By People Staff
December 10, 2001 12:00 PM

By John Grisham

In Grisham’s 1991 blockbuster The Firm, the hero (played by Tom Cruise in the ’93 film) and his wife fought to escape the talons of a sinister law firm. In Grisham’s latest the protagonists do battle with another vast and powerful conspiracy: the spirit of Christmas today.

Luther and Nora Krank’s neighbors aggressively celebrate yuletide every year (right down to identical plastic Frostys for every rooftop), but the Kranks (get it?) want out. No cards. No tree. Especially no Frosty. On Hemlock Street, however, the neighbors mind their own and everybody else’s business, making the Kranks instant pariahs.

That element makes Grisham’s fable harder to swallow than last year’s fruitcake. People opt out of seasonal celebrations for a multitude of reasons and no one raises an eyebrow. So why are the neighbors so obsessed with the Kranks’ Christmas plans? Before the inevitable Grinch-Scrooge moral kicks in, Luther comes across as a well-drawn mess of ill temper and petty crabbiness. He wants to forsake a shrink-wrapped, credit-card-driven Christmas. Maybe he’s onto something. (Doubleday, $19.95)

Bottom Line: Bah, humbug!