Since publishing his first novel A Time to Kill in 1988, John Grisham has written one novel per year. All of his titles have become bestsellers. The Appeal was published by Doubleday in 2008 and continues Grisham's trademark skill of dramatizing moral issues.
The subject of The Appeal is an election and legal maneuvering in Mississippi. The story begins with a small law firm run by Mary Grace and West Payton that wins a significant verdict in a case in Mississippi. The case involves a chemical company that distributes pollutants that cause cancer. The corporation is strident about its defense and begins to investigate the lawyers of the small firm, the husband and wife team, with limited financial resources. The corporation is interested in offsetting any precedent created by this legal victory. It wants to win its legal appeal. The Supreme Court in Mississippi is divided, and a supportive judge could make the difference.
A corrupt senator solicits the help of a mysterious firm, Troy-Hogan, that specializes in rigging elections; this time targeting Mississippi Supreme Court elections. The goal is to take specific Supreme Court justices out of the equation in any further cases. Troy-Hogan is aiming to remove a justice named Sheila McCarthy.
Troy-Hogan grooms a political newcomer named Ron Fisk. Another candidate is inserted into the campaign to draw publicity away from Sheila McCarthy. Troy-Hogan is relying on the fact that most people who can vote in Mississippi have little or no knowledge that their justices even run for office.
The Appeal is noted for its timely reflection of contemporary politics and apt examples of the cynical, rich, and jaded within the American political system. Critics praise the author for presenting the perversions of the political machine. Special-interest groups win the day with unlimited financial resources aimed at manipulating the judicial system. With the publication of The Appeal, Grisham notes that as long as private money is permitted to be a part of judicial elections there will be competing interests for positions in the justice system. Grisham shows that he can deliver a courtroom and political drama and maintain the great fiction that is expected from his readers.