For almost a quarter of a century, John Grisham’s A Time to Kill has captivated readers with its raw exploration of race, retribution, and justice. Now, its hero, Jake Brigance, returns to the courtroom in a dramatic showdown as Ford County again confronts its tortured history. Filled with the intrigue, suspense and plot twists that are the hallmarks of the world’s favourite storyteller, SYCAMORE ROW is the thrilling story of the elusive search for justice in a small American town.
Reading the first fifty pages of Sycamore Row I experienced two very different emotions. Firstly, and I can’t remember this happening before, I couldn’t help but grin as I lost myself in every page, in fact I wasn’t aware I was grinning until I heard my mobile ringing and looked away from the book – smiling! The second emotion was anger. Not of Grisham’s writing, his narrative or style, but Seth’s distant family. Racist, obnoxious, opinionated and just plain vile – you can’t help but feel for Lettie the black housekeeper, a housekeeper tasked with looking after the house and an ailing Seth Hubbard for the last three years. Upon his death and his family’s arrival Lettie is cast aside like a mess on a shoe, left to fend for her family and unemployed.
Now that I’ve finished Sycamore Row I can categorically say that those emotions never went away. They would bubble and fester, they weren’t always present but it was as if they were stuck in limbo, waiting to emerge just like a pocket of air escaping water throughout the entire story. You never quite knew where the bubble would burst but you knew it would at some point.
This is without doubt the best legal thriller I’ve read this year, hands down the best. Set at a terrific pace this multi layered story evolves and evolves and just when you think it can’t go anywhere, that the end is in nigh, the book suddenly branches off in a fresh direction, a new perspective, and Grisham introduces a new witness or a different focus to the investigation. This really is clever and sharp witted stuff!
Characterisation is key to any book and it was so satisfying for me to find out what happens to Jake Brigance and his family following the trial of Carl Lee Hailey. Three years down the line he’s still dining out on the plaudits and fame from the case – even if the money and rewards aren’t as forthcoming – and finds himself stuck in a rut doing the same old cases day in day out. Our protagonist had hoped to have moved on to bigger and better things but alas his loss is our literary gain.
John Grisham has brought together an eclectic mix of old and new characters. They all play their part in a legal thriller that is both entertaining and evocative. Even the nasty characters are enjoyable; they all help to add depth and colour to the book but Jake, Ozzie and Lucien carry the book as far as I’m concerned.
I enjoyed where the book takes the reader and where it ends and hopefully in a few years’ time we’ll be allowed to revisit Ford County and experience life in Reuben Atlee’s courtroom once again through the eyes of Jake Brigance. With sharp dialogue, atmospheric narrative and a sagacious storyline, Sycamore Row is one not to be missed. Highly recommended.