Book Review ~ "Sycamore Row" (2013) by John Grisham

Ken Painter By Ken Painter, 12th Jan 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Reviews>Books>Dramatic Fiction

In his latest legal thriller, John Grisham revisits the good folks of Clanton, Mississippi and Jake Brigance just three years after his stunning victory in the Carl Lee Hailey murder trial which finds the town still recovering. However, this time out all the racial subtleties are covered in the seesaw battle over a last will and testament involving a white man who has left the vast bulk of his huge estate to his black housekeeper. Uh-oh!

Book Review ~ "Sycamore Row" (2013) by John Grisham

Once again I am reminded why John Grisham is America’s greatest legal spellbinder with his revisit to Ford County, Mississippi and the characters he so popularized in his first book A Time to Kill almost a quarter century ago now. In this first sequel among the twenty-six novels he’s penned over this time span, we find him revisiting a familiar theme with already established characters from the earlier work, that of racial friction in the small town atmosphere of Clanton, Mississippi compounded by the factional disputes of the local liberals and conservatives headed up by our hero/protagonist lawyer Jake Brigance just three years after his stunning victory in defending Carl Lee Hailey of murder charges (in A Time to Kill) from which he and his family almost lost their lives and did lose their house to arson by the Klan, and the conservatives well-represented by the usual redneck contingent.

This time out though we find the racial strife/plot line wrapped around a last will and testament as Jake finds himself tapped to represent the estate of a man he never met who has committed suicide during the final stages of lung cancer rather than succumb naturally to the ravages of the disease. Prior to his suicide this gentleman (who really is no gentleman) has carefully written out a handwritten holographic will revoking all other prior wills (perfectly legal under Mississippi law) and leaving the bulk of his estate (worth many millions) to his black female housekeeper and cutting out his family. The ensuing legal battle (and civic gossip, threats, etc.) become the basis for a fascinating character portrayal of late 1980’s life in the deep south.

However, don’t be fooled. This book goes deeper than that. Sycamore Row delves into some Depression and Reconstruction Era history which I wasn’t expecting, and, being the American History buff I am, made the book that much more interesting to me. This book has a great McGuffin (plot twist) which, when exposed, made the book infinitely more satisfying for me.

Of the John Grisham books, the Ford County characters have always been among the most vivid. Sycamore Row now stands tall on the book shelf and does Mr. Grisham much justice, indeed.


Book, Book Review, Book Reviews, Books, Drama, Fiction, Grisham, Legal, Racism, Thriller, Wills

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author avatar Ken Painter
Retired Chicago public school teacher. Singer, songwriter, musician, author, & opinionated old curmudgeon. Married to my husband & living in Colorado, USA. Also a father & grandfather.

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
12th Jan 2014 (#)

a great review indeed...thank you again Ken...

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author avatar Ken Painter
13th Jan 2014 (#)

Thanks cnwriter. Great book!

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author avatar Julie Smith
21st Jan 2014 (#)

So, what makes you a movie critic that we should care about your ramblings. This is oitiful writing at it's worst.

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author avatar Jose Facilico
21st Jan 2014 (#)

You must have a real ego to critique movies and books and yet it is all just your opinion. I also read with some interest about your family bashing in your other stories. WOW, you must be proud of yourself. Give it up dude---you are no author.

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author avatar Ron Flowers
1st Feb 2014 (#)

A good book review. I have read most everything Grisham has written and am in the process of reading this one. He is my favorite current author.

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