It’s a legal-suspense thriller written by John Grisham in 1992. The story is about the murder of two influential Supreme Court Justices. Liberal Justice Rosenberg is killed at his home, while the conservative Justice Jensen is killed inside a gay porn cinema.
The conditions surrounding their deaths shock and confuse a politically divided nation, with people confused of what exactly happened, Darby Shaw, Law Student at the Tulane University Law School to researches the events of that happened prior to the killings.
She goes through the pending court cases that the two justices where handling and discovered that the real motive of the killer was simple greed not politics. She found out that the two justices the two murdered justices had a common view of environmentalism.
With what Darby discovered, she writes a legal brief speculating that the assassinations were committed on behalf of Victor Mattiece, an oil tycoon who wanted to drill oil on Louisiana marshland which is a major habitat of an endangered species of pelican.
Darby shows the brief, which she calls the ‘Pelican Brief’, to her law professor who she also had an intimate relationship with Thomas Callahan. Thomas shows the ‘Pelican Brief’ to his friend Gavin Verheek, a lawyer working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington and both men are killed soon after getting involved.
After the death of Thomas Callahan and Gavin Verheek, Darby is afraid that she will become the next target, she goes on the run. Later she contacts the Washington Post reporter Gray Grantham, and the two set out to prove her brief correct.
The FBI wants to bring in Darby to protect her and to verify her story. Allies of Mattiece try to kill her to make sure the cover-up holds.
A film adaptation was released in 1993 starring Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington.