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Gray Mountain

Cover of Gray Mountain

Gray Mountain

A Novel
John Grisham has a new hero . . . and she's full of surprises

The year is 2008 and Samantha Kofer's career at a huge Wall Street law firm is on the fast track—until the recession hits and she gets downsized, furloughed, escorted out of the building. Samantha, though, is one of the "lucky" associates. She's offered an opportunity to work at a legal aid clinic for one year without pay, after which there would be a slim chance that she'd get her old job back.

In a matter of days Samantha moves from Manhattan to Brady, Virginia, population 2,200, in the heart of Appalachia, a part of the world she has only read about. Mattie Wyatt, lifelong Brady resident and head of the town's legal aid clinic, is there to teach her how to "help real people with real problems." For the first time in her career, Samantha prepares a lawsuit, sees the inside of an actual courtroom, gets scolded by a judge, and receives threats from locals who aren't so thrilled to have a big-city lawyer in town. And she learns that Brady, like most small towns, harbors some big secrets.

Her new job takes Samantha into the murky and dangerous world of coal mining, where laws are often broken, rules are ignored, regulations are flouted, communities are divided, and the land itself is under attack from Big Coal. Violence is always just around the corner, and within weeks Samantha finds herself engulfed in litigation that turns deadly.
John Grisham has a new hero . . . and she's full of surprises

The year is 2008 and Samantha Kofer's career at a huge Wall Street law firm is on the fast track—until the recession hits and she gets downsized, furloughed, escorted out of the building. Samantha, though, is one of the "lucky" associates. She's offered an opportunity to work at a legal aid clinic for one year without pay, after which there would be a slim chance that she'd get her old job back.

In a matter of days Samantha moves from Manhattan to Brady, Virginia, population 2,200, in the heart of Appalachia, a part of the world she has only read about. Mattie Wyatt, lifelong Brady resident and head of the town's legal aid clinic, is there to teach her how to "help real people with real problems." For the first time in her career, Samantha prepares a lawsuit, sees the inside of an actual courtroom, gets scolded by a judge, and receives threats from locals who aren't so thrilled to have a big-city lawyer in town. And she learns that Brady, like most small towns, harbors some big secrets.

Her new job takes Samantha into the murky and dangerous world of coal mining, where laws are often broken, rules are ignored, regulations are flouted, communities are divided, and the land itself is under attack from Big Coal. Violence is always just around the corner, and within weeks Samantha finds herself engulfed in litigation that turns deadly.
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    1

    The horror was in the waiting--the unknown, the insomnia, the ulcers. Co-workers ignored each other and hid behind locked doors. Secretaries and paralegals passed along the rumors and refused eye contact. Everyone was on edge, wondering, "Who might be next?" The partners, the big boys, appeared shell-shocked and wanted no contact with their underlings. They might soon be ordered to slaughter them.

    The gossip was brutal. Ten associates in Litigation terminated; partially true--only seven. The entire Estate division closed, partners and all; true. Eight partners in Antitrust jumping to another firm; false, for now.

    The atmosphere was so toxic that Samantha left the building whenever possible and worked with her laptop in coffee shops around lower Manhattan. She sat on a park bench one pleasant day--day ten after the fall of Lehman Brothers--and gazed at the tall building down the street. It was called 110 Broad, and the top half was leased by Scully & Pershing, the biggest law firm the world had ever seen. Her firm, for now, though the future was anything but certain. Two thousand lawyers in twenty countries, half of them in New York City alone, a thousand right up there packed together on floors 30 through 65. How many wanted to jump? She couldn't guess, but she wasn't the only one. The world's largest firm was shrinking in chaos, as were its competitors. Big Law, as it was known, was just as panicked as the hedge funds, investment banks, real banks, insurance conglomerates, Washington, and on down the food chain to the merchants on Main Street.

    Day ten passed without bloodshed, as did the next. On day twelve there was a flash of optimism as Ben, one of Samantha's colleagues, shared a rumor that credit markets in London were loosening a bit. Borrowers might find some cash after all. But late that afternoon the rumor had run out of gas; nothing to it. And so they waited.

