"An entertaining page-turner...his best novel in years."—USA Today
"A compulsory page-turner."—Newsweek
"Entertaining."—The New York Times Book Review
"Absorbing...the pages fly by."—Chicago Tribune
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.
I sit and stare through the tinted glass walls. On a clear day, I can see the top of the Washington Monument six miles away, but not today. Today is raw and cold, windy and overcast, not a bad day to die. The wind blows the last of the leaves from their branches and scatters them through the parking lot below.
Why I am worried about the pain? What's wrong with a little suffering? I've caused more misery than any ten people.
I push a button and Snead appears. He bows and pushes my wheelchair through the door of my apartment, into the marble foyer, down the marble hall, through another door. We're getting closer, but I feel no anxiety.
I've kept the shrinks waiting for over two hours.
We pass my office and I nod at Nicolette, my latest secretary, a darling young thing I'm quite fond of. Given some time, she might become number four.
But there is no time. Only minutes.
A mob is waiting--packs of lawyers and some psychiatrists who'll determine if I'm in my right mind. They are crowded around a long table in my conference room, and when I enter, their conversation stops immediately and everybody stares. Snead situates me on one side of the table, next to my lawyer, Stafford.
There are cameras pointing in all directions, and the technicians scramble to get them focused. Every whisper, every move, every breath will be recorded because a fortune is at stake.
The last will I signed gave little to my children. Josh Stafford prepared it, as always. I shredded it this morning.
I'm sitting here to prove to the world that I am of sufficient mental capacity to make a new will. Once it is proved, the disposition of my assets cannot be questioned.
Directly across from me are three shrinks--one hired by each family. On folded index cards before them someone has printed their names--Dr. Zadel, Dr. Flowe, Dr. Theishen. I study their eyes and faces. Since I am supposed to appear sane, I must make eye contact.
They expect me to be somewhat loony, but I'm about to eat them for lunch.
Stafford will run the show. When everyone is settled and the cameras are ready, he says, "My name is Josh Stafford, and I'm the attorney for Mr. Troy Phelan, seated here to my right."
I take on the shrinks, one at a time, eye to eye, glare to glare, until each blinks or looks away. All three wear dark suits. Zadel and Flowe have scraggly beards. Theishen has a bow tie and looks no more than thirty. The families were given the right to hire anyone they wanted.
Stafford is talking. "The purpose of this meeting is to have Mr. Phelan examined by a panel of psychiatrists to determine his testamentary capacity. Assuming the panel finds him to be of sound mind, then he intends to sign a will which will dispose of his assets upon his death."
Stafford taps his pencil on a one-inch-thick will lying before us. I'm sure the cameras zoom in for a close-up, and I'm sure the very sight of the document sends shivers up and down the spines of my children and their mothers scattered throughout my building.
They haven't seen the will, nor do they have the right to. A will is a private document revealed only after death. The heirs can only speculate as to what it might contain. My heirs have received hints, little lies I've carefully planted.
They've been led to believe that the bulk of my estate will somehow be divided fairly among the children, with generous gifts to the ex-wives. They know this; they can feel it. They've been praying fervently for this for weeks, even months. This is life and death for them because they're all in debt. The will lying before me is supposed to make them rich and stop the bickering. Stafford prepared it, and in conversations with their lawyers he has, with my permission, painted in broad strokes the supposed contents of the will. Each child will receive something in the range of three hundred to five hundred million, with another fifty million going to each of the three ex-wives. These women were well provided for in the divorces, but that, of course, has been forgotten.
Total gifts to the families of approximately three billion dollars. After the government rakes off several billion the rest will go to charity.
So you can see why they're here, shined, groomed, sober (for the most part), and eagerly watching the monitors and waiting and hoping that I, the old man, can pull this off. I'm sure they've told their shrinks, "Don't be too hard on the old boy. We want him sane."
If everyone is so happy, then why bother with this psychiatric examination? Because I'm gonna screw 'em one last time, and I want to do it right.
The shrinks are my idea, but my children and their lawyers are too slow to realize it.
Zadel goes first. "Mr. Phelan, can you tell us the date, time, and place?"
I feel like a first-grader. I drop my chin to my chest like an imbecile and ponder the question long enough to make them ease to the edge of their seats and whisper, "Come on, you crazy old bastard. Surely you know what day it is."
"Monday," I say softly. "Monday, December 9, 1996. The place is my office."
"About two-thirty in the afternoon," I say. I don't wear a watch.
