Gray Mountain – John Gresham

John Gresham is one of my favorite writers.  I expect a good story that moves along quickly where the bad guy loses and the good guy wins. All of that is true of his latest book, Gray Mountain, but some how this story never catches your attention.  The characters are flat and uninteresting. Maybe I’m just tired of recession stories but for whatever reason this was not a great book.  However, that said, I did read it all and if you are a Gresham fan I certainly suggest you read it.

The story takes place in 2008 and Samantha Kofer’s career as Wall Street lawyer is on the fast track, but the recession hits and she gets downsized. In a matter of days Samantha accepts a position as an unpaid employee of a small legal clinic in Brady, Virginia, population 2,200. For the first time in her career, Samantha prepares a lawsuit, sees the inside of an actual courtroom, gets scolded by a judge, and receives threats from locals who aren’t so thrilled to have a big-city lawyer in town. And she learns that Brady, like most small towns, harbors some big secrets.

In Gresham’s standard way, Samantha takes on “big coal” as she fights for the miners suffering from Black Lung. Violence is always around the corner, things take a deadly turn, etc., etc..

I did like some of the secondary characters, particularly Samantha’s parents  and Maddie Wyatt.

If you need a book to pass the time on an airplane trip this holiday season, Gray Mountain may be just the ticket.  It’s certainly more interesting that those old TV shows they show on long flights.

The Furies by Natalie Haynes

I loved this book.  It really did keep me up all night reading.  Natalie Haynes has written a compelling story.  Not only is it an exciting thriller it is a beautifully moving story of grief and finding your way back. While it is a dark and suspenseful novel it is also laugh out loud funny and very human.

In order to go on after a shocking tragedy results in the death of her fiancé  Alex Morris moves from London and her life as an actress to Edinburgh where she accepts a teaching position.  “The Unit” is a last chance school for teens expelled from all over the city and the students in her classroom all have difficult personalities and troubled pasts. Alex, who is an inexperience teacher, is still drowning in her own grief.

Through trial and error she discovers that the Greek tragedies open a channel of communication for them all, student and teacher alike. These tales of cruel fate and bloody revenge seem to be teaching more than Alex ever intended as the students take them to heart and begin interweaving their darker lessons into real life.

The character are extremely well drawn and fully realized.  Her use of foreshadowing is well-timed and creates a strong and  believable stage for the story.  The juxtaposition of ancient wisdom as expressed in the Greek tragedies and the modern setting with kids in trouble

Natalie Haynes’ The Furies is a psychologically complex, dark and twisting novel about loss, obsession and the deep tragedies that can connect us to each other even as they blind us to our fate.

About the Author

NATALIE HAYNES is a graduate of Cambridge University and an award-winning comedian, journalist, and broadcaster. She judged the Man Booker Prize in 2013 and was a judge for the final Orange Prize in 2012. Natalie is a regular panelist on Radio 4’s Saturday Review and the long-running arts show, Front Row. She is a guest columnist for The Independent and The Guardian. The Furies is her debut novel.