who call themselves the Brethren. The Brethren provide legal services to other inmates and dispense jailhouse justice via an impromptu kangaroo court. But that's just what they do for fun. With the help of a sleazy, two-bit lawyer from a nearby town, the Brethren are also running a scam that is just beginning to pay off, one that stands to make them all very rich men when they are done serving their time.

When the Brethren snag the wrong person in their scheme, they become the CIA's worse nightmare. Suddenly their little get-rich-quick plan has tossed them into deeper waters than they ever counted on -- and the sharks are hungry and circling. From then on, the tension mounts and the stakes rise in a hair-raising crescendo that is Grisham at his all-time best. The Brethren has the same killer pacing and taut suspense as The Firm, and there is an underlying tone of both light and dark humor that make it a standout from all of Grisham's other works. Readers who revel in Grisham's classic courtroom battles and sleazy maneuverings may be disappointed that there are none of these to be had, but the crackling suspense and high-stakes intrigue in The Brethren make for a most satisfying substitute.

--Beth Amos

Beth Amos is the author of several mainstream suspense thrillers, including Second Sight, Eyes of Night, and Cold White Fury.

Entertainment Weekly
A jailhouse mix of greed, murder, and blackmail.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Only a few megaselling authors of popular fiction deviate dramatically from formula--most notably Stephen King but recently Grisham, too. He's serializing a literary novel, A Painted House, in the Oxford American; his last thriller (The Testament) emphasized spirituality as intensely as suspense; and his deeply absorbing new novel dispenses with a staple not only of his own work but of most commercial fiction: the hero. The novel does feature three antiheroes of a sort, the brethren of the title, judges serving time in a federal prison in Florida for white-collar offenses. They're a hard bunch to root for, though, as their main activity behind bars is running a blackmail scheme in which they bait, hook and squeeze wealthy, closeted gay men through a magazine ad supposedly placed by "Ricky," a young incarcerated gay looking for companionship. Then there's the two-bit alcoholic attorney who's abetting them by running their mail and depositing their dirty profits in an overseas bank. Scarcely more appealing is the big fish the trio snare, Congressman Anthony Lake, who meanwhile is busy selling his lifelong integrity when the director of the CIA offers to lever him into the White House in exchange for a doubling of federal defense spending upon Lake's inauguration. The expertly orchestrated and very complex plot follows these evildoers through their illicit enterprises, devoting considerable attention to the CIA's staging of Lake's presidential campaign and even more to that agency's potentially lethal pursuit of the brethren once it learns that the three are threatening to out candidate Lake. Every personage in this novel lies, cheats, steals and/or kills, and while Grisham's fans may miss the stalwart lawyer-heroes and David vs. Goliath slant of his earlier work, all will be captivated by this clever thriller that presents as crisp a cast as he's yet devised, and as grippingly sardonic yet bitingly moral a scenario as he's ever imagined. Agent, David Gernert. 2.8 million first printing. (Feb. 1) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
The Brethren are three ex-judges in a country club prison in Florida who settle disputes among other inmates and help with appeals. They also have a mail scam going that extorts money from middle-aged gay men taking their first tentative steps out of the closet. These are the good guys. Meanwhile, CIA director Teddy Maynard has chosen obscure Arizona Congressman Aaron Lake to become the nation's next president, offering him the message (double defense spending), the money, and the means to shape events to become a surefire winner. Take a deep breath. The listener will be asked to swallow some incredible coincidences, including the extortion scheme's snagging the hitherto immaculate Lake. Reader Michael Beck brings a great deal of energy to his narration. The abridgment works pretty well, though some subplots inevitably get shortchanged, and at least one important scene takes place off-camera. Grisham's (A Time To Kill) ending is weak, but if ever a title rendered criticism irrelevant, this is the one. Buy it for demand rather than merit; you probably already have.--John Hiett, Iowa City P.L. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
-- Lucy T. Heckman, St. John's University Library, Jamaica, NY
From the Publisher
"Gripping ... engaging and fast-paced ... will hook you from the first page and won't let you go."—New York Post

"A crackerjack tale."—Entertainment Weekly

"Fast-paced and action-packed...you'll be thoroughly entertained."—New Orleans Times-Picayune

"The plot is as up-to-date as tomorrow's newspaper, with allusions to presidential polls and debates, campaign financing, money laundering and offshore financial finagling.... Add to these tantalizing ingredients the steady action, with some clever surprises." —The New York Times

A Main Selection of the Doubleday Book Club, the Literary Guild, and the Mystery Guild

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781856865821
  • Publisher: Ulverscroft Large Print Books, Ltd.
  • Publication date: 11/1/2002
  • Format: Cassette

Meet the Author

John Grisham is the author of The Testament, The Street Lawyer, The Partner, The Runaway Jury, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, The Client, The Pelican Brief, The Firm, and A Time to Kill.

