| 1. Introduction|
The Associate is a legal thriller by John Grisham. His 21st novel, it was published by Doubleday and released in the United States on January 27, 2009.
2. Plot Summary
As an idealistic graduate of Yale Law School, where he was editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal, Kyle McAvoy has the promise of a highly successful career, although after graduation, he intends to devote three years to public service before applying for employment with a prestigious firm. His plans are derailed when he is approached by two FBI agents (soon proved to be bogus) who interrogate him and then pass him on to a mysterious man known only as Bennie Wright. Bennie has a videotape of a party that took place in Kyle's apartment five years earlier, when he was an undergraduate student at Duquesne University. In it, two of Kyle's fraternity brothers, Joey Bernardo and Baxter Tate, are seen having sexual relations with Elaine Keenan, a coed who later claimed she was raped while unconscious, a charge seemingly supported by Joey's asking Baxter, "Is she awake?", on the tape. At the time, the incident was investigated by local police, who determined there had been no assault and declined to take further action. With the tape now in his possession, Bennie threatens to expose Kyle's secret unless he cooperates with him and his associates.
Bennie's plan is to have Kyle accept a position at New York City-based Scully & Pershing, the world's largest law firm, which is representing Trylon Aeronautics in its case against Bartin Dynamics. The two defense contractors had joined forces to design the B-10 HyperSonic Bomber for The Pentagon, and when they won the contract over Lockheed, the competitor sought support from senators and lobbyists. Legal battles ensued, and Trylon and Bartin – each laying claim to ownership of the design and technologies developed for the project – are now ready to wage battle against each other in court. Kyle will be required to infiltrate Scully & Pershing's files and deliver to Bennie crucial information the people he represents need.
His first instinct is to ignore Bennie's blackmail threats and deal with whatever consequences may arise, but the thought of the shame and embarrassment his family will suffer if he is indicted for the incident in his past, not to mention the negative impact on his own future, leads him to agree to Bennie's demands.
Constantly under surveillance while outdoors and living in an apartment in which he knows bugs and cameras have been hidden, Kyle slowly learns how to trick those who are trailing him into believing he is unaware of their presence. He seeks help from Joey, who has more to lose than Kyle does if the videotape is made public, and with his old friend as a somewhat unwilling accomplice, plots to outwit his blackmailer. He creates an interest in different spy novels, and buys them at a used book store. He learns about all the different technical components and devices used for spying and learns about a shop nearby, whose owners claimed to be "Ex-CIA", specializing in gadgets and devices specially used for surveillance. What he doesn't anticipate is the re-emergence of Elaine, who still maintains she was raped, and Baxter, who has completed a lengthy stint in rehab and, as part of his twelve-step program, wants to make amends to the girl he raped. His admission of guilt will give Elaine the proof she needs to file charges, and with Kyle drawn into the spotlight, his position at Scully & Pershing will be jeopardized, a risk Bennie must eliminate by any means. Baxter is found shot dead, with no evidence of the murderer's identity, although Kyle is certain that Bennie ordered it.
After working at the law firm's 'boot camp' for some months, as do all new associates, Kyle eventually gets drawn into the Trylon case and is granted access to the highly secure computer room where the confidential information is stored. Bennie and Nigel, a computer expert, force him to use a thumbdrive to download the files, which he does. But by this time, realizing that Bennie is nearly always one step ahead of him, Kyle has spoken to Roy Benedict, a criminal lawyer and former FBI operative. He tells Roy the whole story.
Roy still has good connections within the FBI, and they set up an operation to catch Bennie as non secret information is being transferred. But it misfires; Bennie and his associates vanish and remain unidentified and unapprehended, although Kyle thinks he's working for some other branch of the government.
Kyle admits his actions to the firm's partners, and agrees to leave their employ immediately and not practice law in New York for two years. He also voices his belief that one of the firm's partners has acted as a 'mole', passing information to Bennie.
Refusing the FBI's offer of witness protection, Kyle goes home to his father, also a lawyer, who knows the whole sorry saga and had already signed a deal with Elaine and her lawyer. Kyle plans to become a partner in his father's law firm, namely McAvoy & McAvoy.