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Summary

The electrifying new thriller from internationally best-selling author John Grisham.

John Grisham returns to Clanton, Mississippi, to tell the story of an unthinkable murder, the bizarre trial that followed it and its profound and lasting effect on the people of Ford County.

Pete Banning was Clanton's favourite son, a returning war hero, the patriarch of a prominent family, a farmer, father, neighbour and a faithful member of the Methodist Church. Then one cool October morning in 1946, he rose early, drove into town, walked into the church, and calmly shot and killed the Reverend Dexter Bell.

As if the murder wasn't shocking enough, it was even more baffling that Pete's only statement about it - to the sheriff, to his defense attorney, to the judge, to his family and friends and to the people of Clanton - was 'I have nothing to say'.

And so the murder of the esteemed Reverend Bell became the most mysterious and unforgettable crime Ford County had ever known. 

©2018 Belfry Holdings, Inc (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

"Scintillating storytelling." (The Sunday Times)

"A buoyant, mischievous thriller... This reliable best-selling author is feeling real pleasure, and not just obligation, in delivering his work." (New York Times)

"A wild, hard-to-put-down romp." (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

What members say

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Grisham Grinds to a Halt!

John Grisham has once again struck out for something a bit different even though he has based it on familiar territory, Southern States, a legal system that becomes a character in its own right and the oft-troubled issue of race relations. It's a split story starting with the promised murder without a cause by war hero Pete Banning and the subsequent trial. Right in Grisham's back yard I think it's fair to say..

Then, we step back in time and follow Banning's experiences during the second world war where he was one of the poor unfortunates caught up in the infamous Bataan Death March, one of the great cruelties of that conflict.

Finally we're back to the main story where the aftermath of Banner's trial is dealt with as the family's ancestral home comes under threat and Banner's children try to answer the book's central mystery: Why did a father and a war hero gun down a seemingly innocent preacher and then refuse to give a reason in his defence?

What's good about this book is Grisham's usual ability to create a sense of place, build strong characters and of course make a twisted legal system into a character all of its own. Additionally the narration by Michael Beck is as good as it has been on previous novels where the two have collaborated.

The not so great is possibly the structure of the book. The opening part is genuinely compelling but rather than integrate the war story interspersed with it they are two very different and separate chunks. The reader is taken from Sycamore Row to something akin to "Band of Brothers" in a heartbeat and that wartime part feels like a different book. For a long time it's pretty grim with beheadings, torture and much disease thrown into the mix. The climax which is kept right to the very end, doesn't really amaze or surprise which having listened through 17 hours I think it is reasonable to expect.

So, has Grisham written in a more literary fashion? Is it more clever than his standard legal thrillers? That probably requires cleverer people than me to answer. What i can say is that I think it lacked the real cleverness, tension and killer twists that Grisham has so often provided in the past leaving me feeling fairly ambivalent towards it.

19 of 19 people found this review helpful

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A Good Tale

Several well narrated stories of one memorable family, a bit long for me but worth it.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • eric
  • DONCASTER, United Kingdom
  • 28-10-18

Grisham at his worst

At best you could say this was a short story dragged out into a novel. There was little plot and far too much irrelevant detail put in to fill the time. BIg mistake to pick the book based on the author, who I have enjoyed previously.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Rambling and irrelevant

Oh dear. What a disappointing end to 2018. New books from Michael Connelly Lee Child and John Grisham and all fall short. This latest from Grisham is a rambling waffling tedious load of irrelevance. I have had several attempts at it and each time find myself skipping sections trying to find something to hold my interest or the story to start. It does not work. Another one for me to return. What a shame the man who gave us so many great stories has lost his power to entertain.

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A Winner

As usual John Grisham did not disappoint - I was gripped right from the start and at no point did I guess the end. Michael Beck is a great narrator, his voices and the telling brings out each character perfectly. My only complaint is that I got to the end far too quickly because I could not stop listening.

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Excellent

As a long time fan of John Grisham, I would say this is one of his finest stories. The descriptions of the time in the Phillipines were mesmerising and an excellent history lesson at the same time. Truly remarkable writing and an excellent performance by the narrator. Well done to all.

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Back in Ford County but in the midst of war

A brilliant story. One of murder, love, lust, war, secrets and of course the law.

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Depressing!

Without doubt John Grisham is an author who can string a sentence together and devise a great story. Sycamore Row, for example, is a recent tour de force and his bibliography is littered with great stories told well. The Reckoning is not his best work at all, it's not even in the same league as some of his worst work, this is a huge, fat, pre Christmas turkey!

Let me say at the outset that Michael Beck can hold his head up high, his narration is the only thing which kept me listening, that and the mistaken belief that things may improve. There is nothing uplifting in this book at all. If I wanted a tragedy I can look to the classics, if I wanted to read about the uncomfortable dismantling of the American dream, Arthur Miller is the go to man..I'm afraid JG has ventured into a genre which has been explored many times before far more deftly and with a far lighter touch.

We get the usual legal indulgence which is forgivable since it is Grishom's signature. The violence and inhumanity in the mid section is overplayed and leaves one wondering whether the author has an axe to grind with regards to the atrocities meted out by the Japanese during WWII - which of course is fine but should it really be played out in a work of fiction? The denouement is predictable and the final twist is lazy and lame, all in all this was a shocker from one of my favourite authors. Up your game Mr Grisham, you have your own high standards to live up to.

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Enjoyed this!

Grisham did very well by writing the ending first. Great narrative with attention to detail on every level. Thank you, Mr Grisham for diving into the details of the war... very good here.
There’s a mystery that’s revealed at the end.... and just at the right moment, for Grisham builds up to this perfectly. Altogether, a finely-spun web from a great storyteller. I have to say that Grisham is one of the few authors that inspires my own writing. Good job!

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Not my favourite

Grisham is easily my favourite author and I look forward to each new release. I feel that this book had a very slow start and while the historical element was interesting, it was by the end disappointing. However, others may enjoy, so give it a whirl!