Mark Gimenez has consistently been likened to John Grisham, and not just because all his titles start with definite article. This, perhaps more than his previous works follows the Grisham like morality tale of the innocent rags to corrupt riches and back to righteous rags progression of the central character. Like Grisham, Gimenez paints a warts and all portrait of the legal world, combining detail of legal process with lawyers who are, almost universally, somewhat flawed human beings.
The very ordinariness of the protagonist, Andy Prescott is a distinct departure from previous works. This time he's not a software billionaire or a blue chip law firm employee; instead he's an indifferent local lawyer specialising in annulling speeding tickets, regarding his job as a means to his particular ends of riding mountain bikes and failing to get a girlfriend. As such Andy Prescott is a particular strength of the book. While long hair and extreme sports are not really what I'm all about, he's a thoroughly engaging character, and if one excludes the excesses of his 'riches' phase, he's both inherently one of the good guys and, critically, someone I think I would like to know.
Where Gimenez has fallen short in the past is in his children characters. In previous works they have simply been far too grown up, coping with adult issues with perceptive stoicism that simply does not ring true. While the core driver of “The Common Lawyer”, with the terminal illness of a billionaire's son, obviously concerns childhood, the roles played are more peripheral, and their actions more childlike; the book benefits hugely from this. That said, the obvious identification with children and their issues, particularly surrounding illness and disability, are handled with a moving sensibility that is often very powerful.
Part legal thriller, part morality play, part action novel “The Common Lawyer” is Mark Gimenez's most accomplished work to date. It's moving, engaging, and I like to think insightful. As an airport novel it's flawless. Bought at Gatwick on Thursday it was finished late on Friday night, driven by the pretty relentless pace of the plot and by a genuine desire to be in Gimenez's Texas universe. It's not without it's flaws, it's sentimental in the extreme in some places and I'm sure someone of a scientific bent could drive a cart and horse through the core premise, but its fusion of the legal thriller and action genres makes it an eminently readable proposition.