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The Testament

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Overview

Troy Phelan is a self-made billionaire, one of the richest men in the U.S. He is also eccentric, reclusive, confined to a wheelchair, and looking for a way to die. His heirs, to no one's surprise -- especially Troy's -- are circling like vultures.

Nate O' Reilly is a high-octane Washington litigator who's lived too hard, too fast, for too long. His second marriage is in a shambles, he is emerging from his fourth stay in rehab armed with little more than his fragile sobriety, ...

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The Testament

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Overview

Troy Phelan is a self-made billionaire, one of the richest men in the U.S. He is also eccentric, reclusive, confined to a wheelchair, and looking for a way to die. His heirs, to no one's surprise -- especially Troy's -- are circling like vultures.

Nate O' Reilly is a high-octane Washington litigator who's lived too hard, too fast, for too long. His second marriage is in a shambles, he is emerging from his fourth stay in rehab armed with little more than his fragile sobriety, good intentions, and resilient sense of humor. Returning to the real world is always difficult, but this time it's going to be murder.

Rachel Lane is a young woman who chose to give her life to God, who walked away from the modern world with all its strivings and trappings and encumbrances, and went to live and work with a primitive tribe of Indians in the deepest jungles of Brazil.

In a story that mixes legal suspense with a remarkable adventure, their lives are forever altered by the startling secret of The Testament.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
John Grisham has been delighting readers for years by pitting modern-day Davids against corrupt corporate Goliaths, seasoning his tales with the seedy and amoral actions of unscrupulous lawyers. With The Testament, Grisham delivers top-notch legal suspense once again by pitting that most common of evils -- greed -- against selfless altruism. But this time the result is a surprisingly lustrous literary tapestry interwoven with the legal maneuvering that has long been Grisham's trademark.

Troy Phelan is an eccentric, reclusive, and lonely old man who also happens to be one of the ten wealthiest people in the world. His billions have earned him a lush existence, unlimited power, and the company of a number of willing women. But at the age of 78, Phelan has yet to find true happiness, and he's grown tired of the search. With death just around the corner, Phelan is disgusted and bitter toward his six spoiled and selfish offspring, who see his pending demise as their one-way ticket to life on easy street. Phelan, however, will have the final word, embracing death with the same cruel unpredictability he exercised in life.

Phelan's death, anticipated but still surprising, leaves his greedy children struggling to hide their glee behind a mask of mourning. But when they discover the old man has cut them out of his will, their grief becomes all too real. The crowning blow comes when they discover that Phelan left most of his vast fortune to a woman by the name of Rachel Lane, an illegitimate daughter no one knew existed. To make matters worse, Rachel Lane seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth.

The battle for the Phelan billions begins when the legitimate heirs decide to contest the will, their interests represented by a host of self-serving and unethical lawyers who will stop at nothing to assure that they, too, get their piece of the pie. Troy Phelan's lawyers set out to find Lane, armed only with the knowledge that she is working for a ministry and may be living with a primitive tribe of Indians in the isolated jungles of Brazil. Heading up the search is Nate O'Riley, a successful and ruthless litigator who has paid a high price for his jet-setting lifestyle. After landing in rehab for the fourth time in ten years, O'Riley is anxious to take on the task of finding the world's richest missionary, if for no other reason than to avoid the lure of the life he's trying to escape.

The trip turns into more of an adventure than O'Riley bargained for as he ventures deeper into the Brazilian jungle, dragging his personal demons along for the ride. As the lawyers back home do battle with one another in search of the almighty buck, O'Riley battles nature's capricious fury in his search for Rachel Lane. When O'Riley finally nets his quarry, he finds her in the farthest reaches of the Brazilian jungle among natives who live without any of life's most basic conveniences. At first, O'Riley's only goal is to finish his job and get back home to civilization, but he soon becomes captivated by Lane's peaceful serenity, her simple life, and her total devotion to doing God's work. Even more curious is Lane's adamant refusal to have anything to do with her inheritance. As the Phelan heirs and their scheming lawyers continue their fight back in the States, O'Riley finds himself engaged in his own struggle, one that will ultimately threaten both his life and his soul.

Those who delight in Grisham's classic battles of legal wits won't be disappointed; the backstabbing, underhanded deceits, and conniving manipulations abound. But this time Grisham offers his readers a special gift -- a compelling journey into a world of primitive wisdom, indescribable beauty, and the most treacherous of dangers -- some of which can be found deep within ourselves.

--Beth Amos

Malcolm Jones
A compulsory page-turner...Abandoning the courtroom for the Brazilian jungle...Grisham can spin an adventure yarn every bit as well as he can craft a legal thriller.
Newsweek
USA Today
John Grisham's best novel in years...Personalmoving...there's a fresh energy and a new element...In factit has one of Grisham's all-time best openings.
Alex Tresniowski
...[A]n irresistible premise that Grisham, as usual, brings to life with engagingly crooked characters and juicy legal twists...
People Magazine
Carol Peace Robins
...Entertaining....But don't expect eloquence.
The New York Times Book Review
Forbes
Full of drama and fast-paced adventure. You can't put it down.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A traditional gangbuster Grisham opening--in which an aged billionaire outfoxes his greedy heirs by signing a bombshell will, then jumps to his death--gives little clue how this seductive tale will develop. The novel also features the usual attorney hero and legal action, but Grisham confounds expectations by sweeping readers into adventure in the Brazilian wetlands and, more urgently, into a man's search for spiritual renewal. Nate O'Riley, 48, is a drunk. He's also a top D.C. attorney who, winding up his fourth rehab stint in 10 years, is asked by his firm to find one Rachel Lane. The illegitimate daughter to whom the firm's client, tycoon Troy Phelan, has left his entire $11 billion fortune, Rachel is a missionary-physician tending Indians somewhere in Brazil's Pantanal region. Nate's experiences there prove nightmarish, including fierce storms, a plane crash, dangerous animals, hunger and, finally, dengue fever, which nearly kills him. But as Grisham crosscuts from Brazil to D.C. and the sleazy machinations of Phelan's other children and their lawyers to negate Phelan's will, readers will wonder which is the real jungle; never has Grisham revealed so nakedly his contempt for the legal profession. What Grisham holds dear is made clear in his unforgettable portrait of Rachel, whose serenity and integrity stun Nate, while inspiring him to forsake forever his lust for booze, power and money and to turn toward God. The message (which isn't entirely new to Grisham; see The Street Lawyer) and the storytelling that conveys it aren't subtle, but Grisham's smart use of the suspense novel to explore questions of being and faith puts him squarely in the footsteps of Dickens and Graham Greene. Sincere, exciting and tinged with wonder, this novel is going to sell like an angel, and deservedly so.
Library Journal
Featuring a billionaire, a litigator straight from rehab, and a woman who works with primitive tribes in Brazil.
Wendy Murray Zoba
The Testament is a quick read, a wild ride, and surprisingly affecting. Its unexpected conclusion leaves the reader reflective.
Books & Culture
From the Publisher

“A compulsory page-turner.”—Newsweek

“Grisham includes his trademark legal wrangling, zippy plot and engaging minor characters. . . . His hordes of fans won’t be disappointed.”—USA Today

“Absorbing . . . The pages fly by.”—Chicago Tribune
 
“Entertaining.”—The New York Times Book Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385339582
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/27/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 493,100
  • Product dimensions: 8.22 (w) x 11.14 (h) x 1.05 (d)

Meet the Author

John Grisham is the author of twenty-three novels, including, most recently, The Litigators; one work of nonfiction, a collection of stories, and a novel for young readers. He is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Mississippi Innocence Project at the University of Mississippi School of Law. He lives in Virginia and Mississippi.

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

Three

Snead was two steps behind Mr. Phelan, and thought for a second that he might catch him. The shock of seeing the old man not only rise and walk but also practically sprint to the door froze Snead. Mr. Phelan hadn't moved that fast in years.

Snead reached the railing just in time to scream in horror, then watched helplessly as Mr. Phelan fell silently, twisting and flailing and growing smaller and smaller until he struck the ground. Snead clenched the railing and stared in disbelief, then he began to cry.

Josh Stafford arrived on the terrace a step behind Snead, and witnessed most of the fall. It happened so quickly, at least the jump; the fall itself seemed to last for an hour. A man weighing a hundred and fifty pounds will drop three hundred feet in less than five seconds, but Stafford later told people the old man floated for an eternity, like a feather whirling in the wind.

Tip Durban got to the railing just behind Stafford, and saw only the body's impact on the brick patio between the front entrance and a circular drive. For some reason Durban held the envelope, which he had absently picked up during the rush to catch old Troy. It felt a lot heavier as he stood in the frigid air, looking down at a scene from a horror film, watching the first onlookers move up to the casualty.

Troy Phelan's descent did not reach the level of high drama he had dreamed of. Instead of drifting to the earth like an angel, a perfect swan dive with the silk robe trailing behind, and landing in death before his terror-stricken families, who he'd imagined would be leaving the building at just the right moment, his fall was witnessed only by a lowly payroll clerk, hustling through the parking lot after a very long lunch in a bar. The clerk heard a voice, looked up at the top floor, and watched in horror as a pale naked body tumbled and flapped with what appeared to be a bedsheet gathered at the neck. It landed on its back, on brick, with the dull thud one would expect from such an impact.

The clerk ran to the spot just as a security guard noticed something wrong and bolted from his perch near the front entrance of Phelan Tower. Neither the clerk nor the guard had ever met Mr. Troy Phelan, so neither knew at first upon whose remains they were gazing. The body was bleeding, barefoot, twisted, and naked, and exposed with a sheet bunched at the arms. And it was quite dead.

Another thirty seconds, and Troy would have had his wish. Because they were stationed in a room on the fifth floor, Tira and Ramble and Dr. Theishen and their entourage of lawyers were the first to leave the building. And, therefore, the first to happen upon the suicide. Tira screamed, not from pain nor love nor loss, but from the sheer shock of seeing old Troy splattered on the brick. It was a wretched piercing scream that was heard clearly by Snead, Stafford, and Durban, fourteen floors up.

Ramble thought the scene was rather cool. A child of TV and an addict of video games, he found the gore a magnet. He moved away from his shrieking mother and knelt beside his dead father. The security guard placed a firm hand on his shoulder.

"That's Troy Phelan," one of the lawyers said as he hovered above the corpse.

"You don't say," said the guard.

"Wow," said the clerk.

More people ran from the building.

Janie, Geena, and Cody, with their shrink Dr. Flowe and their lawyers, were next. But there were no screams, no breakdowns. They stuck together in a tight bunch, well away from Tira and her group, and gawked like everyone else at poor Troy.

Radios crackled as another guard arrived and took control of the scene. He called for an ambulance.

"What good will that do?" asked the payroll clerk, who, by virtue of being the first on the scene, assumed a more important role in the aftermath.

"You want to take him away in your car?" asked the guard.

Ramble watched the blood fill in the mortar cracks and run in perfect angles down a gentle slope, toward a frozen fountain and a flagpole nearby.

In the atrium, a packed elevator stopped and opened and Lillian and the first family and their entourage emerged. Because TJ and Rex had once been allowed offices in the building, they had parked in the rear. The entire group turned left for an exit, then someone near the front of the building yelled, "Mr. Phelan's jumped!" They switched directions and raced through the front door, onto the brick patio near the fountain, where they found him.

They wouldn't have to wait for the tumor after all.

It took Joshua Stafford a minute or so to recover from the shock and start hinking like a lawyer again. He waited until the third and last family was visible below, then asked Snead and Durban to step inside.

The camera was still on. Snead faced it, raised his right hand, and swore to tell the truth, then, fighting tears, explained what he had just witnessed. Stafford opened the envelope and held the yellow sheets of paper close enough for the camera to see.

"Yes, I saw him sign that," Snead said. "Just seconds ago."

"And is that his signature?" Stafford asked.

"Yes, yes it is."

"Did he declare this to be his last will and testament?"

"He called it his testament."

Stafford withdrew the papers before Snead could read them. He repeated the same testimony with Durban, then placed himself before the camera and gave his version of events. The camera was turned off, and the three of them rode to the ground to pay their respects to Mr. Phelan. The elevator was packed with Phelan employees, stunned but anxious to have a rare and last glimpse of the old man. The building was emptying. Snead's quiet sobs were muffled in a corner.

Guards had backed the crowd away, leaving Troy alone in his puddle. A siren was approaching. Someone took photographs to memorialize the image of his death, then a black blanket was placed over his body.

For the families, slight twinges of grief soon overcame the shock of death. They stood with their heads low, their eyes staring sadly at the blanket, organizing their thoughts for the issues to come. It was impossible to look at Troy and not think about the money. Grief for an estranged relative, even a father, cannot stand in the way of a half a billion dollars.

