Nobody goes to Grisham for style, and there's a sense here of a skilled craftsman cranking it out on autopilot. Nothing much happens, and when it happens, it's pretty predictable. Grisham's Kyle is cardboard-thin (Scott Turow has a much defter hand with character), but Grisham is an effective lens through which we observe the intricacies of corporate law, an easily corruptible world governed, not by right and wrong, but by the concept of the billable hour. "They had been trained to treat billing as the most important aspect of the practice. Pick up a file, look at the clock. Make a phone call, record the time. Sit through a meeting, count the minutes. Every hour had to be accounted for, and the billing was done on the spot. It was never to be delayed, and it had to be precise," Grisham writes, hitting a punchier rhythm. "If we're going to guess here, let's be damned sure we land on the high side."
"The Associate" springs to angry life from time to time, but on the whole it's by the numbers, a plodding page-turner. But it's still a page-turner: Many of Grisham's legions of fans will doubtless sign up for this latest ride, eager to see how Kyle McAvoy manages to get himself out of the hole. With ideals restored, Grisham ensures, making Kyle an appealing model for our troubled new time.