To call John Grisham a master of the courtroom novel is a platitude. The question is not whether his latest novel will be good, only how good.
To call John Grisham a master of the courtroom novel is a platitude. The question is not whether his latest novel will be good, only how good. This one is a purler.
Jake Brigance, the lawyer from A Time to Kill, becomes involved in the probate case of a man who killed himself and who changed his will at the last moment, leaving his estate to his African-American housemaid Lettie Lang. Brigance is named as the probate lawyer because the dead man, Seth Hubbard, felt he was the only lawyer in the county to be trusted.
From the outset, the case is complex. The new will is handwritten, the family is left out in the cold and the circumstances are odd. When the extent of Hubbard's fortune becomes known - $24 million and change - it becomes even more complex, with relatives and lawyers all vying for a piece of the action. But Hubbard's instructions to Brigance are clear: "Fight them, Mr Brigance, to the bitter end."
This isn't a slam-bang action novel, with a new explosion in every chapter and dead bodies littering the doorways. Instead, Grisham's genius for the slow- burn mystery comes to the fore.
Every page is just that little bit more engaging as both the secrets that surround Lettie and the bequest are revealed along with, as Grisham writes at one point, "the stuff they don't teach in law school".
And what stuff it is; from concealing evidence and witnesses to jury selection to just when to drag out a testimony and when to cut it short.
The book reveals as much about the practice of law as it does about race relations in the Deep South, and in the South, "race is everything".
A brilliant book, by a writer at the peak of his form.