For the employees, shock gave way to confusion. Troy was rumored to live up there above them, but very few had ever seen him. He was eccentric, crazy, sick--the rumors covered everything. He didn't like people. There were important vice presidents in the building who saw him once a year. If the company ran so well without him, surely their jobs were secure.

For the psychiatrists--Zadel, Flowe, and Theishen--the moment was filled with tension. You declare a man to be of sound mind, and minutes later he jumps to his death. Yet even a crazy man can have a lucid interval--that's the legal term they repeated to themselves as they shivered in the crowd. Crazy as a bat, but one clear, lucid interval in the midst of the madness, and a person can execute a valid will. They would stand firm with their opinions. Thank God everything was on tape. Old Troy was sharp. And lucid.

And for the lawyers, the shock passed quickly and there was no grief. They stood grim-faced next to their clients and watched the pitiful sight. The fees would be enormous.

An ambulance drove onto the bricks and stopped near Troy. Stafford walked under the barricade and whispered something to the guards.

Troy was quickly loaded onto a stretcher and taken away.

Troy Phelan had moved his corporate headquarters to northern Virginia twenty-two years earlier to escape taxation in New York. He spent forty million on his Tower and grounds, money he saved many times over by being domiciled in Virginia.

He met Joshua Stafford, a rising D.C. lawyer, in the midst of a nasty lawsuit that Troy lost and Stafford won. Troy admired his style and tenacity, and so he hired him. In the past decade, Stafford had doubled the size of his firm and become rich with the money he earned fighting Troy's battles.

In the last years of his life, no one had been closer to Mr. Phelan than Josh Stafford. He and Durban returned to the conference room on the fourteenth floor and locked the door. Snead was sent away with instructions to lie down.

With the camera running, Stafford opened the envelope and removed the three sheets of yellow paper. The first sheet was a letter to him from Troy. He spoke to the camera: "This letter is dated today, Monday, December 9, 1996. It is handwritten, addressed to me, from Troy Phelan. It has five paragraphs. I will read it in full:

"'Dear Josh: I am dead now. These are my instructions, and I want you to follow them closely. Use litigation if you have to, but I want my wishes carried out.

"'First, I want a quick autopsy, for reasons that will become important later.

"'Second, there will be no funeral, no service of any type. I want to be cremated, with my ashes scattered from the air over my ranch in Wyoming.

"'Third, I want my will kept confidential until January 15, 1997. The law does not require you to immediately produce it. Sit on it for a month.

"'So long. Troy.'"

Stafford slowly placed the first sheet on the table, and carefully picked up the second. He studied it for a moment, then said for the camera, "This is a one-page document purporting to be the last testament of Troy L. Phelan. I will read it in its entirety:

"'The last testament of Troy L. Phelan. I, Troy L. Phelan, being of sound and disposing mind and memory, do hereby expressly revoke all former wills and codicils executed by me, and dispose of my estate as follows:

"'To my children, Troy Phelan, Jr., Rex Phelan, Libbigail Jeter, Mary Ross Jackman, Geena Strong, and Ramble Phelan, I give each a sum of money necessary to pay off all of the debts of each as of today. Any debts incurred after today will not be covered by this gift. If any of these children attempt to contest this will, then this gift shall be nullified as to that child.

"'To my ex-wives, Lillian, Janie, and Tira, I give nothing. They were adequately provided for in the divorces.

"'The remainder of my estate I give to my daughter Rachel Lane, born on November 2, 1954, at Catholic Hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana, to a woman named Evelyn Cunningham, now deceased.'"

Stafford had never heard of these people. He had to catch his breath before plowing ahead.

"'I appoint my trusted lawyer, Joshua Stafford, as executor of this will, and grant unto him broad discretionary powers in its administration.

"'This document is intended to be a holographic will. Every word has been written by my hand, and I hereby sign it.

"'Signed, December 9, 1996, three P.M., by Troy L. Phelan.'"

Stafford placed it on the table and blinked his eyes at the camera. He needed a walk around the building, perhaps a blast of frigid air, but he pressed on. He picked up the third sheet, and said, "This is a one-paragraph note addressed to me again. I will read it: "Josh: Rachel Lane is a World Tribes missionary on the Brazil-Bolivia border. She works with a remote Indian tribe in a region known as the Pantanal. The nearest town is Corumbá. I couldn't find her. I've had no contact with her in the last twenty years. Signed, Troy Phelan.'"

