Audie Award Finalist, Thriller/Suspense, 2014
John Grisham takes you back to where it all began...
John Grisham's A Time to Kill is one of the most popular novels of our time. Now we return to that famous courthouse in Clanton as Jake Brigance once again finds himself embroiled in a fiercely controversial trial - a trial that will expose old racial tensions and force Ford County to confront its tortured history.
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 far 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?
In Sycamore Row, John Grisham returns to the setting and the compelling characters that first established him as America's favorite storyteller. Here, in his most assured and thrilling novel yet, is a powerful testament to the fact that Grisham remains the master of the legal thriller, nearly 25 years after the publication of A Time to Kill.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, a note from the author will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.
©2013 John Grisham (P)2013 Random House Audio
Praise for the novels of John Grisham
"John Grisham is about as good a storyteller as we've got in the United States these days." —The New York Times Book Review
"John Grisham is exceptionally good at what he does—indeed, right now in this country, nobody does it better." —Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
"Grisham is a marvelous storyteller who works readers the way a good trial lawyer works a jury." —Philadelphia Inquirer
"John Grisham owns the legal thriller." —The Denver Post
"John Grisham is not just popular, he is one of the most popular novelists of our time. He is a craftsman and he writes good stories, engaging characters, and clever plots." —Seattle Times
"A legal literary legend." —USA Today
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I never miss a John Grisham story. I love them, eventhough I know his basic theme is so often the same and just reworked to incorporate a few changes here and there. Rich white guy dies, leaves fortune, cuts family out of will, and hires a lawyer to make sure his wishes are carried out (in this case Jake Brigance.) The publisher's summary gives us all the information to set the stage for the legal battle to ensue---so I won't go into details.
Overall I thought this novel was pretty bland and didn't have any of those "aha" moments I expected--UNTIl toward the end when I literally could not put the ipod down as I had to see what happened. Everything is explained as the lawyers find a lost piece of the puzzle-- the last deposition was gripping and heart wrenching.
Great performance by Michael Beck too!
I've read a lot of Grisham over the years. One of his books, The Testament, read by the incomparable Frank Muller, is one of my three or four all time favorite audiobooks, because it leaves the courtroom and becomes a thrilling adventure into the swamps of South America. It's also a unique love story. I heartily recommend it to any audiobook reader. It is a genuine work of genius, unlike anything Grisham has ever written before or since.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Sycamore Row. Grisham is so conscious of repeating himself here that he regularly makes reference to the prior book, in which attorney Jake Brigance defended a black man, Carl Lee Bailey, against a murder. With an all-white jury, Carl Lee was acquitted, and Jake was famous.
This book is set three years later. The plot is interesting. A wealthy white man leaves a hand-written, holographic will (I believe this is a sly reference to The Testament, Grisham's masterpiece) and then commits suicide. In the will he names Jake as his lawyer and leaves 90% of his twenty million dollar fortune to his black caretaker, a woman named Letty Lang. The small town, Clanton, Mississippi, is of course scandalized, and all hell breaks loose when the truth of the hand-written will becomes widely known.
Unfortunately, all hell may be breaking loose, but simultaneously this is the point at which Mr. Grisham retires to what he knows best, the courtroom drama. He has done so many of these by now that he can write them, figuratively speaking, in his sleep. And that's where it put me. Again, as I often do when an audiobook begins to bore me, I set it down for a few weeks and then picked it up again. It bored me again. All of the courtroom theatrics have been done to death by now, and I think that Mr. Grisham is simply responding to the pressures of the publishing world to, uh, keep crankin' 'em out. He would have been better off not publishing this book, and doing something completely different. In fact, he has done that, with a book called Calico Joe, which I have not read yet but will. Great writers often fear that they will get stuck in a rut as they get older, and for a whole lot of them, their fears are richly justified. Too much of a good thing is just too much.
Michael Beck does his usual excellent work. His mastery of the variety of Southern dialects, plus various black voices and a large cast of rednecks, good ole boys and the entire panorama of Southern womanhood: Beck is just lovely to listen to. I am sure that better material will come along for him, and when the author is cooking, Beck delivers. As for Sycamore Row, if I were you, I would skip it. If you have never read The Testament, please do. It is truly one of a kind in the Grisham library, displaying gifts that many later books lack entirely. Plus, there is Frank Muller. He may have been gone a long time by now, but his beautiful voice lives on in his amazing array of narrations. Him, you will love. I garontee it.
Grisham is not back. While Sycamore Row is slightly better than the author's last novel, the writing is just as lazy. I could not make myself finish it. Quite simply, I was too bored! Plus, the stereotypical portrayal of blacks and "rednecks" is hard to take. Even the 'smart' black woman who manages to crawl out of the family garbage to become the lawyer's secretary is a stereotype -- and perhaps there so that people don't outright protest Mr. Grisham's condescension/racist portrayals. The narrator might be making it worse (making every black and/or poor character sound mildly retarded), but I don't think so.
