The Brethren

The Brethren

by John Grisham

Hardcover(Large Print)

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Trumble, a minimum security federal prison, is home to the usual assortment of criminals- drug dealers, bank robbers, swindlers, embezzlers, tax evaders, two Wall Street crooks, one doctor, and at least four lawyers.

Trumble is also home to three former judges who call themselves The Brethren: one from Texas, one from California, and one from Mississippi. They meet each day in the law library, their turf at Trumble, where they write briefs, handle cases for other inmates, practice law without a license, occasionally dispense jailhouse justice, and spend hours hatching schemes to make money.

Then one of their scams goes awry. It ensnares the wrong victim, an innocent on the outside, a man with dangerous friends, and The Brethren's days of quietly marking time are over.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375409721
Publisher: Random House Large Print
Publication date: 02/01/2000
Series: Trade Editions Series
Edition description: Large Print
Pages: 528
Product dimensions: 6.54(w) x 9.52(h) x 1.61(d)

About the Author

John Grisham is the author of Skipping Christmas, The Summons, A Painted House, The Brethren, The Testament, The Street Lawyer, The Partner, The Runaway Jury, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, The Client, The Pelican Brief, The Firm, and A Time to Kill. He lives with his family in Mississippi and Virginia.


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

FOR THE WEEKLY DOCKET the court jester wore his standard garb of well-used and deeply faded maroon pajamas and lavender terry-cloth shower shoes with no socks. He wasn't the only inmate who went about his daily business in his pajamas, but no one else dared wear lavender shoes. His name was T. Karl, and he'd once owned banks in Boston.

The pajamas and shoes weren't nearly as troubling as the wig. It parted at the middle and rolled in layers downward, over his ears, with tight curls coiling off into three directions, and fell heavily onto his shoulders. It was a bright gray, almost white, and fashioned after the Old English magistrate's wigs from centuries earlier. A friend on the outside had found it at a secondhand costume store in Manhattan, in the Village.

T. Karl wore it to court with great pride, and, odd as it was, it had, with time, become part of the show. The other inmates kept their distance from T. Karl anyway, wig or not.

He stood behind his flimsy folding table in the prison cafeteria, tapped a plastic mallet that served as a gavel, cleared his squeaky throat, and announced with great dignity: "Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye. The Inferior Federal Court of North Florida is now in session. Please rise."

No one moved, or at least no one made an effort to stand. Thirty inmates lounged in various stages of repose in plastic cafeteria chairs, some looking at the court jester, some chatting away as if he didn't exist.

T. Karl continued: "Let all ye who search for justice draw nigh and get screwed."

No laughs. It had been funny months earlier when T. Karl first tried it. Now it was just another part of the show. He sat down carefully, making surethe rows of curls bouncing upon his shoulders were given ample chance to be seen, then he opened a thick red leather book which served as the official record for the court. He took his work very seriously.

Three men entered the room from the kitchen. Two of them wore shoes. One was eating a saltine. The one with no shoes was also bare-legged up to his knees, so that below his robe his spindly legs could be seen. They were smooth and hairless and very brown from the sun. A large tattoo had been applied to his left calf. He was from California.

All three wore old church robes from the same choir, pale green with gold trim. They came from the same store as T. Karl's wig, and had been presented by him as gifts at Christmas. That was how he kept his job as the court's official clerk.
There were a few hisses and jeers from the spectators as the judges ambled across the tile floor, in full regalia, their robes flowing. They took their places behind a long folding table, near T. Karl but not too near, and faced the weekly gathering. The short round one sat in the middle. Joe Roy Spicer was his name, and by default he acted as the Chief Justice of the tribunal. In his previous life, Judge Spicer had been a Justice of the Peace in Mississippi, duly elected by the people of his little county, and sent away when the feds caught him skimming bingo profits from a Shriners club.

"Please be seated," he said. Not a soul was standing.

The judges adjusted their folding chairs and shook their robes until they fell properly around them. The assistant warden stood to the side, ignored by the inmates. A guard in uniform was with him. The Brethren met once a week with the prison's approval. They heard cases, mediated disputes, settled little fights among the boys, and had generally proved to be a stabilizing factor amid the population.

