The Chamber

A Novel
Narrated by: Alexander Adams
Length: 16 hrs and 59 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (2,293 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In the corridors of Chicago's top law firm: 

Twenty-six-year-old Adam Hall stands on the brink of a brilliant legal career. Now he is risking it all for a death-row killer and an impossible case. 

Maximum Security Unit, Mississippi State Prison: 

Sam Cayhall is a former Klansman and unrepentant racist now facing the death penalty for a fatal bombing in 1967. He has run out of chances - except for one: the young, liberal Chicago lawyer who just happens to be his grandson. While the executioners prepare the gas chamber, while the protesters gather and the TV cameras wait, Adam has only days, hours, minutes to save his client. For between the two men is a chasm of shame, family lies, and secrets - including the one secret that could save Sam Cayhall's life...or cost Adam his. 

"A dark and thoughtful tale pulsing wit moral uncertainties...Grisham is at his best." (People)

"Compelling.... Powerful.... The Chamber will make readers think long and hard about the death penalty." (USA Today)

©1994 John Grisham (P)1999 Random House, Inc., Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio Publishing, A Division of Random House, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"His best yet." (The Houston Post)

"Mesmerizing...with an authority and originality...and with a grasp of literary complexity that makes Scott Turow's novels pale by comparison - Grisham returns." (San Francisco Chronicle

What members say
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Best of Grisham

Virtuoso narration of Grisham's best dialogue. The conversations carry the story. If ever a man earned the death sentence it is this man; the story shows how the sins of the father are visited on the generations. Yet, Grisham shows the value of confession, forgiveness and mercy.

33 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Ed
  • 09-23-08

One of Grisham's best

I hesitated to purchase this because of the reviews that called it depressing. I liked much of Grisham's earlier works and this is one that I had yet to read. I'm glad I took a chance. The Chamber is a compelling story with excellent character development and just enough detail to make you familiar with its settings. And Michael Beck is just superb. I can't imagine the story being read any better. Grisham's expertise is best illustrated by the fact that Sam is a totally unlikable character who, by book's end, will capture the reader's empathy. The premise of the novel is somewhat of a stretch as are some of the events that take place. But all that's trumped by the masterful way that Grisham told this story. I haven't changed my opinion on capital punishment, but the novel made me think without detracting from its entertainment value. That is rare. I think this book will appeal to liberals, conservatives, capital punishment supporters and capital punishment opponents alike. It's good. Download and enjoy.

45 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Walk in his shower shoes

What did you love best about The Chamber?

I like any book that can help us to see into another person. Even a fictional person. Racism and hate and understanding and forgiveness and tolerance. There are some very harsh elements, there would have to be for the story to take place primarily on death row. I felt for the characters. I like a book that may help me see the other side of an argument in a new light.

What does Michael Beck bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

The narrator was very good. I enjoyed his voice. I only once or twice thought his intonation was off and that is really nitpicking because he was good.

Any additional comments?

This was one of the first books that I got on my Audible acct. way back in 2002. It is now 2012. Ten years of listening and I thought I would listen to all of them over and write a quick review (finally) for each one. At the time that I got this book, I was also listening to Jonathan Kerlerman and Robert Ludlum. My tastes have changed, I do not like horrible killings and rapes that have a lot of details. I would rather have a light heart warming story. I have kids now and life is complicated enough. When I read I want to escape to a simple story with conflict that may be resolved. Though this book does not have a simple conflict, and the subject matter is hard, the story is still heart warming. There are harsh words and it is impossible to tell a story that includes racism with out using dialog that I would rather not hear but I'm glad I read the book 10 years ago, and I'm glad I read the book today.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Kudos to Mr. Grisham

The Chamber brings into question and beckon for the ultimate denouement of the death penalty.

A book with depth and innate worth, Mr. Grisham tells a riveting and poignant story in which Sam Cayhall, the main character, demonstrates the fatal result of the combination of family nurture and one's environment. Donnie, Sam's youngest brother, coming from the same ill-fated environment as Sam shows that by engaging with humanity, one can avoid the pains of alienation from society. If John Grisham tells us anything it is that albeit we live in a world where evil delights in justifying itself and where moral ambiguity surpasses moral verities, we are still accountable for the choices we make.

Michael Beck is an outstanding narrator. For me, this book was an emotional roller coaster that tested my compassion... a book that merits a place on the bookshelf.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

A Nonirritating Narration

Michael Beck is the best narrator I've heard in a long time. Very enjoyable.