    Two partners ran Commercial Real Estate at Scully & Pershing. One was nearing retirement age and had already been shoved out. The other was Andy Grubman, a forty-year-old pencil pusher who'd never seen a courtroom. As a partner, he had a nice office with a distant view of the Hudson, water he hadn't noticed in years. On a shelf behind his desk, and squarely in the center of his Ego Wall, there was a collection of miniature skyscrapers. "My buildings" he liked to call them. Upon completion of one of his buildings, he commissioned a sculptor to replicate it on a smaller scale, and he generously gave an even smaller trophy to each member of "my team." In her three years at S&P, Samantha's collection had six buildings, and that was as large as it would get.

    "Have a seat," he ordered as he closed the door. Samantha sat in a chair next to Ben, who was next to Izabelle. The three associates studied their feet, waiting. Samantha felt the urge to grab Ben's hand, like a terrified prisoner facing a firing squad. Andy fell into his chair, and, avoiding eye contact but desperate to get things over with, he recapped the mess they were in.

    "As you know, Lehman Brothers folded fourteen days ago."

    No kidding, Andy! The financial crisis and credit meltdown had the world on the brink of a catastrophe and everyone knew it. But then, Andy rarely had an original thought.

    "We have five projects in the works, all funded by Lehman. I've talked at length with the owners, and all five are pulling the plug. We had three more in the distance, two with Lehman, one with Lloyd's, and, well, all credit is frozen. The bankers are in their bunkers, afraid to loan a dime."

    Yes, Andy, we know this too. It's front-page. Just get it over with before we...

About the Author-
  • JOHN GRISHAM is the author of twenty-seven novels, one work of nonfiction, a collection of stories, and four novels for young readers.

    www.doubleday.com

    www.jgrisham.com

    www.facebook.com/JohnGrisham
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine While John Grisham deftly juggles the multiple subplots in this legal mystery, Catherine Taber's narration is subpar. With the exception of Southern lilts, which are appropriate for a story set in rural Virginia, she simply doesn't distinguish men and women enough. Her pacing has too many pauses, halting an engaging story that features a young, furloughed lawyer. Grisham's ending, though a bit rushed, sets up the potential for a sequel. Here's hoping Taber steps up her game or another narrator is brought in. M.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 29, 2014
    Expect the expected in this tepid legal thriller from bestseller Grisham (Sycamore Row) that may be the debut of a series character. When Wall Street law associate Samantha Kofer loses her job in the 2008 financial meltdown, her mega-firm offers her the prospect of a return to long hours and dull work after a year's furlough as an unpaid intern for a nonprofit organization. Despite the volunteer nature of such work, Samantha discovers competition for the slots available fierce, and seizes the chance, after numerous rejections, to work at the Mountain Legal Aid Clinic in Brady, Va., population 2,200. In the Appalachian coal town, Samantha finds herself a fish out of water in more senses than one. She needs to adjust to living in a community with fewer residents than her old office building, as well as dealing with real people's problems rather than document review. Grisham movingly portrays the evils of Big Coal and the lives it has ruined, and most readers will rapidly turn the pages, but the subtlety and full-blooded characters that mark the author's best work are sadly absent. Agent: David Gernert, Gernert Company.

  • Patrick Anderson, The Washington Post "An important new novel . . . Grisham's work--always superior entertainment--is evolving into something more serious, more powerful, more worthy of his exceptional talent."
  • Christian Science Monitor "John Grisham makes a powerful closing argument against Big Coal, but the message never obscures a satisfying, old fashioned, good guy-bad guy legal thriller."
  • Associated Press "Grisham has written one of his best legal dramas in quite some time with this dive into small-town politics. There's a mystery, but that's a minor portion of the story. The main thrust that will engage readers is Samantha Kofer and the cast of characters that help her discover her passion."
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Gray Mountain
Gray Mountain
A Novel
John Grisham
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