Biography

As a young boy in Arkansas, John Grisham dreamed of being a baseball player. Fortunately for his millions of fans, that career didn't pan out. His family moved to Mississippi in 1967, where Grisham eventually received a law degree from Ole Miss and established a practice in Southaven for criminal and civil law. In 1983, Grisham was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives, where he served until 1990.

While working as an attorney, Grisham witnessed emotional testimony from the case of a young girl's rape. Naturally inquisitive, Grisham's mind started to wander: what if the terrible crime yielded an equally terrible revenge? These questions of right and wrong were the subject of his first novel, A Time to Kill (1988), written in the stolen moments before and between court appearances. The book wasn't widely distributed, but his next title would be the one to bring him to the national spotlight. The day after he finished A Time to Kill, Grisham began work on The Firm (1991), the story of a whiz kid attorney who joins a crooked law firm. The book was an instant hit, spent 47 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, and was made into a movie starring Tom Cruise.

With the success of The Firm, Grisham resigned from the Mississippi House of Representatives to focus exclusively on his writing. What followed was a string of bestselling legal thrillers that demonstrated the author's uncanny ability to capture the unique drama of the courtroom. Several of his novels were turned into blockbuster movies.

In 1996, Grisham returned to his law practice for one last case, honoring a promise he had made before his retirement. He represented the family of a railroad worker who was killed on the job, the case went to trial, and Grisham won the largest verdict of his career when the family was awarded more than $650,000.

Although he is best known for his legal thrillers, Grisham has ventured outside the genre with several well-received novels (A Painted House, Bleachers, et al) and an earnest and compelling nonfiction account of small-town justice gone terribly wrong (The Innocent Man). The popularity of these stand-alones proves that Grisham is no mere one-trick pony but a gifted writer with real "legs."

Good To Know

A prolific writer, it takes Grisham an average of six months to complete a novel.

Grisham has the right to approve or reject whoever is cast in movies based on his books. He has even written two screenplays himself: Mickey and The Gingerbread Man.

Baseball is one of Grisham's great loves. He serves as the local Little League commissioner and has six baseball diamonds on his property, where he hosts games.

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    1. Hometown:
      Oxford, Mississippi, and Albemarle County, Virginia
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 8, 1955
    2. Place of Birth:
      Jonesboro, Arkansas
    1. Education:
      B.S., Mississippi State, 1977; J.D., University of Mississippi, 1981
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

FOR THE WEEKLY DOCKET the court jester wore his standard garb of well-used and deeply faded maroon pajamas and lavender terry-cloth shower shoes with no socks. He wasn't the only inmate who went about his daily business in his pajamas, but no one else dared wear lavender shoes. His name was T. Karl, and he'd once owned banks in Boston.

The pajamas and shoes weren't nearly as troubling as the wig. It parted at the middle and rolled in layers downward, over his ears, with tight curls coiling off into three directions, and fell heavily onto his shoulders. It was a bright gray, almost white, and fashioned after the Old English magistrate's wigs from centuries earlier. A friend on the outside had found it at a secondhand costume store in Manhattan, in the Village.

T. Karl wore it to court with great pride, and, odd as it was, it had, with time, become part of the show. The other inmates kept their distance from T. Karl anyway, wig or not.

He stood behind his flimsy folding table in the prison cafeteria, tapped a plastic mallet that served as a gavel, cleared his squeaky throat, and announced with great dignity: "Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye. The Inferior Federal Court of North Florida is now in session. Please rise."

No one moved, or at least no one made an effort to stand. Thirty inmates lounged in various stages of repose in plastic cafeteria chairs, some looking at the court jester, some chatting away as if he didn't exist.

T. Karl continued: "Let all ye who search for justice draw nigh and get screwed."

No laughs. It had been funny months earlier when T. Karl first tried it. Now it was just another part of the show. He sat down carefully, making surethe rows of curls bouncing upon his shoulders were given ample chance to be seen, then he opened a thick red leather book which served as the official record for the court. He took his work very seriously.

Three men entered the room from the kitchen. Two of them wore shoes. One was eating a saltine. The one with no shoes was also bare-legged up to his knees, so that below his robe his spindly legs could be seen. They were smooth and hairless and very brown from the sun. A large tattoo had been applied to his left calf. He was from California.

