Two star review, originally posted here on September 3, 2019.
** spoiler alert **
This book was hot garbage.
I’ve read a couple early Grisham novels and LOVED them. I’ve read a couple later Grisham novels and was neutral on them. This one looked like it might be a return to the classic southern storytelling we all fell in love with in the 90’s, but…
First of all: It was LONG, REPETITIVE and BORING.
The first 200 pages couple have been handled in 30 pages. HOW MANY TIMES do we need to hear that people are curious and frustrated about motive?! Sweet Lord we got it the first 5 million times. The middle couple hundred pages about the protagonist’s time in the Philippines were a little more interesting, but had virtually nothing to do with anything else in the book. Why not just write a book about a guy fighting in the Philippines? That might have been a good book.
Second: SPOILER ALERT!!! The ending was obvious, stupid, racist, and rushed.
In a flashback we get introduced by name to a character in the second section of the book. We’re told that our murderer’s wife really liked him. Yet he’s mysteriously never mentioned in the present day. GEE I WONDER IF HE HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH THE BIG MYSTERY?!?! We also spend a whopping 400+ pages waiting for the big reveal, and when we finally get it it’s covered in like 2 pages. Talk about imbalanced. And it is straight-up stupid as fuck that everyone was MORE disappointed to learn their mom (who believed she was a widow, and thus single at the time) hooked up with a single black man than a married white man. Now, presumably in the 1940’s in Mississippi this WOULD have been considered worse, and maybe worth a deep dive. But we don’t get a deep dive! We spend a hundred pages handling a boring lawsuit about a deed, but we can’t spare just a few pages to grapple with the fact that their own racism led to the deaths of 3 people? Come on, Grisham!
Third: Characters and plotlines that never do anything or go anywhere. Towards the end of the book our murderer’s son sees an “exotic” hottie at a train station, creepily follows her, learns she is engaged, stalks her mercilessly for months, and repeatedly pressures her after she clearly says no. Why was this shit in here? It has NOTHING to do with the story. We learn NOTHING about this character except that she is attractive. And we learn that one of our protagonists, who I THINK we are supposed to like, is creepy as fuck. I think this was supposed to be an endearing story to further our sympathy for this family’s plight, but it just kinda has the opposite effect. We also get briefly introduced to a reporter who is going to chase down and interview a fellow veteran… and then literally nothing else gets mentioned ever about that reporter and his interview pursuit. You’d think it would have come back up at some point- like public opinion affects the appeals because an article comes out describing our murderer’s backstory or something, but nope.
Fourth: Our supposed hero is a total dick. I think we’re supposed to like him. But committing you wife to an asylum for anxiety is a dick move. Refusing to forgive her for [gasp] having sex with someone AFTER SHE THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD is a dick move. Carefully planning to murder someone because they had an affair is a dick move. Screwing over your kids is a dick move. Treating your wife life property instead of a human being is a dick move. Going on alpha power trips with everybody at all times is a dick move. Goddammit I am just getting so angry thinking about this dude again.
Anyhoo, in short, this was a waste of a beach read and I wanted to chuck it into the ocean. I need to go back and read A Time to Kill to balance this shit out.