the Associate by john grisham, novel, bookAs an idealistic law student and editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal, Kyle McAvoy has the promise of a highly successful career in his future, 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 the mysterious Bennie Wright, who 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 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 ready to wage battle 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. 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.

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