Durban turned the camera off, and paced around the table twice as Stafford read the document again and again.

"Did you know he had an illegitimate daughter?"

Stafford was staring absently at a wall. "No. I drafted eleven wills for Troy, and he never mentioned her."

"I guess we shouldn't be surprised."

Stafford had declared many times that he had become incapable of being surprised by Troy Phelan. In business and in private, the man was whimsical and chaotic. Stafford had made millions running behind his client, putting out fires.

But he was, in fact, stunned. He had just witnessed a rather dramatic suicide, during which a man confined to a wheelchair suddenly sprang forth and ran. Now he was holding a valid will that, in a few hasty paragraphs, transferred one of the world's great fortunes to an unknown heiress, without the slightest hint of estate planning. The inheritance taxes would be brutal.

"I need a drink, Tip," he said.

"It's a bit early."

They walked next door to Mr. Phelan's office, and found everything unlocked. The current secretary and everybody else who worked on the fourteenth floor were still on the ground.

They locked the door behind themselves, and hurriedly went through the desk drawers and file cabinets. Troy had expected them to. He would never have left his private spaces unlocked. He knew Josh would step in immediately. In the center drawer of his desk, they found a contract with a crematorium in Alexandria, dated five weeks earlier. Under it was a file on World Tribes Missions.

They gathered what they could carry, then found Snead and made him lock the office. "What's in the testament, that last one?" he asked. He was pale and his eyes were swollen. Mr. Phelan couldn't just die like that without leaving him something, some means to survive on. He'd been a loyal servant for thirty years.

"Can't say," Stafford said. "I'll be back tomorrow to inventory everything. Do not allow anyone in."

"Of course not," Snead whispered, then began weeping again.

Stafford and Durban spent half an hour with a cop on a routine call. They showed him where Troy went over the railing, gave him the names of witnesses, described with no detail the last letter and last will. It was a suicide, plain and simple. They promised a copy of the autopsy report, and the cop closed the case before he left the building.

They caught up with the corpse at the medical examiner's office, and made arrangements for the autopsy.

"Why an autopsy?" Durban asked in a whisper as they waited for paperwork.

"To prove there were no drugs, no alcohol. Nothing to impair his judgment. He thought of everything."

It was almost six before they made it to a bar in the Willard Hotel, near the White House, two blocks from their office. And it was only after a stiff drink that Stafford managed his first smile. "He thought of everything, didn't he?"

"He's a very cruel man," Durban said, deep in thought. The shock was wearing off, but the reality was settling in.

"He was, you mean."

"No. He's still here. Troy's still calling the shots."

"Can you imagine the money those fools will spend in the next month?"

"It seems a crime not to tell them."

"We can't. We have our orders."

For lawyers whose clients seldom spoke to each other, the meeting was a rare moment of cooperation. The largest ego in the room belonged to Hark Gettys, a brawling litigator who'd represented Rex Phelan for a number of years. Hark had insisted on the meeting not long after he returned to his office on Massachusetts Avenue. He had actually whispered an idea to the attorneys for TJ and Libbigail as they watched the old man being loaded into the ambulance.

It was such a good idea that the other lawyers couldn't argue. They arrived, along with Flowe, Zadel, and Theishen, at Gettys' office after five. A court reporter and two video cameras were waiting.

For obvious reasons, the suicide made them nervous. Each psychiatrist was taken separately, and quizzed at length about his observations of Mr. Phelan just before he jumped.

There was not a scintilla of doubt among the three that Mr. Phelan knew precisely what he was doing, that he was of sound mind, and had more than sufficient testamentary capacity. You don't have to be insane to commit suicide, they emphasized carefully.

When the lawyers, all thirteen of them, had extracted every opinion possible, Gettys broke up the meeting. It was almost 8 P.M.

© 1999 Belfry Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Interviews & Essays

An Exclusive Q&A with John Grisham

John Grisham, the phenomenal bestselling author who consistently transforms a day in court into an unforgettable, thriller-lovin' experience, took some time to answer a few of our questions about his new novel, HOLLYWOOD, and his son's Little League baseball team.

barnesandnoble.com: Think back to when you first began A Time to Kill. How does your approach to writing differ now? How is it the same?

