What Is "The Client" Book by John Grisham?

by Samantha Kemp

John Grisham's "The Client" focuses on the plight of a foul-mouthed youth who is desperately trying to survive a mob attack after learning confidential information. This book was Grisham's second-best selling book in the 1990s, with over 8 million copies sold. It was also adapted to a film that grossed over $90 million and was later turned into a television series because of its success.


"The Client" is a story about a street-wise 11 year-old boy who learns vital information about the mob. After attempting to foil a mob lawyer's suicide attempt, he learns where the body of a murdered senator is. Police find the boy hiding in brush near the suicide, and they begin to suspect that the boy knows something about the mob. The mob threatens the boy with his death and the death of his family. The boy hires a lawyer with a tainted background for $1 to protect him from testifying against the mob for the FBI.


The setting is in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1993. Most of the locations in the book are in poorer neighborhoods or in the downtown lawyers' district.

Main Characters

Mark Sway is the boy who learns information about the mob through the words of Jerome Clifford, the mob lawyer. "Barry the Blade" is the mobster who killed Sen. Boyd Boyette and hid his body. Mark's little brother Ricky was with him when they saw the suicide and enters into a catatonic state after witnessing the suicide. Reggie Love is the quick-witted lawyer who takes Sway's case, and Roy Foltrigg is the ambitious district attorney who goes after Mark with a fervor.

Legal Theories

As in many of John Grisham's books, Grisham focuses on several legal implications. One of the most memorable parts of "The Client" is when district attorney Foltrigg gets Mark on the stand to question him. Mark claims "the Fifth," as in the Fifth Amendment, which protects an individual from incriminating himself. Mark doesn't want to testify because he fears for his family's life. The judge rules that Mark can't take the Fifth since he is not a suspect in any case, but rather a witness. Reggie Love also argues over whether the district attorney is violating the Fourth Amendment, which protects individuals from illegal search and seizure, when he removes fingerprints from a soda can Mark throws away and matches his DNA to the crime scene by using his hospitalized brother's DNA profile.

Differences in Book and Movie

The movie does a good job with following the sequence of events in the book with a couple exceptions. One major difference is the relationship between Reggie Love and Mark Sway. The movie shows their relationship as volatile, with Mark yelling at her and making wisecracks. In the book the two have an instant connection and Mark is always respectful of his lawyer. Mark's mother is also portrayed differently in the two works. In the movie she is portrayed as a woman with little decorum, while the book portrays her as a concerned, but frazzled, mother.