All three wore old church robes from the same choir, pale green with gold trim. They came from the same store as T. Karl's wig, and had been presented by him as gifts at Christmas. That was how he kept his job as the court's official clerk.
There were a few hisses and jeers from the spectators as the judges ambled across the tile floor, in full regalia, their robes flowing. They took their places behind a long folding table, near T. Karl but not too near, and faced the weekly gathering. The short round one sat in the middle. Joe Roy Spicer was his name, and by default he acted as the Chief Justice of the tribunal. In his previous life, Judge Spicer had been a Justice of the Peace in Mississippi, duly elected by the people of his little county, and sent away when the feds caught him skimming bingo profits from a Shriners club.

"Please be seated," he said. Not a soul was standing.

The judges adjusted their folding chairs and shook their robes until they fell properly around them. The assistant warden stood to the side, ignored by the inmates. A guard in uniform was with him. The Brethren met once a week with the prison's approval. They heard cases, mediated disputes, settled little fights among the boys, and had generally proved to be a stabilizing factor amid the population.

Spicer looked at the docket, a neat hand-printed sheet of paper prepared by T. Karl, and said, "Court shall come to order."

To his right was the Californian, the Honorable Finn Yarber, age sixty, in for two years now with five to go for income tax evasion. A vendetta, he still maintained to anyone who would listen. A crusade by a Republican governor who'd managed to rally the voters in a recall drive to remove Chief Justice Yarber from the California Supreme Court. The rallying point had been Yarber's opposition to the death penalty, and his high-handedness in delaying every execution. Folks wanted blood, Yarber prevented it, the Republicans whipped up a frenzy, and the recall was a smashing success. They pitched him onto the street, where he floundered for a while until the IRS began asking questions. Educated at Stanford, indicted in Sacramento, sentenced in San Francisco, and now serving his time at a federal prison in Florida.

In for two years and Finn was still struggling with the bitterness. He still believed in his own innocence, still dreamed of conquering his enemies. But the dreams were fading. He spent a lot of time on the jogging track, alone, baking in the sun and dreaming of another life.


From the Audio Cassette edition.

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First Chapter

For the weekly docket the court jester wore his standard garb of well-used and deeply faded maroon pajamas and lavender terry-cloth shower shoes with no socks. He wasn't the only inmate who went about his daily business in his pajamas, but no one else dared wear lavender shoes. His name was T. Karl, and he'd once owned banks in Boston.

The pajamas and shoes weren't nearly as troubling as the wig. It parted at the middle and rolled in layers downward, over his ears, with tight curls coiling off into three directions, and fell heavily onto his shoulders. It was a bright gray, almost white, and fashioned after the Old English magistrate's wigs from centuries earlier. A friend on the outside had found it at a secondhand costume store in Manhattan, in the Village.

T. Karl wore it to court with great pride, and, odd as it was, it had, with time, become part of the show. The other inmates kept their distance from T. Karl anyway, wig or not.

He stood behind his flimsy folding table in the prison cafeteria, tapped a plastic mallet that served as a gavel, cleared his squeaky throat, and announced with great dignity: "Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye. The Inferior Federal Court of North Florida is now in session. Please rise."

No one moved, or at least no one made an effort to stand. Thirty inmates lounged in various stages of repose in plastic cafeteria chairs, some looking at the court jester, some chatting away as if he didn't exist.

T. Karl continued: "Let all ye who search for justice draw nigh and get screwed."

No laughs. It had been funny months earlier when T. Karl first tried it. Now it was just another part of the show. He sat down carefully, making sure the rows of curls bouncing upon his shoulders were given ample chance to be seen, then he opened a thick red leather book which served as the official record for the court. He took his work very seriously.

Three men entered the room from the kitchen. Two of them wore shoes. One was eating a saltine. The one with no shoes was also bare-legged up to his knees, so that below his robe his spindly legs could be seen. They were smooth and hairless and very brown from the sun. A large tattoo had been applied to his left calf. He was from California.

All three wore old church robes from the same choir, pale green with gold trim. They came from the same store as T. Karl's wig, and had been presented by him as gifts at Christmas. That was how he kept his job as the court's official clerk.

There were a few hisses and jeers from the spectators as the judges ambled across the tile floor, in full regalia, their robes flowing. They took their places behind a long folding table, near T. Karl but not too near, and faced the weekly gathering. The short round one sat in the middle. Joe Roy Spicer was his name, and by default he acted as the Chief Justice of the tribunal. In his previous life, Judge Spicer had been a Justice of the Peace in Mississippi, duly elected by the people of his little county, and sent away when the feds caught him skimming bingo profits from a Shriners club.

"Please be seated," he said. Not a soul was standing.

The judges adjusted their folding chairs and shook their robes until they fell properly around them. The assistant warden stood to the side, ignored by the inmates. A guard in uniform was with him. The Brethren met once a week with the prison's approval. They heard cases, mediated disputes, settled little fights among the boys, and had generally proved to be a stabilizing factor amid the population.

Spicer looked at the docket, a neat hand-printed sheet of paper prepared by T. Karl, and said, "Court shall come to order."

To his right was the Californian, the Honorable Finn Yarber, age sixty, in for two years now with five to go for income tax evasion. A vendetta, he still maintained to anyone who would listen. A crusade by a Republican governor who'd managed to rally the voters in a recall drive to remove Chief Justice Yarber from the California Supreme Court. The rallying point had been Yarber's opposition to the death penalty, and his high-handedness in delaying every execution. Folks wanted blood, Yarber prevented it, the Republicans whipped up a frenzy, and the recall was a smashing success. They pitched him onto the street, where he floundered for a while until the IRS began asking questions. Educated at Stanford, indicted in Sacramento, sentenced in San Francisco, and now serving his time at a federal prison in Florida.

In for two years and Finn was still struggling with the bitterness. He still believed in his own innocence, still dreamed of conquering his enemies. But the dreams were fading. He spent a lot of time on the jogging track, alone, baking in the sun and dreaming of another life.

"First case is Schneiter versus Magruder," Spicer announced as if a major antitrust trial was about to start.

"Schneiter's not here," Beech said.

"Where is he?"

"Infirmary. Gallstones again. I just left there."

Hatlee Beech was the third member of the tribunal. He spent most of his time in the infirmary because of hemorrhoids, or headaches, or swollen glands. Beech was fifty-six, the youngest of the three, and with nine years to go he was convinced he would die in prison. He'd been a federal judge in East Texas, a hardfisted conservative who knew lots of Scripture and liked to quote it during trials. He'd had political ambitions, a nice family, money from his wife's family's oil trust. He also had a drinking problem which no one knew about until he ran over two hikers in Yellowstone. Both died. The car Beech had been driving was owned by a young lady he was not married to. She was found naked in the front seat, too drunk to walk.

They sent him away for twelve years.

Joe Roy Spicer, Finn Yarber, Hatlee Beech. The Inferior Court of North Florida, better known as the Brethren around Trumble, a minimum security federal prison with no fences, no guard towers, no razor wire. If you had to do time, do it the federal way, and do it in a place like Trumble.

"Should we default him?" Spicer asked Beech.

"No, just continue it until next week."

"Okay. I don't suppose he's going anywhere."

"I object to a continuance," Magruder said from the crowd.

"Too bad," said Spicer. "It's continued until next week."

Magruder was on his feet. "That's the third time it's been continued. I'm the plaintiff. I sued him. He runs to the infirmary every time we have a docket."

"What're ya'll fightin over?" Spicer asked.

"Seventeen dollars and two magazines," T. Karl said helpfully.

"That much, huh?" Spicer said. Seventeen dollars would get you sued every time at Trumble.

Finn Yarber was already bored. With one hand he stroked his shaggy gray beard, and with the other he raked his long fingernails across the table. Then he popped his toes, loudly, crunching them into the floor in an efficient little workout that grated on the nerves. In his other life, when he had titles-Mr. Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court-he often presided while wearing leather clogs, no socks, so that he could exercise his toes during the dull oral arguments.

"Continue it," he said.

"Justice delayed is justice denied," Magruder said solemnly.

"Now that's original," said Beech. "One more week, then we'll default Schneiter."

"So ordered," Spicer said, with great finality. T. Karl made a note in the docket book. Magruder sat down in a huff. He'd filed his complaint in the Inferior Court by handing to T. Karl a one-page summary of his allegations against Schneiter. Only one page. The Brethren didn't tolerate paperwork. One page and you got your day in court. Schneiter had replied with six pages of invective, all of which had been summarily stricken by T. Karl.
***

The rules were kept simple. Short pleadings. No discovery. Quick justice. Decisions on the spot, and all decisions were binding if both parties submitted to the jurisdiction of the court. No appeals; there was nowhere to take one. Witnesses were not given an oath to tell the truth. Lying was completely expected. It was, after all, a prison.

"What's next?" Spicer asked.

T. Karl hesitated for a second, then said, "It's the Whiz case."

Things were suddenly still for a moment, then the plastic cafeteria chairs rattled forward in one noisy offensive. The inmates scooted and shuffled until T. Karl announced, "That's close enough!" They were less than twenty feet away from the bench.

"We shall maintain decorum!" he proclaimed.

The Whiz matter had been festering for months at Trumble. Whiz was a young Wall Street crook who'd bilked some rich clients. Four million dollars had never been accounted for, and legend held that Whiz had stashed it offshore and managed it from inside Trumble. He had six years left, and would be almost forty when paroled. It was widely assumed that he was quietly serving his time until one glorious day when he would walk free, still a young man, and fly off in a private jet to a beach where the money was waiting.

Inside, the legend only grew, partly because Whiz kept to himself and spent long hours every day studying financials and technical charts and reading impenetrable economic publications. Even the warden had tried to cajole him into sharing market tips.

An ex-lawyer known as Rook had somehow got next to Whiz, and had somehow convinced him to share a small morsel of advice with an investment club that met once a week in the prison chapel. On behalf of the club, Rook was now suing the Whiz for fraud.

Rook took the witness chair, and began his narrative. The usual rules of procedure and evidence were dispensed with so that the truth could be arrived at quickly, whatever form it might take.

"So I go to the Whiz and I ask him what he thinks about ValueNow, a new online company I read about in Forbes," Rook explained. "It was about to go public, and I liked the idea behind the company. Whiz said he'd check it out for me. I heard nothing. So I went back to him and said, 'Hey, Whiz, what about ValueNow?' And he said he thought it was a solid company and the stock would go through the roof."

"I did not say that," the Whiz inserted quickly. He was seated across the room, by himself, his arms folded over the chair in front.

"Yes you did."

"I did not."

"Anyway, I go back to the club and tell them that Whiz is high on the deal, so we decide we want to buy some stock in ValueNow. But little guys can't buy because the offering is closed. I go back to Whiz over there and I say, 'Look, Whiz, you think you could pull some strings with your buddies on Wall Street and get us a few shares of ValueNow?' And Whiz said he thought he could do that."

"That's a lie," said Whiz.

"Quiet," said Justice Spicer. "You'll get your chance."

"He's lying," Whiz said, as if there was a rule against it.

If Whiz had money, you'd never know it, at least not on the inside. His eight-by-twelve cell was bare except for stacks of financial publications. No stereo, fan, books, cigarettes, none of the usual assets acquired by almost everyone else. This only added to the legend. He was considered a miser, a weird little man who saved every penny and was no doubt stashing everything offshore.

"Anyway," Rook continued, "we decided to gamble by taking a big position in ValueNow. Our strategy was to liquidate our holdings and consolidate."

"Consolidate?" asked Justice Beech. Rook sounded like a portfolio manager who handled billions.

"Right, consolidate. We borrowed all we could from friends and family, and had close to a thousand bucks."

"A thousand bucks," repeated Justice Spicer. Not bad for an inside job. "Then what happened?"

"I told Whiz over there that we were ready to move. Could he get us the stock? This was on a Tuesday. The offering was on a Friday. Whiz said no problem. Said he had a buddy at Goldman Sux or some such place that could take care of us."

"That's a lie," Whiz shot from across the room.

"Anyway, on Wednesday I saw Whiz in the east yard, and I asked him about the stock. He said no problem."

"That's a lie."

"I got a witness."

"Who?" asked Justice Spicer.

"Picasso."

Picasso was sitting behind Rook, as were the other six members of the investment club. Picasso reluctantly waved his hand.

"Is that true?" Spicer asked.

"Yep," Picasso answered. "Rook asked about the stock. Whiz said he would get it. No problem."

Picasso testified in a lot of cases, and had been caught lying more than most inmates.

"Continue," Spicer said.

"Anyway, Thursday I couldn't find Whiz anywhere. He was hiding from me."

"I was not."

"Friday, the stock goes public. It was offered at twenty a share, the price we could've bought it for if Mr. Wall Street over there had done what he promised. It opened at sixty, spent most of the day at eighty, then closed at seventy. Our plans were to sell it as soon as possible. We could've bought fifty shares at twenty, sold them at eighty, and walked away from the deal with three thousand dollars in profits."

Violence was very rare at Trumble. Three thousand dollars would not get you killed, but some bones might be broken. Whiz had been lucky so far. There'd been no ambush.

"And you think the Whiz owes you these lost profits?" asked ex-Chief Justice Finn Yarber, now plucking his eyebrows.

"Damned right we do. Look, what makes the deal stink even worse is that Whiz bought ValueNow for himself."

"That's a damned lie," Whiz said.

"Language, please," Justice Beech said. If you wanted to lose a case before the Brethren, just offend Beech with your language.

The rumors that Whiz had bought the stock for himself had been started by Rook and his gang. There was no proof of it, but the story had proved irresistible and had been repeated by most inmates so often that it was now established as fact. It fit so nicely.

"Is that all?" Spicer asked Rook.

Rook had other points he wanted to elaborate on, but the Brethren had no patience with windy litigants. Especially ex-lawyers still reliving their glory days. There were at least five of them at Trumble, and they seemed to be on the docket all the time.

"I guess so," Rook said.

"What do you have to say?" Spicer asked the Whiz.

Whiz stood and took a few steps toward their table. He glared at his accusers, Rook and his gang of losers. Then he addressed the court. "What's the burden of proof here?"

