John Grisham takes you back to where it all began. One of the most popular novels of our time, A Time to Kill established John Grisham as the master of the legal thriller. Now we return to Ford County as Jake Brigance finds himself embroiled in a fiercely controversial trial that exposes a tortured history of racial tension.
Seth Hubbard is a wealthy man dying of lung cancer. He trusts no one. Before he hangs himself from a sycamore tree, Hubbard leaves a new, handwritten will. It is an act that drags his adult children, his black maid, and Jake into a conflict as riveting and dramatic as the murder trial that made Brigance one of Ford County’s most notorious citizens, just three years earlier. The second will raises many more questions than it answers. Why would Hubbard leave nearly all of his fortune to his maid? Had chemotherapy and painkillers affected his ability to think clearly? And what does it all have to do with a piece of land once known as Sycamore Row?
John Grisham is an American bestselling writer, attorney, politician, and activist best known for his popular legal thrillers. His books have been translated into 42 languages and published worldwide.
John Grisham’s novels never cease to provide hours of reading enjoyment. His plots keep me riveted and his characters become friends. Choosing one of his novels is always a safe bet. But in Sycamore Row, a return to Clanton, MS and Jake Brigance, Grisham has outdone himself. This novel is one of my all time favorites.
It’s been three years since the controversial case that put Jake Brigance in the spotlight. Still recovering from the trauma of a difficult trial and threats to his family, Jake needs another case to challenge him and make a little cash. When a handwritten will arrives in his mailbox, Jake knows this civil case will be like no other.
Jake Brigance is a character to love. A tenacious and principled lawyer and a confirmed family man, Jake is just a likable guy. His good looks, easy Southern charm and everyman attitude make him a favorite with townspeople and juries. Colorful characters from A Time to Kill are back in Sycamore Row, along with new characters all vying to get a piece of Seth Hubbard’s pie — lawyers, Seth’s family and the unlikely beneficiary, Letty Lang. There are plenty of villains to boo and likable, yet flawed, characters to cheer for. Race is again the emphasis in a novel set in the late 1980s, but with roots in the early years of the 20th century. Both the book and the case have twists and turns that Grisham lets the reader in on even before the main characters. And while the reader may have some doubt as to how it will all turn out, Grisham comes through. The reader will be shocked, saddened and heartened by the unfolding events.
I listened to the audiobook and was overall pleased with the reader. Being from the South, I found some of the accents a bit over the top, but that’s fairly normal for portrayals of the Southern voice. Although to be fair, I am acquainted with some real small town lawyers who do lay it on a bit thick. (Michael Beck, the reader, is from Memphis so I defer to his expertise.)
Overall, Sycamore Row is a great novel. Please note: it was published for the general market, so there are a few instances of profanity.
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(I purchased the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)