Friday, July 11, 2014

Sycamore Row, by John Grisham

Sycamore Row is the best kind of legal thriller: great writing, good storyline, and characters that really come alive on the page. Having said that, the book seems even better on audio, thanks to narrator Michael Beck, an actor and native Southerner who has voiced numerous Grisham novels.

This particular Grisham offering, set in 1988 in Mississippi, is a sequel to the author’s first novel, A Time to Kill. Like that book, Grisham’s latest work stars attorney Jake Brigance, who is once again at the heart of a controversial trial.

Before local curmudgeon Seth Hubbard, suffering from lung cancer, hung himself from a sycamore tree, he wrote a hand-written will giving the bulk of his huge estate to his black maid Lettie, and leaving virtually nothing to his adult son and daughter. With their father gone, the kids expected to be millionaires; they have a copy of Hubbard’s will that was written earlier, and that will includes them and doesn't mention Lettie. Obviously, Hubbard’s children have a huge problem with the new will, which was delivered to Attorney Brigance right before the old man did himself in.

What did Lettie do to deserve the majority of his money, asks the dead man’s children, and a lot of the townspeople are wondering the same thing. Was Hubbard out of his mind on pain-numbing drugs when he penned the new will? Or did Lettie coerce him or possibly romance him into leaving his fortune to her? Even her husband has his suspicions, though he is more than happy to think of himself as a future rich man, and he is just one of Lettie’s many relatives who feel her good fortune is theirs too.

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