Gray Mountain by John Grisham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Samantha Kofer leaves a lot to be desired in a main character, a crusader she isn't and seems to get pushed into everything. She is more like a bit player in a book that revolves around her.
When Samantha's Big Law firm in New York experiences financial difficulties she is offered a furlough which will allow her to keep her medical benefits, the catch she has to work at a non-profit for a year. Flooded with lawyers with the same deal the non-profits are actually turning volunteers away. The only position Samantha can land is working for a legal aid clinic in rural Virginia which is dominated by the Coal Companies.
She meets Donovan who is determined to right the wrong done to his family when a Mining Company tricked his Father into leasing their land "Gray Mountain" to them for strip mining the land was totally destroyed and his Father never received the financial benefits promised. Donovan's Mother committed suicide on the site of the family home which was destroyed by the strip mining and his Father fled to Montanan to start over without his family.
Donovan is currently working on 3 cases. The first, the Tate case, involves a single Mom whose two son's were killed when a boulder crushed their trailer while they were sleeping. The second is a large law suite involving several lawyers suing Krull Mining. Donovan has proof the company knew that it's mine had poisoned the drinking water and was causing cancer but that they crunched the numbers and determined it would be cheaper to pay the claims of those with cancer than to clean up the site. Krull is supposedly paying goons to follow him and his brother Jeff around in hopes of retrieving the proof Donovan liberated from their offices. The third case involves a man Samantha referred to Donovan. Buddy Ryzer was diagnosed with black lung 10 years ago. He tried to get benefits but without a lawyer his claim was denied. Now he is sicker than ever and went to Samantha for help. While she was looking into his medical records she discovered that the Coal Company's own expert witness noted that Buddy had black lung. The Company didn't use that witness and found another doctor to say he didn't. So while Samantha is handling Buddy's appeal for black lung benefits Donovan is going after them for criminal wrong doing.
Donovan wins the Tate case and is awarded a huge settlement for the boys' Mother, Donovan has a verbal agreement with the company to pay. But then Donovan is killed in a small plane crash. The company reneges on it's agreement and files an appeal. The FBI raids Donovan's office looking for the "proof" against Krull Mining. The Ryzer case is dropped as a lawyer can't be found to pursue it. And Jeff is convinced his brother was murdered.
Various people try to get Samantha to help with the different cases and she consistently turns them down, but becomes involved in the Krull controversy when she starts sleeping with Jeff. The FBI raids her office looking for the missing documents.
After Buddy is fired from his job with no hope of Black Lung Benefits sooner than five years and the criminal case dead because of Donovan's death Buddy commits suicide so his family will have the money they need to survive from his Life Insurance Policy.
Samantha eventually agrees to speak to her Mother about getting the FBI called off looking for the missing documents. Jeff uses a romantic weekend at the Gray Mountain Cabin with Samantha to retrieve the documents and get them to a lawyer who has made arrangements with the judge to protect the documents from Krull. Krull's goons take a few shots at Jeff, but with his friends help they get the documents to the lawyer.
Samantha receives a job offer from her old boss in New York and toys with the offer but ultimately decides to stay in Virginia and handle the Tate appeal and the Ryzer case.
I wonder if there will be a sequel telling us the outcome of these case, as the end of the book kinda left things up in the air.
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