Ray Atlee is a professor of law, forty-three and newly single. He has a very sick elderly father who lives in Clanton, Mississippi; a beloved and powerful official who has towered over local law and politics for many years and is now a recluse. With the end in sight, Judge Atlee issues a summons to Ray to return home to discuss the details of his estate. But the meeting does not take place - the Judge dies too soon, and in doing so leaves behind a shocking secret known only to Ray... and perhaps someone else.
Reviewed on 6th May 2011
This Grisham can't really be described as a legal thriller - rather it's a novel whose characters just happen to be lawyers, and it's really a failed sort of mystery. When Ray's father dies, his son finds a suspicious surprise hidden in the old family home, but one that someone else wants.
While it is as engaging and well written as Grisham's other novels, it feels far too samey. I know the old adage is to write what you know, but it sometimes seems that he is rehashing similar characters and plots over again.
Ultimately though what lets this novel down most is the conclusion. I find Grisham's endings to generally be weak and this fails to buck the trend. As a mystery story it just doesn't work. A good mystery is one the reader should be able to solve along the way, with the protagonist, but when vital details are kept from you until the end, and even then only come to light through coincidence and deus ex machina, this becomes impossible.
Despite this, I did enjoy reading the rest of the book, but I'm certainly hoping that Grisham's writing picks up again as I start to catch up with his more recent works.