"And where is your office?"
Flowe leans into his microphone. "Can you state the names and birthdates of your children?"
"No. The names, maybe, but not the birthdates."
"Okay, give us the names."
I take my time. It's too early to be sharp. I want them to sweat. "Troy Phelan, Jr., Rex, Libbigail, Mary Ross, Geena, and Ramble." I utter these as if they're painful to even think about.
Flowe is allowed a follow-up. "And there was a seventh child, right?"
"Do you remember his name?"
"And what happened to him?"
"He was killed in an auto accident." I sit straight in my wheelchair, head high, eyes darting from one shrink to the next, projecting pure sanity for the cameras. I'm sure my children and my ex-wives are proud of me, watching the monitors in their little groups, squeezing the hands of their current spouses, and smiling at their hungry lawyers because old Troy so far has handled the preliminaries.
My voice may be low and hollow, and I may look like a nut with my white silk robe, shriveled face, and green turban, but I've answered their questions.
Come on, old boy, they're pleading.
Theishen asks, "What is your current physical condition?"
"I've felt better."
"It's rumored you have a cancerous tumor."
Get right to the point, don't you?
"I thought this was a mental exam," I say, glancing at Stafford, who can't suppress a smile. But the rules allow any question. This is not a courtroom.
"It is," Theishen says politely. "But every question is relevant."
"Will you answer the question?"
"About the tumor."
"Sure. It's in my head, the size of a golf ball, growing every day, inoperable, and my doctor says I won't last three months."
I can almost hear the champagne corks popping below me. The tumor has been confirmed!
"Are you, at this moment, under the influence of any medication, drug, or alcohol?"
"Do you have in your possession any type of medication to relieve pain?"
Back to Zadel: "Mr. Phelan, three months ago Forbes magazine listed your net worth at eight billion dollars. Is that a close estimate?"
"Since when is Forbes known for its accuracy?"
"So it's not accurate?"
"It's between eleven and eleven and a half, depending on the markets." I say this very slowly, but my words are sharp, my voice carries authority. No one doubts the size of my fortune.
Flowe decides to pursue the money. "Mr. Phelan, can you describe, in general, the organization of your corporate holdings?"
"I can, yes."
"I suppose." I pause and let them sweat. Stafford assured me I do not have to divulge private information here. Just give them an overall picture, he said.
"The Phelan Group is a private corporation which owns seventy different companies, a few of which are publicly traded."
"How much of The Phelan Group do you own?"
"About ninety-seven percent. The rest is held by a handful of employees."
Theishen joins in the hunt. It didn't take long to focus on the gold. "Mr. Phelan, does your company hold an interest in Spin Computer?"
"Yes," I answer slowly, trying to place Spin Computer in my corporate jungle.
"How much do you own?"
"And Spin Computer is a public company?"
Theishen fiddles with a pile of official-looking documents, and I can see from here that he has the company's annual report and quarterly statements, things any semiliterate college student could obtain. "When did you purchase Spin?" he asks.
"About four years ago."
"How much did you pay?"
"Twenty bucks a share, a total of three hundred million." I want to answer these questions more slowly, but I can't help myself. I stare holes through Theishen, anxious for the next one.
"And what's it worth now?" he asks.
"Well, it closed yesterday at forty-three and a half, down a point. The stock has split twice since I bought it, so the investment is now worth around eight-fifty."
"Eight hundred and fifty million?"
Heart of darkness...
In a plush Virginia office, a rich, angry old man is furiously rewriting his will. With his death just hours away, Troy Phelan wants to send a message to his children, his ex-wives, and his minions, a message that will touch off a vicious legal battle and transform dozens of lives.
Because Troy Phelan's new will names a sole surprise heir to his eleven-billion-dollar fortune: a mysterious woman named Rachel Lane, a missionary living deep in the jungles of Brazil.
Enter the lawyers. Nate O'Riley is fresh out of rehab, a disgraced corporate attorney handpicked for his last job: to find Rachel Lane at any cost. As Phelan's family circles like vultures in D.C., Nate is crashing through the Brazilian jungle, entering a world where money means nothing, where death is just one misstep away, and where a woman--pursued by enemies and friends alike--holds a stunning surprise of her own....