John Grisham: A Time to Kill was written over a three-year period with little hopes of getting it published. Now, a book takes six months, and I'm reasonably confident it will get published. Other than that, little has changed. I start with a story, a plot, something that will turn the pages and make people lose sleep and call in sick to work.

bn: Do you set different goals for each of your novels? What criteria do you use to judge your own work?

JG: My goal is to entertain my readers, and, at the same time, make them think about certain issues. Not all the books are issue-driven, but it's nice when a story like The Street Lawyer can, if only for a short while, make people pause and at least think about the homeless.

I judge my books before they are written. The story has to work, or I move on to something else. I outline extensively, so by the time I write chapter one I know the reader is hooked for the ride.

bn: How did your Little League team do last season? Still planning on coaching in 1999?

JG: In 1998, for the first time ever, my son's team won the championship. It was thrilling, unforgettable. Trouble was, I wasn't the coach. They ran me out of the dugout two years ago.

Instead, I'm now the Commissioner. It's a full-time job and I'm having a blast.

bn: What's your impression of the relationship between book publishing and Hollywood? How well do you feel Hollywood has portrayed your novels on the silver screen? Do you have a personal favorite?

JG: I've been very lucky in my dealings with Hollywood. Six of my books have been adapted, and almost all were enjoyable films. "The Rainmaker" was the best adaptation.

bn: Where will you be on New Year's Eve, 1999?

JG: The party's already planned. We'll be at home, here in Virginia, with friends. If the world doesn't end, then the next day we'll have a paintball war.

bn: Do you make a point to watch either of David E. Kelley's law dramas, "Ally McBeal" or "The Practice"? What do you think of them?

JG: Sorry, you're talking to the wrong person. I've seen neither show. I simply don't watch TV.

bn: Over the holidays, countless people must have asked you to describe The Testament. What word(s) did you find yourself using most frequently when answering this question?

JG: I tell people that it's a book about lawyers -- thought I'd try something different. It's a lame joke and usually good for a brief chuckle.

I don't describe my books before they're published. The plots are involved, and it would take me 20 minutes to lay the groundwork. So I demur with something banal like, "Another juicy lawyer tale," or "It's about dead lawyers. You'll love it!"

bn: Which thriller writers do you like reading? What other kinds of reading do you enjoy?

JG: John Le Carré, Robert Ludlum. I don't read a lot of thrillers. My favorite living writers are William Styron, Pat Conroy, John Le Carré, Ian McEwan, Tom Wolfe.

bn: Your new novel is set partly in Brazil; what is it about Brazil that intrigues you?

JG: I am fascinated with Brazil. It's a big, sprawling semideveloped country with more diversity than our own. The people are friendly and laid-back. I've been in São Paulo with 25 million others, and was awestruck by the enormity of the place. And I've been in the Pantanal, where life hasn't changed in the last hundred years.

I try to go at least once a year.

bn: It is 2 o'clock in the morning, and you are wide awake. What do you do to either get back to sleep or while away the time?

JG: I read Shakespeare. It puts me to sleep faster than strong tranquilizers.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 448 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 18, 2010

    Another Success

    John Grisham has done it again. He has created yet another exhilarating novel that will keep you on our feet from cover to cover. The Testament proves that Grisham is still among the best authors of legal thrillers, having a well-balanced plot that combines adventures and politics. After the multibillionaire Troy Phelan commits suicide, everybody is aching to know who will become the heir of his great fortune. The old man lived by himself, and the tough world of business had taught him to love nobody. When his handwritten, improvised will is read out loud to the public, the mystery is revealed. Troy Phelan decided to leave the entirety of his assets to an illegitimate, completely unknown daughter living as a missionary with a barbaric tribe in Brazil. Now it is up to the lawyer Nathan O'Riley to travel into the wilderness of South America and find the woman that has just inherited eleven billon dollars. Nate must trudge through swamps, storms, rainforests, and even malaria so that the Phelan wealth ends up with its rightful owner, and not the hands of other greedy, malicious people pursuing it.
    Truly, this piece is a literary work of art. IT is among the best thrillers out there, putting up a fair fight to best-selling novels like The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, and The Husband, by Dean Koontz. It realistically depicts the world of law and finance, giving the reader tremendous insight of how the worlds of politics and business are so intricately intertwined, The novel is not only fast-paced and engaging, but also profound and critical, reflecting many flaws present in modern society. Very much like in Kane and Abel, by Jeffrey Archer, The Testament realistically depicts the extent to which money can influence an individual's character, as well as the mortal consequences of alcohol and drug addictions. Without a doubt, this New York Times Bestseller can quench the thirst of all those adrenaline addicts looking for a Grisham page-turner.
    Like all novels, however, The Testament is most definitely not recommendable to all audiences. Those who have extensive background knowledge on other books by John Grisham can find this literary piece to be very similar to his other works, like The Pelican Brief. Even though The Testament takes place in an exotic environment, it still revolves around the topics of laws, judges, cases, lawyers, and all the same old conflicts in Grisham's books. Additionally, this novel has very limited emotional emphasis. Romanticists in search of love stories will therefore find it to be mercilessly dry, dull, and superficial.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2010

