Set a few years after the events of A Time to Kill, John Grisham’s latest legal thriller a Time For Mercy takes us back to the small-town world of Jack Brigance, aka as Grisham’s answer to Atticus Finch. Living on the reputation of his work in Kill, Jake and Henry Rex are knee-deep in a wrongful death case that could bring a huge windfall to the family involved and to their bank accounts as well when they get their cut.
When a local deputy is killed by a young man named Drew Gamble, Jake is assigned the case by the court. Like the case in Kill and its sequel Sycamore Row, the case against Gamble is steeped in controversy. Drew killed the deputy in question after a pattern of abusive behavior toward his mother and sister, including thinking his mother had been killed in a drunken rage by the deputy on the night of the crime. Facing trial as an adult and the death penalty, Drew’s situation looks desperate as the community makes their collective assumptions about the case and those involved in it.
Grisham’s A Time to Kill may be his best book and I can see how it would be tempting for him to go dip back into the world of Clanton, Mississippi. Wisely, Grisham develops Jake as a human being who is trying to serve the greater good — for his clients and himself. At one point, Jake makes a human error in the case against the railroad that ends up turning around to bite him. This plot point serves well to remind us that while Jake is idealistic, he’s not necessarily a saint.
As for the rest of A Time for Mercy, it felt like a bit of a mixed bag. There is clearly a need for justice to be served here, but somehow I came away from this one feeling oddly unsatisfied. Part of that could be that for a legal thriller, the novel spends less than a quarter of its page count with Jake in court defending Drew. A lot of background is given into the Gamble family situation and the community’s reaction. But if you’re expecting the usual Grisham thriller where the central court case is wrapped up in a neat bow by the time you get to the final page, you may come away as disappointed.
And yet, I can’t deny that it wasn’t nice to spend a few hundred pages with Jake and the world of Clanton again. I can’t help but feel that Grisham has left the door open for one more visit to Jake and Clanton again in the future. And if he does, I will be there to see where just where he takes us and Jake next.
John Grisham rarely writes sequels or follow-up novels. But given how wacky 2020 has been so far, it shouldn’t come as a huge shock that Grisham is giving us not one but two sequels this year.
Camino Winds revisits the book-central world of Camino Island and bookstore owner Bruce Cable. As a hurricane bears down on the island, most of the residents flee but a few hearty souls stay on the island. Apparently, a hurricane is an ideal setting for a nearly perfect murder. That’s exactly what happens early on in the story and then things slowly begin to spiral out of control as Bruce attempts to solve the mystery.
As with all things Grisham, there is more going on here than meets the eye. There are a few twists and turns along the way, but I couldn’t help but feel as if Camino Winds existed on island time.
Nelson Kerr is one of the authors that regularly participates in Bruce’s writer dinners on the island. The author of four novels that sold well (this book, like <i>Camino Island</i> pulls back the curtain a bit on the writing industry), and he’s working on his fifth. His latest centers on nursing home fraud and how patients’ lives are possibly being extended for billions of dollars in federal government payments. Nelson’s fiction may have hit too close to home and he’s suddenly the target of several large corporations who want to keep this cash-cow going.
As with a lot of recent Grisham, you do have to wade through a few passages intended to sway you into thinking whatever social injustice is taking place is the worst thing ever and how we could or should be taking steps to fight against it. In a related note, I’m finding it easier to skim these to get back to why I’m here — to have some type of resolution to the central mystery.
If your usual expectation of Grisham is a pulse-pounding, page-turner, odds are you’re going to be disappointed by this one. If you’re looking for a laid back, summer mystery read that is character-driven and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, give this one a try.
Since I first picked up The Firm a quarter of a century ago, I’ve enjoyed journeying through the pages of a legal thriller with John Grisham. When he’s on top of his game, the pages seem to turn themselves.
At times, his latest novel The Reckoning had the pages turning quickly. At others, it was rough sledding to turn the pages, wondering why Grisham was taking us on an extended flashback sequence to the second World War.
Local war hero Pete Banning is a pillar of the community, farming his land and providing not only for his family but also the people who work for him. But that’s not to say that Banning hasn’t dealt with his own share of setbacks — whether it’s a poor growing season, low crop prices, or having to commit his wife to the state mental facility, forbidding his kids from visiting her.
But nothing could prepare his children or the community for the morning when Pete Banning takes his gun, visits the office of his local Methodist minister and shoots the pastor dead in cold blood. Banning heads home and prepares himself for his arrest, offering no defense for his actions and refusing to offer any explanation as to why he killed the minister. Eventually, Banning is sentenced to the electric chair and executed. Continue reading
While John Grisham still reliably delivers page-turning legal thrillers, he still likes to challenge himself and his readers with novels that occasionally go against the “typical” Grisham grain.
But while Camino Island isn’t a typical Grisham legal thriller, it does have the feel of what Grisham does so well in the pages of his legal thrillers. In this case, it’s not a young lawyer with his or her ethics being challenged or figuring out how to fight the system for the underdog. This time Grisham turns his sights upon the publishing world and the lucrative world of book collecting.
Camino Island starts off at a sprint with four thieves stealing four rare F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from the Princeton library.
Once the manuscripts are stolen, Grisham then introduces us to one of the high stakes players in the world of book collecting and his lucrative business. Continue reading