Troy Phelan, a 78-year-old eccentric and the 10th-richest man in America, is about to read his last will and testament, divvying up an estate worth $11 billion. Phelan's three ex-wives, their grasping spawn, a legion of lawyers, several psychiatrists, and a plethora of sound technicians wait breathlessly, all eyes glued to digital monitors as they watch the old man read his verdict. But Phelan shocks everyone with a bizarre, last-gasp attempt to redistribute the spoils, setting in motion a legal morality tale of a contested will, sin, and redemption.
Our hero, Nate O'Riley--a washed-up, alcoholic litigator with two ruined marriages in his wake and the IRS on his tail--is dispatched to the Brazilian wetlands in search of a mysterious heir named in the will. After a harrowing trip upriver to a remote settlement in the Pantanal, he encounters Rachel Lane, a pure-hearted missionary living with an indigenous tribe and carrying out "God's work." Rachel's grave dedication and kindness impress the jaded lawyer, so much that a nasty bout of dengue fever leads him to a vision that could change his life.
Back in the States, the legal proceedings drag on and Grisham has a high time with Phelan's money-hungry descendents, a regrettable bunch who squandered millions, married strippers, got druggy, and befriended the Mob. The youngest son, Ramble, is a multi-pierced, tattoo-covered malcontent with big dreams for his rock band, the Demon Monkeys. Will Nate get straight with Rachel's aid? Do the greedy heirs get theirs? What's the real legacy of a lifetime's work? The Testament is classic Grisham: a down-and-out lawyer, a lot of money, an action-packed pursuit, and the highest issues at stake. It's not just about great characters; it's about the question of what character is.
Amazon.com Audiobook Review
Troy Phelan hates his greedy, spoiled children. The aging multibillionaire knows that they're circling like vultures as he waits to die. Phelan's surprising last will and testament names a heretofore unknown beneficiary--a missionary living deep in the wilds of Brazil. Nate O'Riley, a lawyer fresh from his fourth stay in rehab, is sent to find her. Along the way, he learns about God and himself, and he discovers that the dangers of alcohol pale in comparison with the perils of the jungle. This abridgment, though jumpy at times, flows smoothly thanks to actor Henry Leyva's polished performance. (Running time: 6 hours, 4 cassettes)
From Publishers Weekly
A traditional gangbuster Grisham opening?in which an aged billionaire outfoxes his greedy heirs by signing a bombshell will, then jumps to his death?gives little clue how this seductive tale will develop. The novel also features the usual attorney hero and legal action, but Grisham confounds expectations by sweeping readers into adventure in the Brazilian wetlands and, more urgently, into a man's search for spiritual renewal. Nate O'Riley, 48, is a drunk. He's also a top D.C. attorney who, winding up his fourth rehab stint in 10 years, is asked by his firm to find one Rachel Lane. The illegitimate daughter to whom the firm's client, tycoon Troy Phelan, has left his entire $11 billion fortune, Rachel is a missionary-physician tending Indians somewhere in Brazil's Pantanal region. Nate's experiences there prove nightmarish, including fierce storms, a plane crash, dangerous animals, hunger and, finally, dengue fever, which nearly kills him. But as Grisham crosscuts from Brazil to D.C. and the sleazy machinations of Phelan's other children and their lawyers to negate Phelan's will, readers will wonder which is the real jungle; never has Grisham revealed so nakedly his contempt for the legal profession. What Grisham holds dear is made clear in his unforgettable portrait of Rachel, whose serenity and integrity stun Nate, while inspiring him to forsake forever his lust for booze, power and money and to turn toward God. The message (which isn't entirely new to Grisham; see The Street Lawyer) and the storytelling that conveys it aren't subtle, but Grisham's smart use of the suspense novel to explore questions of being and faith puts him squarely in the footsteps of Dickens and Graham Greene. Sincere, exciting and tinged with wonder, this novel is going to sell like an angel, and deservedly so. Agent, David Gernert. 2.8 million first printing. (On-sale date: Feb. 1)
From Library Journal
Featuring a billionaire, a litigator straight from rehab, and a woman who works with primitive tribes in Brazil.
Grisham's rather simplistic thrillers work well on audio, where a good performance can make his weaknesses--awkward prose, thin characters, and lifeless dialogue--less noticeable. Grisham's latest is no exception. The performance by Henry Leyva, who works mostly in the theater, turns this story of a dying billionaire, a down-and-out (but recovering) lawyer, and a beautiful young woman into a fairly entertaining way to spend an afternoon. As an audiobook this is fast-moving, energetically performed, and a good deal more satisfying than some of Grisham's money-makers. D.P.
length: (cm)17.4 width:(cm)10.7