    A Testament to The Testament

    I have read all but one of Grisham's books. The Testament is by far my favorite. From the very first chapter this book demands your attention and devotion. Use caution while reading it because you find yourself walking and reading, cooking and reading, cleaning and reading, you get the picture. I have read this book 3 times since it was first published.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    This is great!

    The book keeps you involved from beginning to end. Great story line.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 1, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Possibly one of the best books, I have ever read. Beautifully crafted

    In the review for this book, Just imagine as I quote the author " The world at peace" taking a ride in The Santa Loura with Nate's Pals Jevy and Welly into the Pantanal. Jevy at the wheel, and Welly strumming his guitar and one of us, readers holding a cold beer in our right hand while laying on a hammock. Johh Grisham's "The Testament" is an amazing ride full of adventures, an elite of characters, you will come to love, but most of all, a great book that you will not soon forget. It is amazing how John Grisham creates character that are so easy to like. However, in Nate's character there are some strong surprises. His portrait of his highs and lows are beautifully described by the author. The bittersweet reunion with his little children, and Rachel Lane at the end make Nate's character one of the most likable ones. The testament is about faith, character, life, greed, and yes, the pursuit of happiness that people only can find on a higher calling. This is one book that I am sure I will read again.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 11, 2009

    Boring, Boring, Boring!

    I use to love reading John Grisham books however lately I have found his writing brings on nothing but a yawn fest from me. This is definitely one book that had caused me to produce a myriad of yawns; good for putting me to sleep so I guess it does have some value afterall. I have skipped several pages at a time while reading this book and have found that I never really missed anything in doing so. Especially during one characters long trip down a river; that whole scenario could have been wraped up in about three pages or less. At this point I do not beleive I will be reading any more of his books any time soon unless I hear rave reviews from some avid book reading friends of mine.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2008

    Good story, just not my kind.

    Easy to get into once you started, not something you thought about later. Surprise ending. I enjoyed the snappy lawyers, jungle mishapps, and court room warfare.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2006

    Mediocre Grisham

    Grisham starts with a captivating person doing an extraordinary thing. Totally sucked me in. Then he dragged me across Brazil for three hundred dull, almost meaningless pages until he closed with a real nice twist. This is the seventh book I've read of John Grisham. By far the least exciting. A Time to Kill was bitching. He writes to fulfill contractual money obligations, now. It shows.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2008

    A reviewer

    John Grisham's The Testament starts out with a great snare for readers. The multi-billionaire, Troy Phelan, has just been through a psych evaluation and passes and then commits suicide no more than five minutes later. The story them moves to the heirs of his will, or rather, the heirs that would have been but arent really. Phelan, in the minutes before jumping off of his 14 story high rise, left his riches to an illegitimate daughter who no one knows exists. She is a missionary working with primative native tribes on the Bolivia-Brazil border. Phelan's lawyer sends a recovering drug addict and alcoholic, Nate O'Riley, down to investigate and bring back her signature. As each pages turns, you'll begin to predict what all will happen to Nate before you've read it. Since he's an alcoholic, will there be any regressions? Well... you can say that. Will there be loads of obstacles to overcome once he starts headed into the marshes of the Pantanal? Uh... yeah. As soon as Nate finds the mysterious Rachel Lane, Phelan's illegitimate daughter. Then Grisham starts preaching. Let God be your guide and all of the the sudden everything is fine for Nate, well that's great but this is supposed to be a legal thriller. After 533 pages, you come out of the novel thinking 'wow, is that it?' The Testament is an intriguing page turner but has no real good affect on the reader after it is over.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2005

    quick hook flat finish

    grishom starts off with his customary spellbinding tale however fails to deliver the thrilling finish.this novel gets sidetracked and tends to drag on

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2004

    Not bad but..