Spicer looked at the docket, a neat hand-printed sheet of paper prepared by T. Karl, and said, "Court shall come to order."

To his right was the Californian, the Honorable Finn Yarber, age sixty, in for two years now with five to go for income tax evasion. A vendetta, he still maintained to anyone who would listen. A crusade by a Republican governor who'd managed to rally the voters in a recall drive to remove Chief Justice Yarber from the California Supreme Court. The rallying point had been Yarber's opposition to the death penalty, and his high-handedness in delaying every execution. Folks wanted blood, Yarber prevented it, the Republicans whipped up a frenzy, and the recall was a smashing success. They pitched him onto the street, where he floundered for a while until the IRS began asking questions. Educated at Stanford, indicted in Sacramento, sentenced in San Francisco, and now serving his time at a federal prison in Florida.

In for two years and Finn was still struggling with the bitterness. He still believed in his own innocence, still dreamed of conquering his enemies. But the dreams were fading. He spent a lot of time on the jogging track, alone, baking in the sun and dreaming of another life.

From the Audio Cassette edition.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Terrific storytelling by one of the masters of the game.”—USA Today

“Gripping . . . will hook you from the first page and won’t let you go.”—New York Post
“Fast-paced and action-packed . . . You’ll be thoroughly entertained.”—New Orleans Times-Picayune
“A crackerjack tale.”—Entertainment Weekly


A Exclusive Interview with John Grisham What can you tell us about your new novel, THE BRETHREN? Set the story up for us.

John Grisham: The Brethren are three ex-judges serving time in a federal prison for a variety of sins. They are bright, bitter, bored, and they begin scamming people on the outside, all in an effort to make money. One scam goes awry, they hook up the wrong person, a man with powerful friends, and suddenly they are in serious danger. Did you visit a minimum-security prison in preparation for THE BRETHREN? What other research went into this novel?

JG: Yes, I went to a minimum-security unit in Georgia, spent the day, interviewed some lawyers, had a delightful time. One trip was enough research. What inspired you to focus a novel on dirty judges? Ever run across one, or rumors of one, while practicing law? Have you read Scott Turow's PERSONAL INJURIES, another recent novel that deals with corrupt court officials?

JG: No, I never met a corrupt judge. Dumb ones and mean ones and lazy ones, yes, but never one willing to make money in return for sympathetic rulings. I chose judges because I was tired of lawyers. I did read PERSONAL INJURIES, and I enjoyed it. The characters were wonderfully complicated, and the plot was very clever. Do you ever miss practicing law? How much do you think your influence has contributed to the flocks of students seeking law careers?

JG: I have yet to miss the practice of law. I have not intentionally inspired young people to go to law school. I wish they wouldn't. Last year was the first year since 1995 that moviegoers weren't treated to a John Grisham film. Any reason for the mellowing pace? Can we expect a new film based on one of your novels in 2000?

JG: I'm taking a break from the movies, though I admit that I've missed seeing the adaptations. THE RUNAWAY JURY might, and I repeat might, be filmed this year. It's been reported that you're writing a novel Charles Dickens-style, to be serialized in The Oxford American magazine. Is this novel also a thriller? How do you enjoy writing on a strict monthly schedule?

JG: The book is called A PAINTED HOUSE. It is a highly fictionalized childhood memoir being published in six installments by The Oxford American in Oxford, Mississippi. I've written two installments, four to go, and so far the threat of an impending deadline has been very motivational. So far, so good. After all of your popular success, what keeps you at the keyboard?

JG: It's still fun. And it takes six months out of the year. I'm not sure what I would do with my time if I didn't write a book. When it becomes a bore, I hope I'll have the sense to take some time off. In a previous interview you mentioned your dislike for book reviewers. Do you feel that book reviewers treat popular writers differently than lesser-known writers?

JG: I've yet to meet a writer who liked the critics, as a whole. Most critics are frustrated novelists who are scornful and jealous of what they read. Frankly, though, after ten books, and ten years of getting hammered by the critics, I've learned to ignore them. The books are selling, the readers are happy, who needs the critics? I try to irritate them by selling even more books. Was reading important to you while growing up? Whose works did you pick up while taking a break from dry law school reading?

JG: We didn't watch much television when I was a kid. We read books, lots of them, beginning with Dr. Seuss, then the Hardy Boys and Chip Hilton, and Sports Illustrated and Boys' Life. I didn't read much in law school, though I do remember reading Irving's THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP and THE BRETHREN by Woodward and Armstrong. (What a great title for a book!) What's the downside of your celebrity status? How invasive can it be? Does being one of the world's most popular novelists carry many burdens?

JG: I'm a famous writer in a country where few people read. I don't allow my celebrity to become a burden; I ignore it. It's easy to hide here on the farm, write books, pretty much ignore the outside world. Fame, at my level, which is not very high on the pole, is manageable. It sure beats practicing law. Finally, how's the Little League team coming along?

JG: My son is now 16, my daughter 14, so they have outgrown Little League. I'm an assistant coach for my son's high school team, and I'm the general manager for my daughter's softball team. The snow is melting; it's almost that time of the year...

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The Brethren ( Level 5) 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 397 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My first Grisham read was the Brethren. I have read many of his since, and while all are good this one sticks in my mind the most. you could'nt ask for a more brilliant plot to a story.If you are a Grisham fan, a mystery fan, and love conspiracy, you will love this book.
TheShort1 More than 1 year ago
An interesting twist on a crime story: the men involved in a scam to make money are already in prison and were judges and lawyers, meanwhile a major power play is being hatched out by the head of the CIA to elect the next President of the U.S..
Guest More than 1 year ago
I take my time with good novels and never speed read an author such as Grisham. His wording and vocabulary are superb to the point that you can feel the character's heartbeat. This really is a great book. I am surprised by the negetive reviews. I've had it for two years now and it is always one I re-read while waiting on the next thriller. The story line is the same but I never tire of it. And so it goes I remain a fan forever.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Brethren written by author John Grisham is a story of three judges in a prison named Tremble. From Trumble the three judges run scams of blackmailing innocent people of their money by threatening to tell their secret of being homosexuals even though they are married. The fun thing about this book is that they do all of this through letters making every move count. The way the plan work is that the three judges post up magazine articles looking for homosexuals who would like to pen pal. The people that the Brethren target are secretly gay married men that are wealthy. The victims of the Brethren will do anything to keep their secret a secret. The Brethren leave these people alone once they get as much money from them as they can. This book gets really suspenseful when their plan catches a man named Aaron Lake, a nominee for the next president of the United States. This book is kind of a long read but it is also quick to read because it is hard to put it down once you get started. I normally don¿t read much but this book was really good and I am looking forward to reading another of Grisham¿s books. This book is a bit difficult to understand in the beginning but once you catch on it gets a lot better. I recommend this book to anyone that really wants to be kept on the edge of their seats.
SwissBanks More than 1 year ago
I haven't read a book that captured my attention the way this did in 10 years. I read the book in a day and a half which is very unusual for me as I usually take my time with a book but from page 1 I just could not put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book isn't terrible, but it's not the best. It starts and ends slow with no major twist or surprise. Overall it has a good plot with very vivid and unique characters.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great job by John Grisham, I love everything he writes.
lizamichelle1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Was a little confusing, too many characters for 2 different stories, that eventually became one. For me that is when it became more interesting. The ending was disappointing.
LBT on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good, fast, easy read for the middle of the night when you can't sleep and your mind is fuzzy.
jaypoxx on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The book tried to be exciting and how it ended was ugly.
ALincolnNut on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this, yet another John Grisham legal thriller, the author spins another exciting and exotic tale from the fringes of the American legal system. Telling the story of three former judges serving time in a federal prison, he paints an intriguing picture of the seedy underbelly of the prison system, where three people with legal know-how and moxie can perpetrate an extortion scheme under the disinterested noses of the minimum security guards.In Grisham's most satisfying book since "The Runaway Jury," "The Brethren" is a page-turner merging the story of these three disgraced judges with a partially rigged presidential election. Merging a tale of sex and politics, with the very active involvement of the CIA Director, the story moves at a fast clip, filled with twists and turns.Unlike some of Grisham's other books, this one is less tied to the intricacies of the law. In fact, the main catalysts for the story are decidedly out of legal bounds, focusing on manipulation and extortion. The characters are economically drawn, in the style of a thriller, with perhaps only an alcoholic attorney as an intriguing, three dimensional personality.Still, the book is entertaining and absorbing. If not Grisham's best, and it's hard to imagine that he'll ever top "The Firm," it is still an excellent book, a unique thriller with ominous overtones that heighten the suspense.
dickmanikowski on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A typical Grisham read . . . meaning riveting and thoughtful. What starts out as two seemingly disparate tales (a pen pal extortion scheme operated by three judges inmates of a federal prison and a Machivellian scheme by the director of the CIA to fix the nomination process and secure the election of a previously unknown hand-picked candidate who will be controlled by the CIA director) come together when CIA finds that their candidate has been ensnared by the extortion ring.
JoAnnSmithAinsworth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At first I thought there were two different stories in the book. There were so many characters, I started getting mixed up. About 2/3rds along, the two stories merged and made sense. The ending was a surprise for me.
horacewimsey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the better Grisham stories.
Icefirestorm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A crime reaches from inside prison to the outside world with potentially far reaching consequences. Unfortunately, once I got a little way into it, I found the story quite predictable.
hermit on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is well written. The author has weaved two story lines that are tied together extremely well and the the two premises are very interesting. Three imprisoned judges pulling off for them what appears to be a safe blackmail scheme. And the CIA buying the Next president of The USA. Finally Grisham is back on his game for thiss book is funny and easy to read. It is better than his last two.
Anagarika on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of Mr. Grisham's best. A good read.
dekan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
this one wasn't too bad. it is about 3 judges that were put in prison for one monetary reason or another and the scam they run from prison to bank some money if and when they get out. it also ties in the outside with a presidental election. the only thing that really sucked about this book was the ending. it just sort of stopped. i hate it when books do that. but is wasn't a bad read before that.
loveseabooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another enjoyable story by Mr. Grisham. Again, Mr. Grisham has not disappointed me with this story. In the Brethren the author took me on a journey into a political campaign, and how the government can control an election. The characters of the three judges' and their activities were believable. What I appreciated about John Grisham is that each new book that he releases takes me into a new world and I always learn something from his stories. The Brethren is a super story. Enjoy it, it's a wonderful book.
nderdog on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great book! One of my favorite Grisham novels, it's a really intriguing story that sucks you in.
CaptKirk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not bad. It was a little weird in some spots, but overall, pretty good. Probably not my favorite, but it held my interest.
tetchechury on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another solid effort by John Grisham. He knows how to write the legal thrillers very well, and always does a good job with them.
swl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Such a disappointment after enjoying The Last Juror so much. There is not a single likeable character in this book. It is impossible to care about who gets caught at their misdeeds. I'll admit that the twin plots - a purchased presidency and a porn con run from jail - were intriguing enough to sweep me along, and everything was techincally competent and well-enough paced.In romance writing, there's a rule that if the hero and heroine could settle things by one long and honest talk, then your conflict is not adequate. In the same vein, Lake's little predilection could have been solved early on without any of the ensuing drama, after the reader buys into the (not-terribly-credible) world JG describes. This is a rookie mistake and it was definitely distracting.And again with the sailing/desert island fantasy! Enough, I beg you, JG!Is it possible that this book was ghost-written? A few times recently I've noticed such disparities in the quality of books by well-known authors, esp. those who are publishing frequently. And I've heard rumors (eg Koontz)...somehow I wouldn't have guessed JG would do it though.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was interesting up to the conclusion. Story development was at a nice pace, but the ending seemed hurried and weak.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago