I was a little worried when I sat down to read Grisham’s latest which returns to the setting of A Time to Kill, Clanton, Mississippi and lawyer Jake Brigance. Since A Time to Kill is probably my personal favorite Grisham novel, I was excited to return to those characters, but I was also worried it wouldn’t live up to the first, sequels are rarely as good as the original. Of course it didn’t live up to the original, I didn’t really expect that it would, but it came much closer that I could have hoped for.
Brigance is back in the thick of race tensions when he wanders into the office one morning and opens the mail. A local wealthy white man, in the end stages of lung cancer, has hung himself over the weekend. Jake has never met him, but there it is – a letter naming him as the dead man’s lawyer and a new handwritten will, one that cuts out his family and leaves his substantial fortune to his black housekeeper, Lettie Lang. The courtroom is full of lawyers – some for the kids, some for the grandkids, some for Lettie – and Jake as he fights to see that his dead client’s wishes are fulfilled. Tensions are high and gossip runs rampant as this small town tries to figure out why he left his money to Lettie, and whether or not she should actually get it.
Of course it all comes down to legal-wrangling and new information at the last possible second, with twists and turns that keep you guessing. Another page-turning courtroom drama from the master of the genre.
Title: Sycamore Row
Author: John Grisham
Publication: Doubleday, October 2013