The Pelican Brief
First edition cover
|Genre||Legal thriller novel|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover, Paperback)|
|Pages||436 pages (Mass-market Paperback)|
|LC Class||PS3557.R5355 P4 1992|
The Pelican Brief is a legal-suspense thriller written by John Grisham in 1992. It is his third novel after A Time To Kill and The Firm. The hardcover edition was published by Doubleday in that same year. Two paperback editions were published, both by Dell Publishing in 1993. A film adaptation was released in 1993 starring Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington.
The story begins with the dual assassination of two ideologically divergent Supreme Court Justices. Justice Rosenberg, a liberal, is killed at his home while the conservative Justice Jensen is killed inside a gay porn movie theater in Washington. The circumstances surrounding their deaths, as well as the deaths themselves, shock and confuse a politically divided nation.
Darby Shaw, a Tulane University Law School student, conducts research on Rosenberg and Jensen's records, as well as cases pending before the Supreme Court. Shaw suspects that the real motive might be simple greed, not politics, and writes a legal brief speculating that the assassinations were committed on behalf of Victor Mattiece, an oil tycoon who seeks to drill on Louisiana marshland which is a major habitat of an endangered species of pelican. A court case on appeal, filed on Mattiece's behalf to gain access to the land, is expected to make its way to the Supreme Court.
The two slain justices had a history of environmentalism — their only common view — and thus Darby surmises that Mattiece, who has a pre-existing business relationship with the President of the United States, hoped to turn the case in his favor by eliminating them, thus leaving the president in a position to appoint new justices more likely to rule in his favor. Darby shows the brief, which becomes known as the "Pelican Brief" to Thomas Callahan, her law professor and lover. Callahan shows it to an FBI lawyer, Gavin Verheek. Both Callahan and Verheek are killed soon after.
Afraid that she will become the next target, Darby goes on the run. She tries to hide by taking on some disguises, but is nearly killed. Eventually, she contacts Gray Grantham, a reporter for The Washington Post. Grantham believes her story and sets out to help her prove that the Pelican Brief is correct. Meanwhile, the president and his Chief of Staff, Fletcher Coal, try to cover up the White House's connection to Mattiece. The FBI looks to Darby into protective custody in order to verify her story.
Eventually, Grantham obtains videotaped testimony from an anonymous lawyer who calls himself "Garcia", as well as a document that points to involvement by Garcia's law firm which worked for Mattiece. With this evidence, Grantham and Darby approach the Post's chief editor. The story prominently appears in the next edition. FBI chief Denton Voyles is ecstatic and shows up at Coal's residence early in the morning to confront him. Darby settles on an island in the Caribbean and is joined by Grantham, who agrees to stay for at least a month.
- The Pelican Brief at Grisham's Official site