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Publisher's Summary

John Grisham's first work of nonfiction, an exploration of small town justice gone terribly awry, is his most extraordinary legal thriller yet.

In the Major League draft of 1971, the first player chosen from the state of Oklahoma was Ron Williamson. When he signed with the Oakland A's, he said goodbye to his hometown of Ada and left to pursue his dreams of big league glory.

Six years later he was back, his dreams broken by a bad arm and bad habits: drinking, drugs, and women. He began to show signs of mental illness. Unable to keep a job, he moved in with his mother and slept 20 hours a day on her sofa.

In 1982, a 21-year-old cocktail waitress in Ada named Debra Sue Carter was raped and murdered, and for five years the police could not solve the crime. For reasons that were never clear, they suspected Ron Williamson and his friend Dennis Fritz. The two were finally arrested in 1987 and charged with capital murder.

With no physical evidence, the prosecution's case was built on junk science and the testimony of jailhouse snitches and convicts. Dennis Fritz was found guilty and given a life sentence. Ron Williamson was sent to death row.

If you believe that in America you are innocent until proven guilty, this book will shock you. If you believe in the death penalty, this book will disturb you. If you believe the criminal justice system is fair, this book will infuriate you.

©2006 Belfry Holdings, Inc (P)2006 Random House Audio

What members say

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  • Overall
  • Mark
  • Frisco, TX, USA
  • 01-17-07

Good Book - Not Typical Grisham

I've read a few Grisham novels, but I'm not a diehard fan. This book is definitely a departure from his fiction. If you are expecting a "legal thriller" with unknown adversaries, legal twists and surprise endings, then this book isn't for you. Just stay away. If you want to read about a true miscarriage of justice, how it affected the individuals, and how it was finally resolved (too late in many respects), then you will enjoy this.

It's a dramatic case study of what can go wrong in our judicial system. Through each step of the process, it's obvious (in hindsight) where the police and Oklahoma legal processes go bad. Williamson continues to deteriorate over the years spent in a non-forgiving environment. There's no nice, happy ending wrap-up. This is real life, and the results are mixed at best. You won't enjoy it, and it should make even the most ardent death penalty supporters question the system.

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Wake up people...

I am stunned by the reviews that find this book uninteresting and/or poorly written. It was difficult to read because it is the story of our wonderful American justice system at its absolute worst. It is also the story of a couple of dozen Americans who allow their prejudices to prosecute and convict two men for murder with absolutely zero evidence. A man in Columbus was recently jailed for eighteen months and tried for the murder of his twin brother with the same 'evidence', none whatsoever. This can happen to anyone. If you aren't interested in this problem then you need to pray that you are never mistaken for a suspect and end up on death row.

21 of 22 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Drew
  • San Antonio, TX, USA
  • 12-07-07

Excellent non-fiction

I actually listened to half the book before I realized that it was non-fiction...While this might not be the thrill ride, surprise ending novel, I was thoroughly caught up in the book...To know that the injustice and travesty that can occur due to the malfeasance of lawyers, courtroom officials, and police is astounding...I thought this book was great and definitely would recommend...

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Wonderful Commentary on our

Yes, this is not a typical Grisham book, but it's about time someone addressed the abuses of our judicial system. This was a travesty of justice, and it's not isolated. Mr. Grisham sent us a wake-up call about the fact that we all must hold our judicial system accountable when it is responsible for ruining lives. District Attorneys should be heavily prosecuted for maneuvering innocent people into plea-bargaining in order to save the "win" in court. It's disgraceful how this system is abused so often! Our system of justice is the best in the world, no doubt; but when there are people manipulating it to their own advantage, it turns ugly. That was the case with this young man, and unfortunately, with many others as well.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

And non-fiction...

This is by far, the most frightening book I've ever read.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Sue
  • Indianapolis, IN, USA
  • 11-21-06


This was not your typical Grisham novel. I listened to the entire thing before I realized that it was non-fiction. I suppose that should be a compliment. It was just too detailed for me. I may have ignored that had I realized that it was all true. I just kept thinking that no police force could be that stupid but I guess I was wrong. You can only imagine how shocked I was to find out that it all really happened. I guess that is why I give this 4 stars. I would give it 5, but I did not like the narrator. It could have been so much better with someone who has a more appealing voice.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Armen
  • 02-04-08

Don't Miss This One

This is a fascinating story that deserves to be read by anyone interested in our justice system - as we all should be.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Patti
  • Chittenango, NY, United States
  • 10-27-13

Good As Any But Not My Favorite

Grisham relates the horrors of our legal system once again, but this time it is not from his imagination. His usual talent in telling a tale is present in this book but it does drag on. In addition to the tale of his two prime victims, other stories of wrongfully convicted men are told. I could see the revelance, but it tended to distract and confuse. The time lines also bounced around which further confused the story.

The narration was superb. There were great characterizations and dfferentiation of voices. I will look to listen to more by Mr. Wasson.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


I am a big fan of true crime novels, but this was one of the worst I have ever read. Too many details that had no bearing on the story!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Disturbing and Riveting

I have a newfound respect for John Grisham. He tells this true story in an entertaining way and gives us new insights into local law and the death penalty.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful