The Summons - John Grisham Grisham is an uneven writer, at least to my taste. Some of his books I really liked; others have been less entertaining. This one is excellent and doesn’t even have a murder.

Ruben Atley was a highly respected judge. He had two sons: Ray and Forrest. Ray was a legal ethics professor at the University of Virginia making a good salary; Forrest had been a serious thorn in the judge’s side since adolescence and wandered from one rehab program to another trying to kick assorted addictive habits.

Ray gets a call from his father asking him to come to Mississippi right away. Knowing the judge has terminal cancer and has been in great pain for several months, Ray leaves right away only to arrive at the family’s old house in time to find the judge had died on the couch in his office. On the desk was a holographic will leaving everything to his two sons and making Ray the executor. Ray calls the appropriate authorities and then, while waiting for his brother to arrive, goes through the house and the judge’s papers in preparation for the will’s probate. The judge had been meticulous in his records, keeping track of all his cases, and had been in the habit of giving away what little money he had to assorted good causes. There had never been even the whiff of a scandal who had a sterling reputation. So it came as a huge shock for Ray to discover $3,000,000 in $100 bills stacked neatly in stationery boxes behind the sofa. Not knowing what to think or do, Ray bags up the money and hides it in the trunk of his car. He didn’t want to sully the reputation of his father, but there seemed to be nothing other than a sordid explanation for such a huge amount of cash.

There’s a snag. Someone else knows about the money and leaves threatening messages ordering him to return the cash to its hiding place. Ray decides to find out if the money is counterfeit or marked in some way so he takes it back to Virginia in his car, driving very carefully, I might add.

He’s assured of the money’s legitimacy after using some of it to gamble with and by surreptitiously and duplicitously checking with the Treasury Department. He hides the money in fireproof boxes in storage sheds, possessively and obsessively checking on it almost hourly. He does not tell his brother of the find, rationalizing that Forrest would only blow it up his nose anyway. As the notes continue, he begins to worry he is being followed, so he hires a detective to watch his back, but evidence of the watcher(s) continues unabated. He loads the money back into the trunk of his car and decides to find out where the money could have come from.

I hate giving anything away, so I’ll only reveal that it involves a huge tort case, the judge is squeaky clean, the brothers’ relationship gets more interesting and complex, no one gets murdered, and the ending involves a comeuppance that is quite satisfactory