Nobody's reading reviews of this book trying to decide if it's worth reading. Scott Turow's fame plus the fact that Presumed Innocent was made into a Harrison Ford movie pretty much guarantees that.
But is it worth reading again? Absolutely. I had previously read the print version and seen the movie, and now I've listened to the audio version. Knowing whodunnit from the outset didn't take anything away from Turow's artistry - it's just a treat to hear a great storyteller tell a great story. And Edward Herrmann is just the right guy to give voice to this excellent bit of courtroom drama.
So, if they make it a musical, I'll go see that too!
I was real ticked off at John Grisham after "The Broker". That was one bad novel, and I thought he was just trying to cash in on his name. With "The Racketeer" I'm happy to say that the real John Grisham is still alive and kicking.
The book is not exactly a legal thriller, although there is quite a lot of legal res gestae. It's more man-against-the-system, and the outcome is very satisfying. The protagonist, Mal Bannister (aka Max Baldwin) comes off as a very real and believable character. Grisham gives him plenty of depth and charisma, and you'll soon find yourself rooting for him.
The plot has plenty of twists. As the book unfolds explanations of things previously described come out in the narrative, like pulling the strings of a package to wrap it up nice and tight. You may be able to figure out a good bit of what's really going on, but there will be enough left to keep you turning pages (so to speak).
I though J.D. Jackson did a great job. As for his pacing, the narrative made clear that he had made an attempt to change his identity, and part of that change involved speaking more deeply and more slowly.
There were a few stretches required of my imagination. Like, if some hardened criminals wind up with a whole lot of money, are they really going to turn into good guys? And, can an ex-con own a bar? You'd think that would place him in contact with other convicted felons from time to time, which sounds risky to me.
On the whole this was a very good book, and well worth your time.
Grisham takes us back into the courtroom, a setting in which he excels: The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, and on and on. Including, of course, the wonderful A Time to Kill (1989) with attorney Jake Brigance. In Sycamore Row Jake is back, this time wrapped up in defending a holographic will.
This book is a sequel to A Time to Kill only in that the same lawyers -- Harry Rex Vonner, Lucien Wilbanks, Jake -- are back in the same small Mississippi town, but if you've forgotten the earlier book you won't have any problem reading this. A few references to the trial in A Time to Kill are used to establish Jake as a stand-up guy, which is how he gets dragged into the business with the will in the first place. There are also some KKK types who threaten and harass Jake and his family over his defense of a black man in the earlier book, but all the needed backstory is provided.
The plot is tightly woven and well paced. There are a few elements that seem there just to provide color, like the slick Memphis lawyer who tosses a race-grenade into the courtroom, but then slips from the scene. I do wish Grisham had followed through a bit more with the rednecks, especially the one who was released on parole. I thought for sure that firebrand would be back, and I just love it when they get their comeuppance, but he too was written out of the plot.
It's a different kind of law than what we usually get in courtroom novels. It centers around a holographic will handwritten by a man on the eve of his suicide by hanging (from a sycamore tree, a fact you should keep in mind). It's established pretty early on that his kids, son and daughter, don't have much time for the old man, so you won't be surprised to learn they don't make out too well in this will. And of course, there's an earlier will out there, all lawyerly and notarized, in which the kids fare much better. Which will wins? Read on.
Michael Beck is excellent. He has a nice, unaffected style when he's just narrating, and then shows a great range of characterizations of the southerners portrayed here. From my short time living in Mississippi I can say the accents seem quite authentic. Beck gives each of the major characters his own distinct voice and keeps them consistent throughout the book.
No more free passes for Mister Grisham, not after the hugely disappointing The Broker. Now I approach every new Grisham book as a I would a new author. Interestingly this book is a sequel to one Grisham wrote when he was a new author and yes, it's just as good.
Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!
I am a sucker for a legal procedural thriller, especially if it's set in Los Angeles. I listened my way through Michael Connelly's Mickey Haller series ("The Lincoln Lawyer" (2005), etc.) a few months ago. I loved the sense of place, but I was annoyed by the legal mistakes I couldn't help but notice.
Maria Clark knows California law and the Los Angeles Criminal Courts, and "Killer Ambition" is great. Clark conveys the true tension of being a trial lawyer, from missing witnesses (it happens); snarky opposing counsel trying to pull a fast one with discovery and evidence (no, I don't believe you just found that important letter); the agony of jury selection (watching the other side excuse that juror you were counting on); expert witnesses that are experts only in their own minds; and a judge who might as well just sit with the other side, he's made so many (wrong) decisions in their favor. There's so much more, but i don't want to give away the story. Clark captures the tension and excitement of trial perfectly. I actually found myself yelling objections to evidence the Judge allowed in as I drove up the 5 freeway to Court. (I don't usually talk to my books, but I am a civil trial attorney and couldn't help it.)
Clark weaves downtown Los Angeles through the book -The Biltmore, Pershing Square, Engine Company No. 28 . . . She has a true love for those very real places, and it shows.
I read (on paper) Clark's other two Rachel Knight books, "Guilt by Association" (2011) and "Guilt by Degrees" (2012). I liked them well enough to want to read/listen to more, but I loved "Killer Ambition."
January LaVoy is a perfect voice for Rachel Knight. At times, though, other characters voices were a little too dramatic and high pitched.
For those of you that are wondering, yes, the author is That Marcia Clark - the legal commentator, and lead prosecutor on the OJ Simpson trial. I'm mentioning it last so it doesn't overshadow her fine storytelling.
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