Justice Spicer immediately lowered his eyes and waited for help. As a Justice of the Peace, he'd had no legal training. He'd never finished high school, then worked for twenty years in his father's country store. That's where the votes came from. Spicer relied on common sense, which was often at odds with the law. Any questions dealing with legal theory would be handled by his two colleagues.

"It's whatever we say it is," Justice Beech said, relishing a debate with a stockbroker on the court's rules of procedure.

"Clear and convincing proof?" asked the Whiz.

"Could be, but not in this case."

"Beyond a reasonable doubt?"

"Probably not."

"Preponderance of the evidence?"

"Now you're getting close."

"Then, they have no proof," the Whiz said, waving his hands like a bad actor in a bad TV drama.

"Why don't you just tell us your side of the story?" said Beech.

"I'd love to. ValueNow was a typical online offering, lots of hype, lots of red ink on the books. Sure Rook came to me, but by the time I could make my calls, the offering was closed. I called a friend who told me you couldn't get near the stock. Even the big boys were shut out."

"Now, how does that happen?" asked Justice Yarber.

The room was quiet. The Whiz was talking money, and everyone was listening.

"Happens all the time in IPOs. That's initial public offerings."

"We know what an IPO is," Beech said.

Spicer certainly did not. Didn't have many of those back in rural Mississippi.

The Whiz relaxed, just a little. He could dazzle them for a moment, win this nuisance of a case, then go back to his cave and ignore them.

"The ValueNow IPO was handled by the investment banking firm of Bakin-Kline, a small outfit in San Francisco. Five million shares were offered. Bakin-Kline basically presold the stock to its preferred customers and friends, so that most big investment firms never had a shot at the stock. Happens all the time."

The judges and the inmates, even the court jester, hung on every word. He continued. "It's silly to think that some disbarred yahoo sitting in prison, reading an old copy of Forbes, can somehow buy a thousand dollars' worth of ValueNow."

And at that very moment it did indeed seem very silly. Rook fumed while his club members began quietly blaming him.

"Did you buy any of it?" asked Beech.

"Of course not. I couldn't get near it. And besides, most of the high-tech and online companies are built with funny money. I stay away from them."

"What do you prefer?" Beech asked quickly, his curiosity getting the better of him.

"Value. The long haul. I'm in no hurry. Look, this is a bogus case brought by some boys looking for an easy buck." He waved toward Rook, who was sinking in his chair. The Whiz sounded perfectly believable and legitimate. Rook's case was built on hearsay, speculation, and the corroboration of Picasso, a notorious liar.

"You got any witnesses?" Spicer asked.

"I don't need any," the Whiz said and took his seat.

Each of the three justices scribbled something on a slip of paper.

Deliberations were quick, verdicts instantaneous. Yarber and Beech slid theirs to Spicer, who announced, "By a vote of two to one, we find for the defendant. Case dismissed. Who's next?"

The vote was actually unanimous, but every verdict was officially two to one. That allowed each of the three a little wiggle room if later confronted.

But the Brethren were well regarded around Trumble. Their decisions were quick and as fair as they could make them. In fact, they were remarkably accurate in light of the shaky testimony they often heard. Spicer had presided over small cases for years, in the back of his family's country store. He could spot a liar at fifty feet. Beech and Yarber had spent their careers in courtrooms, and had no tolerance for lengthy arguments and delays, the usual tactics.

"That's all today," T. Karl reported. "End of docket."

"Very well. Court is adjourned until next week."

T. Karl jumped to his feet, his curls again vibrating across his shoulders, and declared, "Court's adjourned. All rise."

No one stood, no one moved as the Brethren left the room. Rook and his gang were huddled, no doubt planning their next lawsuit. The Whiz left quickly.

The assistant warden and the guard eased away without being seen. The weekly docket was one of the better shows at Trumble.

Read More Show Less

Interviews & Essays

A bn.com Exclusive Interview with John Grisham

barnesandnoble.com: What can you tell us about your new novel, THE BRETHREN? Set the story up for us.

John Grisham: The Brethren are three ex-judges serving time in a federal prison for a variety of sins. They are bright, bitter, bored, and they begin scamming people on the outside, all in an effort to make money. One scam goes awry, they hook up the wrong person, a man with powerful friends, and suddenly they are in serious danger.

bn.com: Did you visit a minimum-security prison in preparation for THE BRETHREN? What other research went into this novel?

JG: Yes, I went to a minimum-security unit in Georgia, spent the day, interviewed some lawyers, had a delightful time. One trip was enough research.

bn.com: What inspired you to focus a novel on dirty judges? Ever run across one, or rumors of one, while practicing law? Have you read Scott Turow's PERSONAL INJURIES, another recent novel that deals with corrupt court officials?

JG: No, I never met a corrupt judge. Dumb ones and mean ones and lazy ones, yes, but never one willing to make money in return for sympathetic rulings. I chose judges because I was tired of lawyers. I did read PERSONAL INJURIES, and I enjoyed it. The characters were wonderfully complicated, and the plot was very clever.

bn.com: Do you ever miss practicing law? How much do you think your influence has contributed to the flocks of students seeking law careers?

JG: I have yet to miss the practice of law. I have not intentionally inspired young people to go to law school. I wish they wouldn't.

bn.com: Last year was the first year since 1995 that moviegoers weren't treated to a John Grisham film. Any reason for the mellowing pace? Can we expect a new film based on one of your novels in 2000?

JG: I'm taking a break from the movies, though I admit that I've missed seeing the adaptations. THE RUNAWAY JURY might, and I repeat might, be filmed this year.

bn.com: It's been reported that you're writing a novel Charles Dickens-style, to be serialized in The Oxford American magazine. Is this novel also a thriller? How do you enjoy writing on a strict monthly schedule?

JG: The book is called A PAINTED HOUSE. It is a highly fictionalized childhood memoir being published in six installments by The Oxford American in Oxford, Mississippi. I've written two installments, four to go, and so far the threat of an impending deadline has been very motivational. So far, so good.

bn.com: After all of your popular success, what keeps you at the keyboard?

JG: It's still fun. And it takes six months out of the year. I'm not sure what I would do with my time if I didn't write a book. When it becomes a bore, I hope I'll have the sense to take some time off.

bn.com: In a previous interview you mentioned your dislike for book reviewers. Do you feel that book reviewers treat popular writers differently than lesser-known writers?

JG: I've yet to meet a writer who liked the critics, as a whole. Most critics are frustrated novelists who are scornful and jealous of what they read. Frankly, though, after ten books, and ten years of getting hammered by the critics, I've learned to ignore them. The books are selling, the readers are happy, who needs the critics? I try to irritate them by selling even more books.

bn.com: Was reading important to you while growing up? Whose works did you pick up while taking a break from dry law school reading?

JG: We didn't watch much television when I was a kid. We read books, lots of them, beginning with Dr. Seuss, then the Hardy Boys and Chip Hilton, and Sports Illustrated and Boys' Life. I didn't read much in law school, though I do remember reading Irving's THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP and THE BRETHREN by Woodward and Armstrong. (What a great title for a book!)

bn.com: What's the downside of your celebrity status? How invasive can it be? Does being one of the world's most popular novelists carry many burdens?

JG: I'm a famous writer in a country where few people read. I don't allow my celebrity to become a burden; I ignore it. It's easy to hide here on the farm, write books, pretty much ignore the outside world. Fame, at my level, which is not very high on the pole, is manageable. It sure beats practicing law.

bn.com: Finally, how's the Little League team coming along?

JG: My son is now 16, my daughter 14, so they have outgrown Little League. I'm an assistant coach for my son's high school team, and I'm the general manager for my daughter's softball team. The snow is melting; it's almost that time of the year...

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 376 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(118)

4 Star

(114)

3 Star

(76)

2 Star

(41)

1 Star

(27)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 376 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Grisham got my interest

    My first Grisham read was the Brethren. I have read many of his since, and while all are good this one sticks in my mind the most. you could'nt ask for a more brilliant plot to a story.If you are a Grisham fan, a mystery fan, and love conspiracy, you will love this book.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2007

    Go ahead and buy it! you'll read it more than once

    I take my time with good novels and never speed read an author such as Grisham. His wording and vocabulary are superb to the point that you can feel the character's heartbeat. This really is a great book. I am surprised by the negetive reviews. I've had it for two years now and it is always one I re-read while waiting on the next thriller. The story line is the same but I never tire of it. And so it goes I remain a fan forever.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2004

    Not the greatest, but it was good

    The book isn't terrible, but it's not the best. It starts and ends slow with no major twist or surprise. Overall it has a good plot with very vivid and unique characters.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 2, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Grisham is always good.

    An interesting twist on a crime story: the men involved in a scam to make money are already in prison and were judges and lawyers, meanwhile a major power play is being hatched out by the head of the CIA to elect the next President of the U.S..

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2009

    The Most Thrilling Book Out There

    The book The Brethren by John Grisham is an interesting story about three judges stuck in prison. These three judges decide they'll start trying to make money from extorting others. Their plan is quite genius. However, once their extortion scheme gets involved with a presidential candidate, they get caught, but there's a twist in the end that just blows you away. The major message I got out of this book was that no one ever gets what they really want in the end. I liked this book because, it's very exciting, realistic, and you don't want to stop reading it. My only dislike in the book was that in the end the bad guys "win" or get what they want. Someone should read this book because; it is one of few books that keep you at the end of your seat the entire time. John Grisham has written many books, a few of his best books with related themes are; Without Doubt and The Firm. I would rate this book 9 out of 10, because it's a great read but not perfect, because the ending could have been better in my opinion.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Who are you pulling for?

