The Associate

The Associate

by John Grisham


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Kyle McAvoy possesses an outstanding legal mind. Good-looking and affable, he has a glittering future. He also has a dark secret that could destroy his dreams, his career, even his life. One night that secret catches up with him. The men who accost Kyle have a compromising video they’ll use to ruin him—unless he does exactly what they say. What they offer Kyle is something any ambitious young lawyer would kill for: a job in Manhattan as an associate at the world’s largest law firm. If Kyle accepts, he’ll be on the fast track to partnership and a fortune. But there’s a catch. Kyle won’t be working for the firm but against it in a dispute between two powerful defense contractors worth billions. Now Kyle is caught between the criminal forces manipulating him, the FBI, and his own law firm—in a malignant conspiracy not even Kyle, with all his intellect, cunning, and bravery, may be able to escape alive.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345525727
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/24/2011
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 516,461
Product dimensions: 7.84(w) x 5.28(h) x 0.85(d)

About the Author

JOHN GRISHAM has written twenty previous novels and one work of nonfiction, The Innocent Man, published in 2006. He lives in Virginia and Mississippi.


Oxford, Mississippi, and Albemarle County, Virginia

Date of Birth:

February 8, 1955

Place of Birth:

Jonesboro, Arkansas


B.S., Mississippi State, 1977; J.D., University of Mississippi, 1981

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The rules of the New Haven Youth League required that each kid play at least ten minutes in each game. Exceptions were allowed for players who had upset their coaches by skipping practice or violating other rules. In such cases, a coach could file a report before the game and inform the scorekeeper that so-and-so wouldn’t play much, if at all, because of some infraction. This was frowned on by the league; it was, after all, much more recreational than competitive.

With four minutes left in the game, Coach Kyle looked down the bench, nodded at a somber and pouting little boy named Marquis, and said, “Do you want to play?” Without responding, Marquis walked to the scorers’ table and waited for a whistle. His violations were numerous–skipping practice, skipping school, bad grades, losing his uniform, foul language. In fact, after ten weeks and fifteen games, Marquis had broken every one of the few rules his coach tried to enforce. Coach Kyle had long since realized that any new rule would be immediately violated by his star, and for that reason he trimmed his list and fought the temptation to add new regulations. It wasn’t working. Trying to control ten inner- city kids with a soft touch had put the Red Knights in last place in the 12 and Under division of the winter league.

Marquis was only eleven, but clearly the best player on the court. He preferred shooting and scoring over passing and defending, and within two minutes he’d slashed through the lane, around and through and over much larger players, and scored six points. His average was fourteen, and if allowed to play more than half a game, he could probably score thirty. In his own young opinion, he really didn’t need to practice.

In spite of the one-man show, the game was out of reach. Kyle McAvoy sat quietly on the bench, watching the game and waiting for the clock to wind down. One game to go and the season would be over, his last as a basketball coach. In two years he’d won a dozen, lost two dozen, and asked himself how any person in his right mind would willingly coach at any level. He was doing it for the kids, he’d said to himself a thousand times, kids with no fathers, kids from bad homes, kids in need of a positive male influence. And he still believed it, but after two years of babysitting, and arguing with parents when they bothered to show up, and hassling with other coaches who were not above cheating, and trying to ignore teenage referees who didn’t know a block from a charge, he was fed up. He’d done his community service, in this town anyway.

He watched the game and waited, yelling occasionally because that’s what coaches are supposed to do. He looked around the empty gym, an old brick building in downtown New Haven, home to the youth league for fifty years. A handful of parents were scattered through the bleachers, all waiting for the final horn. Marquis scored again. No one applauded. The Red Knights were down by twelve with two minutes to go.

At the far end of the court, just under the ancient scoreboard, a man in a dark suit walked through the door and leaned against the retractable bleachers. He was noticeable because he was white. There were no white players on either team. He stood out because he wore a suit that was either black or navy, with a white shirt and a burgundy tie, all under a trench coat that announced the presence of an agent or a cop of some variety.

Coach Kyle happened to see the man when he entered the gym, and he thought to himself that the guy was out of place. Probably a detective of some sort, maybe a narc looking for a dealer. It would not be the first arrest in or around the gym.

