Every author eventually dreams of channelling of Harper Lee and creating a comparable classic to her incomparable one, To Kill A Mockingbird.
Grisham comes closer than any author I have read.
Pete Banning was Clanton, Mississippi’s favourite son–a decorated World War II hero, the patriarch of a prominent family, a farmer, father, neighbour, and a faithful member of the Methodist church. Then one cool October morning he rose early, drove into town, walked into the church, and calmly shot and killed his pastor and friend, the Reverend Dexter Bell. As if the murder weren’t shocking enough, it was even more baffling that Pete’s only statement about it–to the sheriff, to his lawyers, to the judge, to the jury, and to his family–was: “I have nothing to say.” He was not afraid of death and was willing to take his motive to the grave.
In a major novel unlike anything he has written before, John Grisham takes us on an incredible journey, from the Jim Crow South to the jungles of the Philippines during World War II; from an insane asylum filled with secrets to the Clanton courtroom where Pete’s defense attorney tries desperately to save him.
Reminiscent of the finest tradition of Southern Gothic storytelling, The Reckoning would not be complete without Grisham’s signature layers of legal suspense, and he delivers on every page.
Harper Lee was inspired when she wrote her masterpiece. None have matched her, many have tried. Grisham comes close, but no cigar.
The setting is the American south in the late 1940’s, post WWII. In narrating that part of his story, Grisham presents an interesting tale with polished development of his plot. He keeps you guess, keeps you turning pages. It can feel a little dragged out at times but just as the first climax is reached, a reader might think the can end now. It doesn’t. Grisham takes it in a completely new direction going back in time to set a mood for the reader. Our hero, Pete Banning, is developed into an incomparable hero, a man no reader can help but admire and respect. Such a hero cannot be executed for the capital crime to which he confesses.
The Philippine war portion of the story is tremendously engaging. As in all war stories, the atrocities committed by the Japanese can make anyone become xenophobic, a racist, hating the Japanese as the German Nazis were hated after the atrocities of WWII were revealed to the world.
Grisham writes captivatingly. Readers are drawn into the story and held prisoner by his polished prose. His courtroom scenes excel like no other writers. The character development of his novel’s cast is among the very best. He engages the reader and holds the reader’s attention to every page, one after the other. One cannot help but admire the level to which Grisham has polished his craft.
If one were to count the angels on the head of a pin, one might criticize Grisham for some plot confusion. Why kill what seems to be an innocent person. Yet, as he reveals the surprise ending, one might be justified in criticizing Grisham for deflecting or distracting the reader to make the story more exciting. Maybe!