When Carl Lee Hailey guns down the hoodlums who have raped his ten-year-old daughter, the people of Clanton see it as a crime of blood and call for his acquittal.
But when extremists outside Clanton hear that a black man has killed two white men, they invade the town, determined to destroy anything and anyone that opposes their sense of justice.
Jake Brigance has been hired to defend Hailey. It’s the kind of case that can make or break a young lawyer. But in the maelstrom of Clanton, it is also the kind of case that could get a young lawyer killed.
As my all time favourite author I cannot believe that I’ve waited twenty years to read John Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill. I’ve seen the movie adaptation many many times so was feeling apprenhensive about starting it, but I needn’t have worried – the movie has stayed very true to the book. As I was reading, I couldn’t picture anyone other than Matthew McConaughey and Samuel L.Jackson in the lead roles and all the way through all I could hear was McConaughey’s southern drawl 🙂
As I tend to do, and maybe you do too, when you’re reading a book having seen the movie I was constantly thinking is this gonna be in it, when will this happen? I suppose that is a downside of seeing the movie first. I didn’t mind so much that I thought I knew what was coming as the book is so much more descriptive and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s tense and captivating from the word go, the real definition of a page turner; although I was really surprised to find typo’s in this version.
Set in the Deep South, in what I estimated to be the mid eighties there’s still a very strong air of racism and white supremacy, people still use the word nigger quite freely – some in a tone of hatred and loathing and others just as a term for black. So if you’re offended by the word n****r or can’t read about sexual crimes against children then this isn’t for you, as n****r is practically every other word and the rape scene and following events are quite detailed and hard to read.
This book takes us from the scene of the crime, right through to the trial and the verdict which is full or courtroom drama and tension. My favourite scenes are those in the courtroom where Buckley, the prosector, is made to look a fool or is having a bit of a spat with Jake. It does offer some light relief from the stuffiness and seriousness of the subject matter. Although the tenseness doesn’t let up throughout and makes the reader question what would you do and…is there, A Time to Kill? I love a book that gives the reader a real moral dilemma and there’s no shortness here.
At 738 pages, this is one of the longest, if not the longest book I’ve ever read and completed, but still I read it quite easily and comfortably as the writing style is so fluid and articulate. However, some of it does feel a little long-winded but I can forgive that. I’d imagine that with his later books and experience came a more succint writer. But let’s face it, when it comes to a legal thriller no-one can do it better than Grisham.
The sequel Sycamore Row, was published in October 2013 and my review will follow shortly.
Connect with the author John Grisham