The Summons

Version: Unabridged
Author: John Grisham
Narrator: Michael Beck
Genres: Suspense
Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
Published In: February 2002
# of Units: 8 CDs
Length: 8 hours, 30 minutes
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Ray Atlee is a professor of law at the University of Virginia. He's forty-three, newly single, and still enduring the aftershocks of a surprise divorce. He has a younger brother, Forrest, who redefines the notion of a family's black sheep.

And he has a father, a very sick old man who lives alone in the ancestral home in Clanton, Mississippi. He is known to all as Judge Atlee, a beloved and powerful official who has towered over local law and politics for forty years. No longer on the bench, the Judge has withdrawn to the Atlee mansion and become a recluse.

With the end in sight, Judge Atlee issues a summons for both sons to return home to Clanton, to discuss the details of his estate. It is typed by the Judge himself, on his handsome old stationery, and gives the date and time for Ray and Forrest to appear in his study.

Ray reluctantly heads south, to his hometown, to the place where he grew up, which he prefers now to avoid. But the family meeting does not take place. The Judge dies too soon, and in doing so leaves behind a shocking secret known only to Ray.

And perhaps someone else.

Reviews (32)


Written by Dora M. on May 27th, 2020

  • Book Rating: 1/5

The only good part was the very end. I love John Grisham books, was very surprised and disappointed with the story.

What if?

Written by Coral from Williamston, NC on March 31st, 2019

  • Book Rating: 3/5

What would you do with 3 Mil. That is about the only question this book brought to my mind It was slow with twisted ending Took til disc 7 to get you involved


Written by Mark C on March 1st, 2018

  • Book Rating: 3/5

Very slow moving, and the premise seems unreasonable. No one would overthink the situation like the main character.

The Summons

Written by Werner on June 19th, 2016

  • Book Rating: 4/5

This story was entertaining; good, but not great. Narrator was great to hear and kept a level of interest. Don't understand why some folks didn't like this story, but alas. Would recommend this book as easy listening but certainly not mind twisting

the Summons

Written by Carl H on September 8th, 2012

  • Book Rating: 4/5

A good read; a good story; but typical of Grisham the ending, although full of irony, was weak.

Another great Grisham novel

Written by Diane M on July 18th, 2011

  • Book Rating: 5/5

I can't believe that some people didn't like this book. I thought it was excellent, an interesting diversion from Grisham's usual stories. I just wish there had been an epilogue, since that ending just seemed to need closure. Michael Beck was a great narrator, and I'll certainly look for more of his narrations.

The Summons

Written by BOOKLADY from Spring, TX on May 30th, 2011

  • Book Rating: 5/5

John Grisham is as always at his best. Reader is excellent!

NOT your typical Grisham

Written by Anonymous on December 6th, 2010

  • Book Rating: 2/5

This book is definitely not as good as a typical John Grisham novel. It was very slow and not very exciting. Not sure I would recommend it to others. Stick with his other classics.

Great suppense to the end

Written by James from Pueblo, CO on June 19th, 2009

  • Book Rating: 5/5

This book had me wanting to not put it down once I started it. For me it was great, took place in MS where I grew up and also had the main character flying a plane which I love to do as well. It was fast moving and full of suspense. Did not learn about the summons until the end. Great book. You will love it.

Good not Great

Written by Toxic on December 11th, 2008

  • Book Rating: 3/5

Grisham is always good-at times great--this effort is good-but-not one of the better examples of his work.

Author Details

Author Details

Grisham, John

Long before his name became synonymous with the modern legal thriller, he was working 60-70 hours a week at a small Southaven, Mississippi law practice, squeezing in time before going to the office and during courtroom recesses to work on his hobby—writing his first novel.

Born on February 8, 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to a construction worker and a homemaker, John Grisham as a child dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Realizing he didn't have the right stuff for a pro career, he shifted gears and majored in accounting at Mississippi State University. After graduating from law school at Ole Miss in 1981, he went on to practice law for nearly a decade in Southaven, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. In 1983, he was elected to the state House of Representatives and served until 1990.

One day at the DeSoto County courthouse, Grisham overheard the harrowing testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim and was inspired to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl's father had murdered her assailants. Getting up at 5 a.m. every day to get in several hours of writing time before heading off to work, Grisham spent three years on A Time to Kill and finished it in 1987. Initially rejected by many publishers, it was eventually bought by Wynwood Press, who gave it a modest 5,000 copy printing and published it in June 1988.

That might have put an end to Grisham's hobby. However, he had already begun his next book, and it would quickly turn that hobby into a new full-time career—and spark one of publishing's greatest success stories. The day after Grisham completed A Time to Kill, he began work on another novel, the story of a hotshot young attorney lured to an apparently perfect law firm that was not what it appeared. When he sold the film rights to The Firm to Paramount Pictures for $600,000, Grisham suddenly became a hot property among publishers, and book rights were bought by Doubleday. Spending 47 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, The Firm became the bestselling novel of 1991.

The successes of The Pelican Brief, which hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and The Client, which debuted at number one, confirmed Grisham's reputation as the master of the legal thriller. Grisham's success even renewed interest in A Time to Kill, which was republished in hardcover by Doubleday and then in paperback by Dell. This time around, it was a bestseller.

Since first publishing A Time to Kill in 1988, Grisham has written one novel a year (his other books are The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, A Painted House, Skipping Christmas, The Summons, The King of Torts, Bleachers, The Last Juror, and The Broker) and all of them have become international bestsellers. There are currently over 225 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 29 languages. Nine of his novels have been turned into films (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, A Painted House, The Runaway Jury, and Skipping Christmas), as was an original screenplay, The Gingerbread Man. The Innocent Man (October 2006) marks his first foray into non-fiction.

Grisham lives with his wife Renee and their two children Ty and Shea. The family splits their time between their Victorian home on a farm in Mississippi and a plantation near Charlottesville, VA.

Grisham took time off from writing for several months in 1996 to return, after a five-year hiatus, to the courtroom. He was honoring a commitment made before he had retired from the law to become a full-time writer: representing the family of a railroad brakeman killed when he was pinned between two cars. Preparing his case with the same passion and dedication as his books' protagonists, Grisham successfully argued his clients' case, earning them a jury award of $683,500—the biggest verdict of his career.

When he's not writing, Grisham devotes time to charitable causes, including most recently his Rebuild The Coast Fund, which raised 8.8 million dollars for Gulf Coast relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He also keeps up with his greatest passion: baseball. The man who dreamed of being a professional baseball player now serves as the local Little League commissioner. The six ballfields he built on his property have played host to over 350 kids on 26 Little League teams.