Right. Sequels. I checked out the definition of the word once I started reading Sycamore Row. I wasn’t wrong in my understanding of course, but just wanted to clarify. Is Sycamore Row a sequel to A Time to Kill, or a standalone second book that features some of the characters who were prominent in the first book? I feel it is more of the latter than the former, but it is a sequel in the sense that it continues the theme of racism and the defense of blacks by white attorney Jake Brigance. There are other returning characters of course, but the story of A Time to Kill doesn’t continue here. So other than character sketches of these returning characters, Sycamore Row is a book you can read as a standalone novel.
To the story… a rich guy hangs himself. A rich white guy hangs himself. He does so keeping in mind a lot of things, and with Ford County not knowing much of his life or his family, the suicide becomes the cynosure. His children, who haven’t visited him in years, materialize to claim their share of his land and money. So far, it seems like an open and shut case, right? The twist is that the kids aren’t part of his last will and testament. That will, a holographic one, doesn’t give them a dime, but gives most of the inheritance to a maid, Lettie Lang, who is black. And voila, the racist Ford County starts to raise their heads at the “injustice”. White lawyers, prominent ones, are ready to defend the children and stop Lettie from becoming the richest black woman in the county. And who defends Lettie? Why, our protagonist Mr. Jake Brigance of course. He’s the appointed executor of the will, who is chosen by the rich guy Seth Hubbard. And thus begins the courthouse drama.
I think the main necessity to any type of thriller is pace. If the pace at the start is good, and you are drawn into the thrill of the novel, a couple of boring parts in between are ignorable because you have the thrill aspect from earlier to keep you going on. The first book had just that. It was a bang-on beginning and the interest in the pursuit of justice never wavered from that. This book unfortunately started out on a slow, tedious note. By the time the first sight of the “thrill” came, I wasn’t very interested in the book. In this book, there is more courthouse drama than the last one. Unfortunately, the discussions in the courthouse I felt were slightly monotonic and the thrill isn’t as prominent in the dialogues. In all honesty, the most thrilling part of the book, I felt, was the key testimony of Ancil, which sort of put things into place.
The recurring plot is one thing that keeps interest in this novel. Maybe it is an expectation of such a twist… the key testimony… that kept me going even when the pace was lacking at the start. Thankfully, the book is not as long as A Time to Kill, so it is manageable for sure.
In A Gist:
Positives: The character of Brigance, and the unexpected twist testimony at the very end.
Negatives: The courthouse klatch feels boring and redundant, takes away from the thrill.
About the author:
John Grisham is an American author, lawyer, and politician. Till 2008, he had sold more than 250 million copies of his works. His books have been published all over the world in 29 languages. Also, he is one of the three authors in the world who have sold two million copies of a first print.
Title: Sycamore Row
Series: Jake Brigance #2
Author: John Grisham
Genre: Legal Thriller
Publisher: Hachette India / Hodder & Stoughton
Price: INR. 399
(7th January, 2014)