J. Grisham, once again, seems to have run out of enthusiasm for his story towards the end. I enjoyed the first part.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Death penalty issues are hard....

Would you listen to The Chamber again? Why?

No. I enjoyed it and glad I listened to it. But it'll stay with me a long time. I don't need a second time around. I don't believe in the death penalty in all cases, some I do. In this case I did not. I knew which way I was rooting and I felt I knew Sam by the time I was finished. He was a changed man and now I'm forever changed.

Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

Yes it did. There were so many appeals and trials and the hope was for a stay of execution or clemency. Also, another character was involved, not mentioned much and the hope was that he would somehow be fleshed out.

What does Michael Beck bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Mmmm. He sounds just like Kevin Costner, if he read a book!! I've never seen a picture of Michael. But he does a wonderful job in pulling out all the characters in the story. The Chamber had a large number of characters.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Yes. Sam gave a very solemn confession to the preacher, I think his name was Randy. It was so heartfelt. Another was when he walked into the Chamber.....he was so very brave. He had disavowed his membership to the KKK and many other things. His main concern was that God would allow him into heaven.

Any additional comments?

Grisham rarely makes mistakes in my opinion. I loved this. It was a tad long but I still enjoyed it and it really didn't take much longer to read because I really needed to see Sam to the end.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • DK
  • 12-20-18

Listening to this Classic John Grisham book...

… Is like reconnecting with a long, lost family member– Which is interesting because that is the premise for THE CHAMBER. A promising young law associate is well on his way to climbing the grueling ladder to partner when he drops everything to pursue the defense of a death row inmate, his estranged grandfather. A grandfather who was part of the Klan in his youth and responsible for the deaths of 2 Jewish boys, devastating the whole family.

Michael Beck masterfully tells the story. I could feel the anger, sadness, the devastation & the few glimpses of lightheartedness.

Thanks for reading my review. Please mark it helpful if you felt it so. Thanks

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Exasperating Audible Experience on this one.

This is a great story. I started reading it on Kindle. I decided I wanted to HEAR it as well, so I bought the audible version. Having only been like maybe an hour or so into the read, I was excited to hear the story. Sadly, when I downloaded it and listed to it, the audio book starts like 2 hours or so into the story! Despite my best efforts, I can't get audile to fix it. Currently, the only way to get the book to play from the actual START of the story is to listen to it on the computer with the cloud streaming thing. This is a terrible shame, as the whole point of audible and the apps is to listen on any device. I have sent email to audible support over and over again, and they keep adding it back into my library, but it always starts at the wrong place. It skips the most crucial part of the story - the beginning of the story. Get it together, Audible.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Held my atention

I covered many miles while listening and don't remember most of them. Mr. Grisham is very good at discribing the surroundings, so much so I felt like I was there. Well worth the time.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

More than a courtroom drama.

The Chamber is a courtroom drama, a legal thriller, and more. It's a transgenerational Southern family drama and it's also the story of a young man entering into radical confrontation with his identity and values, and emerging with both intact.

Adam Hall is one year out of law school and works at a high-powered Chicago law firm. Since the tragic death of his father when Adam was seventeen he has also been the keeper of a family secret: Sam Cayhall, the infamous Ku Klux Klan bomber who has been on Mississippi's Death Row for over nine years, is his grandfather.

Adam gets himself assigned to the firm's pro bono department so that he can represent his grandfather for the final "gang plank" round of appeals, hoping to obtain a stay of execution for Sam. The book follows his work closely from court to court, and we become acquainted with the vast bureaucracy that supports capital punishment in the United States.

Grisham introduces us to the major and minor players in what is almost as formalized as Noh theater. We see what the noblest and basest aspects of human nature in the wardens, guards, and victims' family members, as well as in the bureaucrats behind the system of appellate courts, and we find kindness in surprising places.

The characters in The Chamber are multi-dimensional; they grow and develop over time. Some of them change; some don't. Almost without exception, they feel like real people. We believe them.

Michael Beck's narration is good. I can't speak to the accuracy of the regional accents he employs, but more importantly, his characterization never gets in the way of the characters. He never sinks into caricature, and it is always clear who is speaking.

I enjoyed The Chamber and I recommend it. It is not a happy, pleasant book, but it is a good one.

3 people found this helpful