    The first (2) chapters hook you in. However, I found myself struggling to finish the book. John Grisham has a knack for tapping into his reader's curiousity to keep you hooked. He's one of my favorite authors, but I was slightly disappointed in this one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2003

    Not his best, but worth the read

    I have read almost all of Grisham's books to date. This certainly doesn't have the suspense and appeal that most of his other books have had (e.g. The Firm, The Client, The Partner, etc.) But neither was it a dud (as was The Summons, which is not worth even borrowing to read.) I thought The Testament was a good story (though it dragged in places) and is definitely worth buying and reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2003

    Disappointed

    It seems to me that if you are going to write something, you should know what your talking about. John Grisham did NOT do his research when writing this novel. At the beginning of chapter 21, he talks about a woman born in an igloo in Newfoundland and about the native Inuit people that lived there. Newfoundland has never had igloos as it is much to warm there and they only have snow about 2-3 months out of a year. And the Inuit people never lived in Newfoundland either. They lived along the shores from from the Bering Sea to Greenland. An uneducated person does not give a good first impression.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2002

    Big boo boo

    My first Grisham novel led me to read several more, but after reading The Testament, I think it's time to give Grisham books a permanent rest. I kept reading because I was hoping the plot would thicken, but it never happened.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2000

    grisham tries something different , but the result is disappointing

    Pretty boring , don't waste your time on this . I have read all of his novels and The Partner , Runaway Jury were great and all his initial novels were good too , but this one and the street lawyer let me down ..

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2000

    Good action and plot

    I cannot argue against the fact that this novel is definitely a page-turner and very fast paced, which makes it gripping and exciting. However, I was bothered by Grisham's ways of degrading the country in which most of the story took place. I am not from Brazil or the US, but I do sympathize with the Brazilians because Grisham has made a definite point of making it look low, poor, dirty, and full of disease. He described its people as being isolated from the modern world - and I'm not referring to the tribes, but to the cities - and living in the past. Stating the facts is one thing, but deliberate lingering over the negative details was a turn-off. There is also a general negative tone that is carried throughout the story, but it is quickly overridden by the fast pace of the action. It is a good story, interesting enough by taking place in the jungle, but I don't see why Grisham wants to spread a negative viewpoint about Brazil; there are other ways to make a story interesting without degrading other countries.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2000

    Yawn.....

    This was an uncharacteristically boring novel. The plot meandered aimlessly for most of the book and seemed to be heading nowhere. To be fair, the courtroom episodes were well written as usual. Overall a letdown.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2000

    Awful

    I am a John Grisham fan. I have loved most of his books and I was disgusted with this pitiful excuse for a book, it was really his worst. The characters we were supposed to hate, were a little interesting, but the one's that we were supposed to like were bland and boring. The only part of the book that held any interest was the trip down the river in Brazil. The thing I found most offensive about this book was the missionary character. She was, in typical missionary form, trying to ruin a peaceful and ancient culture with her tunnel visioned religious notions. It was appauling. I was bored and yet offended by this book. If you want to read self-rightous Christian propoganda, then read this book, but my advise is to skip this one and hope that Grisham returns to his normal legal thriller format soon.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2000

    Uneventful End

    I didn't like this one as much as the others I've read by Grisham, although, as always, it was well written. There seemed to be a few sub-plots and characters that were never fully developed. The middle was a bit slow, it lacked suspense, and the end was disappointing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2000

    Ran Out of Gas

    I was loving the book which was full of excitement and adventure. I couldn't put it down because I had to see how it ended. That is when Mr. Grisham ran out of gas. After all those pages of wonderful reading, the end was VERY disappointing and uneventful. I expected more.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 12, 2000

    Grisham's first loser

    I've read all of Grisham's books. This is the first one that I didn't care if I finished it. The most interesting people in the story are the children and ex-wives, yet we never really get to know them.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 448 Customer Reviews

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