(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The interesting thing about The Brethren is that none of the characters qualify as protagonists. The "brethren" of the title are obviously loathsome men. The three exjudges have their own habits, hobbies, and failings, but they are united in being unsympathetic criminals, greedy and uncaring for others. Their co-conspirator and lawyer, Trevor Carson, is equally despicable. He does not even have the level of dignity of the judges, being a small-time, small-town crook. The director of the CIA is no better. Teddy Maynard is still working hard to serve his country even though he is in pain and confined to a wheelchair. He sees a great danger looming and wants to save the United States. However, he is also a power-happy manipulative tyrant with little regard for democracy or ordinary citizens' lives. Maynard is interesting as a Macchiavellian mastermind, but he is not a sympathetic character or a true protagonist. He may believe that the end of saving his country justifies the means he employs to achieve that goal, but Grisham demonstrates the fallacy underlying Maynard's reasoning.

The moment Aaron Lake agrees to allow the CIA to manipulate the election for him, he also loses the reader's sympathy. He is not as powerful as the other main characters in the book in the sense that he is not initiating or guiding the action, but he is culpable of collaborating with Maynard. Not only is Lake willing to let the CIA break numerous election laws, but he...

(The entire section is 350 words.)