The Exchange by John Grisham

Article | Nov 2023

John Grisham is the author of 21 novels, one work of non-fiction, and one collection of short stories. His latest book, The Exchange, is the riveting sequel to The Firm, which sees the return of Mitch and Abby Mc Deere 15 years later.

Read on for an extract.


The Exchange by John GrishamWhat became of Mitch and Abby McDeere after they exposed the crimes of Memphis law firm Bendini, Lambert and Locke and fled the country? The answer is in The Exchange. The riveting sequel to The Firm, the blockbuster thriller that launched the bestselling career of John Grisham.

It is now fifteen years later. Mitch and Abby are living in Manhattan, where Mitch is a partner at the largest law firm in the world. A mentor in Rome asks him for a favour that takes him far from home. Mitch finds himself at the centre of a sinister plot that has worldwide implications. Once again it endangers his colleagues, friends and family.


Chapter 3

The first time Mitch had stepped into the ornate lobby of the Peabody hotel in downtown Memphis, he was two months shy of his twenty-fifth birthday. He was a third year student at Harvard Law and would graduate the following spring number four in his class. In his pocket he had three splendid job offers from mega firms, two in New York and one in Chicago. None of his friends could understand why he would waste a trip to visit a firm in Memphis, which was not exactly in the major leagues of Big Law. Abby was also sceptical.

He’d been driven by greed. Though the Bendini firm was small, only forty lawyers, it was offering more money and perks and a faster track to a partnership. But he had rationalised the greed, even managed to deny it, and convinced himself that a small-town kid would feel more at home in a smaller city. The firm had a family feel to it, and no one ever left. Not alive anyway. He should have known that an offer too good to be true came with serious strings and baggage. He and Abby lasted only seven months and were lucky to escape.

Back then they had walked through the lobby, holding hands and gawking at the rich furnishings, oriental rugs, art, and the fabulous fountain in the centre with ducks swimming in circles.

They were still swimming and he wondered if they were the same ducks. He got a diet soda at the bar and fell into a thick chair near the fountain. The memories came in a torrent: the giddiness of being heavily recruited; the relief that law school was almost over; the unbounded certainty of a bright future; a new career, new home, fancy car, fat salary. He and Abby had even talked of starting a family. Sure, he’d had some doubts, but they had begun to dissipate the moment he entered the Peabody.

How could he have been so foolish? Had it really been 15 years? They were just kids back then, and so naive.

He finished his drink and walked to the desk to check in. He had reserved a room for one night in the name of Mitchell Y. McDeere, and as he waited for the receptionist to find his reservation, he had the fleeting thought that someone might remember him. The receptionist did not, nor would anyone else. Too much time had passed and the conspirators who’d chased him were long gone. He went to his room, changed into jeans, and left the hotel for a walk.

Three blocks away, on Front Street, he stood and stared at a five-story edifice once known as the Bendini Building. He almost shuddered at the memories of his brief but complicated time there. He recalled names and saw old faces, all of them gone now, either dead or living quiet lives elsewhere. The building had been renovated, renamed, and was now packed with condos advertising views of the river. He walked on and found Lansky’s Deli, an old Memphis tradition that had not changed. He went in, took a seat on a stool at the counter, and asked for coffee. To his right was a row of booths, all empty in the late afternoon. The third one was exactly where he’d been sitting when an FBI agent appeared out of nowhere and began quizzing him about his firm. It had been the beginning of the end, the first clear signal that things were not as they seemed. Mitch closed his eyes and replayed the entire conversation, word for word. Wayne Tarrance was the agent’s name, one he would never forget regardless of how hard he tried.

When the coffee was gone, he paid for it and left and walked to Main Street where he caught a trolley for a short ride. Some of the buildings were different, some looked the same. Many of them reminded him of events he had struggled to erase from his mind. He got off at a park, found a seat on a bench under a tree, and called the office to see what chaos he was missing. He called Abby and checked on the boys. All was well at home. No, he was not being followed. No one remembered him.

At dusk he wandered back to the Peabody and took the elevator to the top. The bar on the roof was a popular spot to watch the sunset over the river and have drinks with friends, usually on Friday afternoon after a hard week. During his first visit, his recruiting trip, he and Abby had been entertained there by younger members of the firm and their spouses. Everyone had a spouse. All the lawyers were men. Those were the unwritten rules at Bendini back then. Later, when they were alone, they had a quiet drink on the roof and made the calamitous decision to take the job.

He got a beer, leaned on a railing, and watched the Mississippi River wind its way past Memphis on its eternal voyage to New Orleans. Massive barges loaded with soybeans inched along under the bridge to Arkansas as the sun finally set beyond the endless flat farm fields. Nostalgia failed him. The days of such promise had vanished within weeks as their lives became an unbelievable nightmare.

There was only one choice for dinner. He crossed Union Avenue, entered an alley, and could smell the ribs. The Rendezvous was by far the most famous restaurant in town, and he had eaten there many times, as often as possible. On occasion, Abby had met him after work for their famous dry smoked ribs and ice-cold beer. It was Tuesday, and though always busy it was nothing like the weekends when it was not unusual to wait an hour for a table. Reservations were out of the question. A waiter pointed to a table in one of the many cramped dining rooms and Mitch took a seat with a view of the main bar. Menus were unnecessary. Another waiter walked by and asked, ‘You know what you want?’

‘A full order, small cheese plate, tall beer.’ The waiter never stopped walking.

He had noticed many changes in the city, but there would always be one constant: the Rendezvous would always be the same. The walls were plastered with photos of famous guests, Liberty Bowl programs, neon signs for beer and soft drinks, sketches of old Memphis, and more photos, many from decades earlier. One tradition was to tack a business card to the wall before leaving, and there must have been a million of them. He had done so himself and wondered if there were any left from the lawyers at Bendini, Lambert & Locke. Since it was evident that no one ever bothered to remove a card, he suspected they were still there.

Ten minutes later the waiter presented a platter of ribs, cheddar cheese, and a side of slaw. The beer was as cold as he remembered. He ripped off a rib, took a large bite, savoured it, and had his first pleasant memory of Memphis.

The Exchange by John Grisham is published by Hachette Australia, $34.99


John GrishamJohn Grisham is the author of forty-seven consecutive #1 bestsellers. His books have been translated into nearly fifty languages. The Judge’s List, Sooley, and The Exchange are some of his recent books. His third Jake Brigance novel, A Time for Mercy is being developed by HBO as a limited series.

John Grisham is a two-time winner of the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. He was also honoured with the Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award for Fiction.

When he’s not writing, John Grisham serves on the board of directors of the Innocence Project and of Centurion Ministries. Two national organisations dedicated to exonerating those who have been wrongfully convicted. Much of his fiction explores deep-seated problems in our criminal justice system.

Find out more about John Grisham

Author: John Grisham

Category: Fiction & related items

Book Format: Paperback / softback

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

ISBN: 9781399724838

RRP: $34.99

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