After the agent/cop leaned against the bleachers, he cast a long suspicious look at the Red Knights’ bench, and his eyes seemed to settle on Coach Kyle, who returned the stare for a second before it became uncomfortable. Marquis let one fly from near mid- court, air ball, and Coach Kyle jumped to his feet, spread his hands wide, shook his head as if to ask, “Why?” Marquis ignored him as he loafed back on defense. A dumb foul stopped the clock and prolonged the misery. While looking at the free-throw shooter, Kyle glanced beyond him, and in the background was the agent/cop, still staring, not at the action but at the coach.

For a twenty-five-year-old law student with no criminal record and no illegal habits or proclivities, the presence and the attention of a man who gave all indications of being employed by some branch of law enforcement should have caused no concern whatsoever. But it never worked that way with Kyle McAvoy. Street cops and state troopers didn’t particularly bother him. They were paid to simply react. But the guys in dark suits, the investigators and agents, the ones trained to dig deep and discover secrets–those types still unnerved him.

Thirty seconds to go and Marquis was arguing with a referee. He’d thrown an F-bomb at a ref two weeks earlier and was suspended for a game. Coach Kyle yelled at his star, who never listened. He quickly scanned the gym to see if agent/cop No. 1 was alone or was now accompanied by agent/cop No. 2. No, he was not.

Another dumb foul, and Kyle yelled at the referee to just let it slide. He sat down and ran his finger over the side of his neck, then flicked off the perspiration. It was early February, and the gym was, as always, quite chilly.

Why was he sweating?

The agent/cop hadn’t moved an inch; in fact he seemed to enjoy staring at Kyle.

The decrepit old horn finally squawked. The game was mercifully over. One team cheered, and one team really didn’t care. Both lined up for the obligatory high fives and “Good game, good game,” as meaningless to twelve- year- olds as it is to college players. As Kyle congratulated the opposing coach, he glanced down the court. The white man was gone.

What were the odds he was waiting outside? Of course it was paranoia, but paranoia had settled into Kyle’s life so long ago that he now simply acknowledged it, coped with it, and moved on.

The Red Knights regrouped in the visitors’ locker room, a cramped little space under the sagging and permanent stands on the home side. There Coach Kyle said all the right things–nice effort, good hustle, our game is improving in certain areas, let’s finish on a high note this Saturday. The boys were changing clothes and hardly listening. They were tired of basketball because they were tired of losing, and of course all blame was heaped upon the coach. He was too young, too white, too much of an Ivy Leaguer.

The few parents who were there waited outside the locker room, and it was those tense moments when the team came out that Kyle hated most about his community service. There would be the usual complaints about playing time. Marquis had an uncle, a twenty-two year-old former all-state player with a big mouth and a fondness for bitching about Coach Kyle’s unfair treatment of the “best player in the league.”

From the locker room, there was another door that led to a dark narrow hallway that ran behind the home stands and finally gave way to an outside door that opened into an alley. Kyle was not the first coach to discover this escape route, and on this night he wanted to avoid not only the families and their complaints but also the agent/ cop. He said a quick goodbye to his boys, and as they fled the locker room, he made his escape. In a matter of seconds he was outside, in the alley, then walking quickly along a frozen sidewalk. Heavy snow had been plowed, and the sidewalk was icy and barely passable. The temperature was somewhere far below freezing. It was 8:30 on a Wednesday, and he was headed for the law journal offices at the Yale Law School, where he would work until midnight at least.

He didn’t make it.

The agent was leaning against the fender of a red Jeep Cherokee that was parked parallel on the street. The vehicle was titled to one John McAvoy of York, Pennsylvania, but for the past six years it had been the reliable companion of his son, Kyle, the true owner.

Though his feet suddenly felt like bricks and his knees were weak, Kyle managed to trudge on as if nothing were wrong. Not only did they find me, he said to himself as he tried to think clearly, but they’ve done their homework and found my Jeep. Not exactly high-level research. I have done nothing wrong, he said again and again.

“Tough game, Coach,” the agent said when Kyle was ten feet away and slowing down.

Kyle stopped and took in the thick young man with red cheeks and red bangs who’d been watching him in the gym. “Can I help you?” he said, and immediately saw the shadow of No. 2 dart across the street. They always worked in pairs.

No. 1 reached into a pocket, and as he said “That’s exactly what you can do,” he pulled out a leather wallet and flipped it open. “Bob Plant, FBI.”

“A real pleasure,” Kyle said as all the blood left his brain and he couldn’t help but flinch.

No. 2 wedged himself into the frame. He was much thinner and ten years older with gray around the temples. He, too, had a pocketful, and he performed the well- rehearsed badge presentation with ease. “Nelson Ginyard, FBI,” he said.

Bob and Nelson. Both Irish. Both northeastern.

“Anybody else?” Kyle asked.

“No. Got a minute to talk?”

“Not really.”

“You might want to,” Ginyard said. “It could be very productive.”

“I doubt that.”

“If you leave, we’ll just follow,” Plant said as he stood from his slouch position and took a step closer. “You don’t want us on campus, do you?”

“Are you threatening me?” Kyle asked. The sweat was back, now in the pits of his arms, and despite the arctic air a bead or two ran down his ribs.

“Not yet,” Plant said with a smirk.

“Look, let’s spend ten minutes together, over coffee,” Ginyard was saying. “There’s a sandwich shop just around the corner. I’m sure it’s warmer there.”

“Do I need a lawyer?”


“That’s what you always say. My father is a lawyer and I grew up in his office. I know your tricks.”

“No tricks, Kyle, I swear,” Ginyard said, and he at least sounded genuine. “Just give us ten minutes. I promise you won’t regret it.”

“What’s on the agenda?”

“Ten minutes. That’s all we ask.”

“Give me a clue or the answer is no.”

Bob and Nelson looked at each other. Both shrugged. Why not? We’ll have to tell him sooner or later. Ginyard turned and looked down the street and spoke into the wind. “Duquesne University. Five years ago. Drunk frat boys and a girl.”

Kyle’s body and mind had different reactions. His body conceded– a quick slump of the shoulders, a slight gasp, a noticeable jerk in the legs. But his mind fought back instantly. “That’s bullshit!” he said, then spat on the sidewalk. “I’ve already been through this. Nothing happened and you know it.”

There was a long pause as Ginyard continued to stare down the street while Plant watched their subject’s every move. Kyle’s mind was spinning. Why was the FBI involved in an alleged state crime? In second-year Criminal Procedure they had studied the new laws regarding FBI interrogation. It was now an indictable offense to simply lie to an agent in this very situation. Should he shut up? Should he call his father? No, under no circumstances would he call his father.

Ginyard turned, took three steps closer, clenched his jaw like a bad actor, and tried to hiss his tough- guy words. “Let’s cut to the chase, Mr. McAvoy, because I’m freezing. There’s an indictment out of Pittsburgh, okay. Rape. If you want to play the hard-ass smart-ass brilliant law student and run get a lawyer, or even call your old man, then the indictment comes down tomorrow and the life you have planned is pretty much shot to shit. However, if you give us ten minutes of your valuable time, right now, in the sandwich shop around the corner, then the indictment will be put on hold, if not forgotten altogether.”

“You can walk away from it,” Plant said from the side. “Without a word.”

“Why should I trust you?” Kyle managed to say with a very dry mouth.

“Ten minutes.”

“You got a tape recorder?”


“I want it on the table, okay? I want every word recorded because I don’t trust you.”

“Fair enough.”

They jammed their hands deep into the pockets of their matching trench coats and stomped away. Kyle unlocked his Jeep and got inside. He started the engine, turned the heat on high, and thought about driving away.

Customer Reviews

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The Associate 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 697 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Being an avat fan of John Grisham, I anxiously await every year for his next novel. However, the year long wait has ended in nothing but disappointment. This book moved too slow and worst of all, had no real conclusion with an ending that wasn't there. Characters were left undefined and relationships went nowhere. Worst of all, I found this book to be haphazard and not very believable.
I appreciate Mr. Grisham for his writing and that he doesn't mass produce several books a year as other prominent authors. Everyone deserves a repreive and I believe it's fair to say, this book is it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was undoubtedly the worst tease ever.

The buildup was great, the potential¿even better.

But another reviewer put it best: 'It's like Grisham had a deadline to meet or just plain gave up and ended the book'.

So many questions remained unanswered, plots unresolved and the story was wholly underdeveloped.

Don't waste your time on this 'blatant end-of-the-year-contract-filler'
Illinois_avid_reader More than 1 year ago
I enjoy Grisham. I have read all his work. This one is typical. Not one of his best, but ok. I learned again of New York big firm life. I liked the main character and thought he was believable. I enjoyed the relationship of son/father and of those with the frat brothers. But, like much of his work, the ending is weak. How many times have we read of omnipotent bad guys fading at the end. Here we get to use our imagination on potential endings, but sometimes, I just like to have it neatly wrapped up in a creative way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's like the whole last chapter is missing. The book started out great, and then Grisham must have gotten tired of writing and forgot to end it. I knew I was running out of pages and thought, "How is this thing going to end? There are too many unanswered questions. Surely he's not going to let it just fizzle out." And then he did. No ending whatsoever. I feel cheated. It's like he had to hurry up and get it over with because he had to be somewhere else. Major disappointment. People should be able to get refunds for books like this. Grisham's first few books were good and then the popularity must have gone to his head. I read a few of his later ones and said I'd never read another one. Then I picked up this one and, sure enough, I was extremely disappointed. I should have listened to that little voice that said "just borrow it from the library and then you're not out any money."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Associate was a fantastic read. Lots of enjoyable characters and a plot that keeps the pages turning. I appreciate the notion that you have to try different things to keep what you do fresh, such as A Painted House or Playing For Pizza, but the legal thriller genre is at least this reviewers favorite for John Grisham. The Associate certainly lives up to it's billing in its comparison to The Firm.
Old-Guy More than 1 year ago
It wasn't as bad as most reviewers seem to make it. It just isn't up to JG's usually high standards. The plot is a bit unbelievable, making the villain seemingly all-knowing and all powerful. The hero is a bit too naive in pursuing alternatives to the "blackmail", especially for a graduate of an elite law school. The rest of the characters are mere shells, except for the father who gets one good chapter to create a "persona".

And the ending? Simply put, it is about the worst book ending I have seen in a long time. No explanations and no justice--the hero just moves on with his life. That may be real life, but come on, this is a book and readers deserve better.

Having said all that, I still had trouble putting the book down and found JG's details about life in a mega-law firm totally engrossing. If only the plot had a few more twists and a decent ending, this WOULD have been one of his best.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I said that when I read his last book but went to the well one more time. Like the last book this one was a huge disappointment. Perhaps Mr. Grisham needs to take a sabbatical from writing. The plot was weak, the main character was weak, and the ending was pathetic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was just really getting into this book when it abruptly ended, leaving very loose ends. Must be nice to write half a book and still have it end up on the NYT's best seller list. He did his fans a disservice.
lateniterdr More than 1 year ago
What a disappointment. I tolerated the uneventful story line and sub par literary writing to find out what happened in the plot. The author left us without a who, what, and why. I was quite offended that I wasted the time reading it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is not up to Grisham standards. The ending is so anticlimatic and a great diappointment. I don't know how the publishers let him get away with this!!!
Your-Mamma More than 1 year ago
The thrilling story of a lawyer, fresh out of law school, being blacked mailed for a major New York law firm's secrets makes The Associate a captivating book. Throughout the novel John Grisham develops a plot that will fascinate any reader. The book gives an inside view to the intriguing life of fresh associates at major law firms through the character Kyle McAvoy. Kyle doesn't only have to deal with adjusting to the grueling workload of an associate, but also must worry about a grave mistake he made way back in his first years of college. Professional thugs discover Kyle's embarrassing past and use it to black mail him into committing serious crimes. Kyle, having never wanting to be a criminal, is constantly working on a scheme to free himself from the thugs grasp. With so many potential outcomes to the story, one finds themselves trying to predict the unpredictable; making this story impossible to set down. Sadly when the end arrives, ones predictions are neither confirmed nor denied. The ending, if it can even be called that, is a dull conclusion to such an exhilarating setup. Although the end is a disappointment, The Associate is still worth the read. If you exclude that last few chapters, The Associate is the definition of a well written suspense novel. It examines the theme of the importance of taking responsibility for one's actions. Also, it is a great example of how actions in your past will inevitably impact your future. Even with the unsatisfactory ending, overall the story is enthralling, making it worth one's while.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As many others have noted, Grisham's early works were excellent thrillers that kept you engaged till the end when everything came together for an awesome ending. Later books seemed like movie scripts that lost the tight writing he previously exhibited. Thought I'd give this one a try:it had great characters and it looked like we were really getting into a complex plot. I was wondering how things could ever resolve. Lo and behold they didn't! The ending was so flat and disappointing. No complex relationships were revealed - no tying together of all the pieces! I truly wish he would go back to the solid writing he used to do.
hopingforchange More than 1 year ago
I am a huge John Grisham fan but this book was a HUGE disappointment. Nothing happens in this book. It is essentially a character study of a new law school graduate and the pressures of working in a big law firm. The plot of this story never developed. I kept waiting and waiting for the twists and turns (as promised on the book's jacket) to happen but they never materialized. As I was getting towards the end of the book I kept telling myself "well there must be some big surprise at the very end" but nope that didn't happen either. This book was a total waste of my time.
RickyRM More than 1 year ago
The last time I felt like this was at a Hank William Jr. concert, and he was to drunk to sing...Total Rip Off...Shame on you John...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am so, so SO disappointed in this book. it's like Grisham gave up the end and said to himself. "You know, I really don't feel like finishing writing this book". The ending is atrocious. I am done with Grisham, I want my money back!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book held my interest right to the end. The problem is, as there got to be fewer and fewer pages left, I couldn't see how he was going to explain everything with so little left; and he didn't. The book ends without a clue as to what happened, in a number of areas.
NY_Reader1 More than 1 year ago
The text was breezy, with a conversational tone that flew by. That's probably the best I can say about this book. The main character, Kyle, was interesting enough, but the rest of the characters seemed shallow and undeveloped. I could have overlooked all of this, but the ending flat out sucked. I kept waiting for something to happen - for a shocker, or a twist. Something ... but it never came. The main character literally walked around a corner and was gone. What happened to the bad guy (Bennie)? I don't know. He just vanished quietly. If this is a setup for a sequel, I could almost see the open ending, but it just seems like the story unraveled at the end, and the author just didn't care. Further, if this were Mr. Grisham's first book, I doubt I'd ever read a second.

I hate it when a popular author does this - they sell a book based solely on their name. It's the James Patterson syndrome - crank out anything and it'll sell. It made me wish the "good for" option listed, "door stop."
JWP More than 1 year ago
I had hoped that this would be a book from Grisham that returned to the level of "The Firm" based on the previews of the book. Very ordinary and disappointing waiting for the plot to kick into high gear.........still waiting.
Mambisa More than 1 year ago
This will be the last Grisham book I read. He has gone from being my favorite author to major disappointment in the last few years. The plot is absurd. A brilliant law student whose father is an attorney is "duped" by some bullies (with scant evidence that he may have witnessed an alleged rape) into committing felonious activities post graduation. It is beyond belief that an attorney actually wrote this. And, if you think the plot is senseless... wait for the non-existing ending. It is sure to disappoint.
Pitrich More than 1 year ago
I read a 150 pages and stopped. I have to many good books awaiting me to read a boring thriller
twags80 More than 1 year ago
This book is a typical John Grisham legal thriller. Not one of the best books he has written, but I would still recommend it. The story shows the dirty side of the lawyers on Wall Street and padded billing that gives lawyers a bad reputation. Quite interesting topic considering the economic position we are in currently and all the media Wall Street is receiving. The main character is under blackmail and has to commit crimes he doesn't want to. Extortion and risky scandals are also involved throughout the book to add to the main character's problems. I thought the book had interesting twists to the characters and plot until the ending. The ending was kind of weak, and maybe a little too much was left unanswered. The reader has to fill in some blanks at the end to close the story. Overall, the novel is appealing for any John Grisham fan.
Stelan More than 1 year ago
John Grisham fails to deliver with "The Associate". The plot is somewhat plausible, however the ending leaves the reader feeling like Grisham decided to take a vacation and just end the narrative. A waste of time and money, Do not buy this book it's a terrible investment. I for one was shocked by this second rate effort from a talented writer who has delivered great stories over the years.
BACaskey More than 1 year ago
I haven't read a John Grisham book in a while and was excited when I purchased this book. I really enjoyed the lead character and was drawn in with the story line. Everything was building to an exciting, suspenseful finish and then the book just peters out. It seems like Grisham got tired of writing this book and was 'okay, I am finished now.' Overall, I good book. Just not great.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Like many others have written here, I was left hanging by a non-ending. Where things should have been pulled together, explained and resolved... nothing happened. They wasted nine CD disks getting me to the place where I could feel satisfied and.... nothing. What's wrong with Grisham?... he knows better than this. Is he using a ghost writer? There is also the element of corporate or monetary disdain in some of his books. It's like he's anti-money.
SRD More than 1 year ago
Overall a good read. However, the ending was a little wack.