Then there's the question of the "hero." He makes it quite clear that his main preoccupation is his own financial situation, so not much there to admire. (At one point he convinces the beneficiary that she does not need her own lawyer….but when there's an offer of a settlement, he says to the other attorneys that he does not have to relay the offer to her because he is not her lawyer. So he duped her? So much for hero.)
However, like I said, the reason I could not finish it was mainly boredom. SO predictable. In fact, I got halfway through and I can pretty much tell you what the (SPOILER ALERT, even though I have not finished the book:) "surprise" ending will be: the long lost brother is found; it will turn out that he and his brother witnessed a horrific crime by their family against Lettie's family -- possible their father raping Lettie's mother; that is why the old man left her the money. So there. I could not put up with another 6 hours to hear what I am sure I pretty much guessed hours ago.
I plan to get my credit back.
I cannot imagine anyone enjoying this novel about a will contest. I am a paralegal who focuses on estate administration and even I found it repetitive and ridiculously boring. Grisham focused on the technical aspect of the law too much and did not tell us enough about the man at the center of the controversy. How did his relationship with his children become so fractured? We will never know. Too many needless characters were introduced for no reason and served no purpose. I had to force myself to listen to the majority of the book, hoping against hope that it would get interesting or something would actually happen. Then, with 30 minutes remaining, the downloaded file refused to advance. After deleting it and re-downloading several times I was finally able to finish the book. I only finished it because I had invested too much time not to.
Probably not. His early novels were good but I think his books sell now only because of his name, not because they are worth reading.
Memphis lawyer, Booker Sistrunk to start with.
I would remove half of the repetitive material, or ask for my money back.
I used to be a Grisham fan, apparently some find that they can still stand the same story over and over I cannot.
Yes Beck did a great job. Well, his performance allowed me to make it halfway through the book before smacking myself in disgust for giving Grisham another chance.
No I don't see a movie out of it, but if so the lead should be given to Vince Vaughn just for fun.
Grisham is like Patterson is to any book, they never die, but live to tell the same tales with different title. People magazine gave this book 4 stars I am ashamed I even know that.
Yes. The reader enhanced the novel by his authentic, soft, lovely Southern accents--plural because the different characters had different voices. That is hard for me to do in my head.
I did not want to quit listening to this book. The story line was compelling. The characters seemed realistic and interesting. I would love to have another just as interesting right now but they are hard to find.
Not sure why this is getting rave reviews. The basic premise (that an African-American housekeeper might inherit a gazillion bucks in a deep southern town, and that this might cause a stir...) is repeated over and over. The characters are one dimensional, and the resolution to the big question (why did the dead man give her all this money in his will) is obvious 2/3s of the way through. This is the second recent Grisham book I've been disappointed by... and I'm done.
Ok. I know John Grisham is a very famous and prolific writer. I've read only 3 of his books. I got this because everyone said "it's SUCH a page turner". Well I found it very predictable and mind-numbingly long. I figured out way at the beginning what was going to happen. I had absolutely NO empathy for any of the characters. Grisham overused the verb "glared" so many times it made me flinch. I'm sure no one will read my review and Grisham fans won't agree anyway. This book can't compare to many of the exceptional writers I've read, such as the wonderful Hilary Mantel, Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver, or Bill Bryson. But I'm writing this to let off steam. I wasted my time and money on this and am kicking myself for not turning it back in after the first 30 minutes.
Don't listen to those that say Grisham has not been this good since the 90's. He has always been awesome, he continues to grow with each book he writes, and he continues to surprise and educate. Actually this novel is his first adult book to continue one of his earlier books. In this case he continues "A Time to Kill" which was his first novel, the one I liked the least, and the one least Grisham-like.
Luckily the Grisham style is in full swing in his latest. His story shares some plot from earlier novels... the rural south (pretty common in most of his books), the will of a man who hates all his relatives and leaves the money to a outsider, and the slimy underside of the legal profession. However unlike his first novel, this has more energy, moves along much faster, and the characters are more enjoyable. Another Grisham not to miss.
A less predictable story. A deeper understanding of race. A modicum of suspense or emotion.
Probably not. I enjoyed A Time to Kill, but the other books I've read by him seem to have a fairly predictable structure and outcome. Grisham seems incapable of moving past plot diagrams (based on legal processes). Good guys are only good, bad guys are bad are always bad (and we know which is which from their first introduction), and women play a mostly ornamental role. The book mostly trades in racial (and cultural) stereotypes as a source of drama. This was a thoroughly disappointing experience. In looking through the reviews of this book I should have tried harder to read between the lines. When reviewers praises a famous author's career -- instead of the book being reviewed -- you shouldn't expect much from the book.
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