Have You Finished a Grisham Legal Thriller Recently?
I’ve always loved reading a legal thriller by John Grisham. Perhaps I love them because of our time on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the ability to hear the sounds and smell the unique scents of the Coast that come alive in his books. Or, it could be the thrill of trying to solve the underlying mystery in the story keeps me turning page after page. More than likely, it’s because my mother was a ‘southern girl.’
The Reckoning follows the story of Pete Banning from Clanton, Mississippi. Banning was a decorated war hero serving in the Philippines during World War II. When he returns to Mississippi, he desperately tries to recover from the injuries he suffered while fighting the Japenese on the islands.
The town cherishes their war hero and the leading figure of a prominent Mississippi family. But, when Banning murders the Methodist minister in cold blood within the sacred walls of the church, the town’s residents are torn. His trial is swift and lethal. His execution is brutal.
Now, it’s up to his son Joel to sort out the mystery of why his father murdered the minister. Will the family lose everything they cherished for a lifetime? What secrets have their mother kept through the years and will they ever be shared while she resides in the asylum?
This is a story about family pride, retribution, mental anguish, heroism, and cowardice. The book brings together everything that made the south unique both before and after the Civil War.
There will be some who don’t like the segment of the book devoted to Banning’s experiences during the Bataan Death March and later as a guerrilla fighter in the jungles of the Phillippines. I relished these pages as they were a stark parallel to the descriptions my step-father gave of his death march after the Battle of the Bulge. For whatever reason, I finally understood the courage and stamina it took for those few who survived and came back to this country emaciated and broken from a war they gave everything for.
The book does disappoint as a legal thriller. Although there are some courtroom scenes, the mystery of the book is not unraveled in the courtroom. Of all the Grisham books I’ve read, this one is the most disappointing when it comes to the courtroom.
About the Book
#1 bestselling author John Grisham’s The Reckoning is his most powerful, surprising, and suspenseful thriller yet.
“A murder mystery, a courtroom drama, a family saga…The Reckoning is Grisham’s argument that he’s not just a boilerplate thriller writer. Most jurors will think the counselor has made his case.”
“The quest for justice is only the beginning in this Southern-family saga…Grisham does so much more this time around.”
“John Grisham is not only the master of suspense but also an acute observer of the human condition. And these remarkable skills converge in The Reckoning—an original, gripping, penetrating novel that may be his greatest work yet.”
—David Grann, New York Times bestselling author of Killers of the Flower Moon
“John Grisham is the master of legal fiction, and his latest starts with a literal bang — and then travels backward through the horrors of war to explore what makes a hero, what makes a villain, and how thin the line between the two might be.”
—Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Spark of Light and Small Great Things
October 1946, Clanton, Mississippi
Pete Banning was Clanton, Mississippi’s favorite son—a decorated World War II hero, the patriarch of a prominent family, a farmer, father, neighbor, and a faithful member of the Methodist church. Then one cold October morning he rose early, drove into town, and committed a shocking crime. Pete’s only statement about it—to the sheriff, to his lawyers, to the judge, to the jury, and 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.
The Author, John Grisham
Long before his name became synonymous with the modern legal thriller, John Grisham was working 60-70 hours a week at a small Southaven, Mississippi law practice. He squeezed in time before going to the office and during courtroom recesses to work on his hobby–writing his first novel.
He was born on February 8, 1955, in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to a construction worker and a homemaker.
John Grisham as a child dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Realizing he didn’t have the right stuff for a pro career, he shifted gears and majored in accounting at Mississippi State University. After graduating from law school at Ole Miss in 1981, he went on to practice law for nearly a decade in Southaven. He specialized in criminal defense and personal injury litigation.
An Author is Born
One day at the DeSoto County courthouse, Grisham overheard the harrowing testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim. He was inspired to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl’s father had murdered her assailants. Grisham got up at 5 a.m. every day to get in several hours of writing time before heading off to work. He spent three years on A Time to Kill and finished it in 1987. Initially rejected by many publishers, it was eventually bought by Wynwood Press, who gave it a modest 5,000 copy printing and published it in June 1988.
That might have put an end to Grisham’s hobby. However, he had already begun his next book, and it would quickly turn that hobby into a new full-time career. He sold the film rights to The Firm to Paramount Pictures for $600,000. At that point, Grisham suddenly became a hot property among publishers, and book rights were bought by Doubleday. Spending 47 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, The Firm became the bestselling novel of 1991.
More Legal Thriller’s
The successes of The Pelican Brief, which hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and The Client, which debuted at number one, confirmed Grisham’s reputation as the master of the legal thriller. Grisham’s success even renewed interest in A Time to Kill. Doubleday republished it in hardcover. The paperback was published by Dell. This time around, it was a bestseller.
Since first publishing A Time to Kill in 1988, Grisham has written one book a year. His other books are The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, A Painted House, Skipping Christmas, The Summons, The King of Torts, Bleachers, The Last Juror, The Broker, Playing for Pizza,The Appeal, The Associate, Ford County, The Confession, The Litigators, Calico Joe, The Racketeer, Sycamore Row, Gray Mountain, and Rogue Lawyer. All of them have become international bestsellers.
Also, he has written six novels for Young Adult readers: Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer, Theodore Boone: The Abduction, Theodore Boone: The Accused, Theodore Boone: The Activist, Theodore Boone: The Fugitive, and Theodore Boone: The Scandal (2016). There are currently over 300 million John Grisham books in print worldwide. The books were translated into 29 languages.
The Innocent Man (October 2006) marked his first foray into non-fiction, and Ford County (November 2009) was his first short story collection. Partners (March 2016) was his first original digital short story. Nine of his novels have been turned into films (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, A Painted House, The Runaway Jury, and Skipping Christmas), as was an original screenplay, The Gingerbread Man.
Grisham the Lawyer
Grisham took time off from writing for several months in 1996 to return, after a five-year hiatus, to the courtroom. He honored a commitment made before he retired from the law to become a full-time writer. He represented the family of a railroad brakeman killed when he was pinned between two cars. Grisham prepared his case with the same passion and dedication as his books’ protagonists. In the end, he successfully argued his clients’ case. They earned a jury award of $683,500—the biggest verdict of his career.
When he’s not writing, Grisham devotes time to charitable causes. That includes his Rebuild The Coast Fund. It raised 8.8 million dollars for Gulf Coast relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He also keeps up with his greatest passion: baseball. The man who dreamed of being a professional baseball player now serves as the local Little League commissioner. The six ballfields he built on his property have played host to over 350 kids on 26 Little League teams.