Sycamore Row by John Grisham


No one does a legal thriller like John Grisham. It sounds like an oxymoron, but Grisham’s talent is for dramatising all the boring procedural law minutiae that accompanies court room drama. The note taking, the statements, affidavits, subpoenas, jury selection- the fact I even know these terms is testament to The Pelican Brief.

And this is a typical Grisham, sequel to Time To Kill (confession, I haven’t read it); underdog lawyer Jake Brigance is set to defend Mississippi millionaire Seth Hubbard’s will which leaves his fortune to his housekeeper Lettie. Hubbard’s greedy, estranged children hire hotshot lawyers to contest the will. So begins the drama of a trial set amongst the racial tensions of the Deep South.

It’s exciting- the case pulls you along as the trial twists and turns with surprise witnesses and extrajudicial going-ons. Also I don’t often read about the recent past and I very much enjoyed the Eighties shoulder pads, fax machines and Cadillacs.

My gripe is that some of his depictions of characters are a little simplistic and the very neat ending belies fact that movements like Black Lives Matter exist today to address racial injustice. It makes the story feel a bit dated, and not in a ‘Cool Perm!’ way.

But true. We’re probably not reading about gun-toting lawyers and drug-smuggling estranged uncles for contemporary dialogue on race relations. It’s still an enjoyable read, your honour.


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