    While John Grisham's "The Bretheren" is well written it begs the question, who am I pulling for?

    I frankly didn't like any of the characters in this book. Am I supposed to applaud the presidential candidate whose campain is being bought and paid for by the CIA? A candidate who by the way is a closet homosexual in hope of having a secret afair, and is being blackmailed.

    Or do I pull for three corrupt judges who are in prison and running a blackmail scheme?

    Maybe I should feel sorry for the men who are married but want to have something more exciting in their lives by running away to an exotic location with young men. I don't!

    I forgot to mention the head of the CIA, who buys the election, kills a corrupt lawyer who gets in his way and allows a nuclear nighmare to take place in another part of world in order to scare people into voting for his candidate!


    If you are looking for a cynical view of the world, this book might be up your ally. If you are looking for characters with whom you will be sypathetic, skip this book and read "A Time To Kill". It really is a much better read!

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2009

    Danger: You will be kept on the edge of your seats!

    The Brethren written by author John Grisham is a story of three judges in a prison named Tremble. From Trumble the three judges run scams of blackmailing innocent people of their money by threatening to tell their secret of being homosexuals even though they are married. The fun thing about this book is that they do all of this through letters making every move count. The way the plan work is that the three judges post up magazine articles looking for homosexuals who would like to pen pal. The people that the Brethren target are secretly gay married men that are wealthy. The victims of the Brethren will do anything to keep their secret a secret. The Brethren leave these people alone once they get as much money from them as they can. This book gets really suspenseful when their plan catches a man named Aaron Lake, a nominee for the next president of the United States. This book is kind of a long read but it is also quick to read because it is hard to put it down once you get started. I normally don¿t read much but this book was really good and I am looking forward to reading another of Grisham¿s books. This book is a bit difficult to understand in the beginning but once you catch on it gets a lot better. I recommend this book to anyone that really wants to be kept on the edge of their seats.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 6, 2009

    Great Book

    I haven't read a book that captured my attention the way this did in 10 years. I read the book in a day and a half which is very unusual for me as I usually take my time with a book but from page 1 I just could not put it down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2003

    Loved it

    Great job by John Grisham, I love everything he writes.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2003

    Yet, another great novel!

    This book I took time to read. Toward the end I couldn't believe a writer has such gift as John Grisham. Another one of his greatest works. I just hope one day all would cherish his wonderful novels and really know what a Grisham book stands for; integreity, manner, and excitement. The Brethern was to die for.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2013

    Boring.

    Nothing much going on here.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2013

    Excellent read. Typical John Grisham.

    If you like John Grisham, you will like this one. Interesting characters, good story line.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2013

    Thank you all for your kind words

    Apples are not oranges

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2012

    Just okay.

    This is not my favorite Grisham.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2012

    Slow starter, but picks up speed.

    I've read most of what John Grisham has written & I've never been disappointed. It "felt" a bit heavy at the beginning. (Not sure how to explain that any better...) but knowing the writer's ability to keep you entertained...I persevered & was rewarded with a great story.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 8, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    My father suggested that I read this book. I did and I liked it

    My father suggested that I read this book. I did and I liked it. I have continued to ready others by John Grisham.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 10, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Spend some time in jail.

    If you ever wanted to spend time in a Federal Prison with politicians and famous Wall Street swindlers, this is your chance. While you will not be having Caesar salad and a California chardonnay for lunch, John Grisham’s -The Brethren- will have you rubbing elbows with three disgraced judges and enjoying their comfy little scam. The scam, which is not quite on the same moral level as a Wall Street “pump and dump,” is more sophisticated and equally as profitable. That is, until they get caught in their own zippers by scamming the wrong person. At your next Rotary meeting, it will be impossible for you not to look at a couple of your Rotary buddies who are judges and smile.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2012

    Pretty good book

    This book is actually pretty good, if you can be patient and get past the first 30 pages. It seemed boring at first. The author spent the first 10 or 20 pages introducing characters, and that's why other readers got bored (As I did at first). The reader loses patience trying to see how the characters connect. But once the characters are all introduced, then the story unfolds and you'll see how they all connect. I'm a john Grisham fan. I read a lot of his books. This is a good one. Not one of his best. But it is a good one.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2012

    Good book

    You will like it too many twists though

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2012

    Thrilling

    This book is a great book. It combines a sense of seriousness with mystery, all while keeping you on the edge of your seat.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 376 Customer Reviews

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