Court-appointed lawyer Jake Brigance puts his career, his financial security, and the safety of his family on the line to defend a sixteen-year-old suspect who is accused of killing a local deputy and facing the death penalty.
JOHN GRISHAM is the author of thirty-five novels, one work of non-fiction, a collection of stories, and seven novels for young readers.
*Starred Review* Set five years after the events of Grisham's first novel, 1989's A Time to Kill (and a couple of years after its sequel, 2013's Sycamore Row), this new Jake Brigance novel finds the Mississippi lawyer roped into defending a 16-year-old boy charged with the murder of a police deputy. The reader knows from the beginning the circumstances surrounding the fatal incident: there is no doubt who did what to whom and why. And, yet, the book is impossible to put down because we're fascinated by how Jake will overcome the many obstacles in his path to discovering what we already know. It's really a very clever setup; the story's structure bears a slight resemblance to an episode of Columbo, in which the viewer knows more than the detective at the beginning of the episode. Grisham builds a complex, surprising, and, in places, emotionally devastating story around Jake and his teenage client. A Time for Mercy isn't a whodunit. It's not even really a courtroom drama, although, of course, Grisham delivers some seriously intense courtroom scenes. Ultimately, it's a story about a community that values its secrets more than it values the truth, and Grisham tells it with great power and style.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Nearly everything Grisham writes draws readers by the millions, but his Jake Brigance mysteries are in a category all their own. This third Brigance outing will continue the pattern. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.
A small-town Mississippi courtroom becomes the setting for a trademark Grisham legal tussle. Stuart Kofer is not a nice guy. He drinks way too much and likes to brawl. One night, coming home in a foul mood with a blood alcohol count more than triple the legal limit, he breaks his live-in girlfriend‚??s jaw. He‚??s done terrible things to her children, too‚?"and now her 16-year-old boy, Drew, puts an end to the terror. Unfortunately for the kid in a place where uniforms are worshipped, Stu was a well-liked cop. ‚??Did it really matter if he was sixteen or sixty? It certainly didn‚??t matter to Stu Kofer, whose stock seemed to rise by the hour,‚?Ě writes Grisham of local opinion about giving Drew the benefit of the doubt. Jake Brigance, the hero of the tale, is a lawyer who‚??s down to his last dime until a fat wrongful-death case is settled. It doesn‚??t help his bank book when the meaningfully named Judge Omar Noose orders him to defend the kid. Backed by a brilliant paralegal whose dream is to be the first Black female lawyer in the county, he prepares for what the local sheriff correctly portends will be ‚??an ugly trial‚?Ě that may well land Drew on death row. As ever, Grisham capably covers the mores of his native turf, from gun racks to the casual use of the N-word. As well, he examines Bible Belt attitudes toward abortion and capital punishment as well as the inner workings of the courtroom, such as jury selection: ‚??What will your jury look like?‚?Ě asks a trial consultant, to which Jake replies, ‚??A regular posse. It‚??s rural north Mississippi, and I‚??ll try to change venue to another county simply because of the notoriety.‚?Ě The story runs on a touch long, as Grisham yarns tend to do, and it gets a bit gory at times, but the level of tension is satisfyingly high all the way to the oddly inconclusive end. Grisham fans will be pleased, graphic details of evil behavior and all. Copyright Kirkus 2020 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Six days a week, every day but Sunday, Jake Brigance allowed himself to be dragged out of bed at the unholy hour of 5:30 a.m. by a noisy alarm clock. Six days a week he went straight to the coffeepot, punched a button, then hurried to his own private little bathroom in the basement, far away from his sleeping wife and daughter, where he showered in five minutes and spent another five with the rest of his ritual before dressing in the clothes he&;d laid out the night before. He then hurried upstairs, poured a cup of black coffee, eased back into his bedroom, kissed his wife goodbye, grabbed his coffee, and, at precisely 5:45 closed the kitchen door and stepped onto the rear patio. Six days a week he drove the dark streets of Clanton to the picturesque square with the stately courthouse anchoring life as he knew it, parked in front of his office on Washington Street, and, at 6:00 a.m., six days a week, walked into the Coffee Shop to either hear or create the gossip, and to dine on wheat toast and grits.
But on the seventh day, he rested. There was never an alarm clock on the Sabbath, and Jake and Carla reveled in a long morning&;s rest. He would eventually stumble forth around 7:30 and order her back to sleep. In the kitchen he poached eggs and toasted bread and served her breakfast in bed with coffee and juice. On a normal Sunday.
But nothing about this day would be normal. At 7:05 the phone rang, and since Carla insisted that the phone be located on his night table, he had no choice but to answer it.
&;If I were you I&;d leave town for a couple of days.&; It was the low raspy voice of Harry Rex Vonner, perhaps his best friend and sometimes his only one.
&;Well good morning, Harry Rex. This better be good.&;
Harry Rex, a gifted and devious divorce lawyer, ran in the dark shadows of Ford County and took enormous pride in knowing the news, the dirt, and the gossip before almost anyone not wearing a badge.
&;Stuart Kofer got shot in the head last night. Dead. Ozzie picked up his girlfriend&;s boy, sixteen-year-old kid without a trace of peach fuzz, and he&;s at the jail just waitin&; on a lawyer. I&;m sure Judge Noose knows about it and is already thinkin&; about the appointment.&;
Jake sat up and propped up his pillows. &;Stuart Kofer is dead?&;
&;Deader&;n hell. Kid blew his brains out while he was sleeping. Capital, dude, death penalty and all. Killing a cop will get you the gas nine times outta ten in this state.&;
&;Didn&;t you handle a divorce for him?&;
&;His first one, not his second. He got pissed off about my fee and became a disgruntled client. When he called about the second, I told him to get lost. Married a couple of crazies, but then he had a fondness for bad women, especially in tight jeans.&;
&;None that I know of. None that he knew of either.&;
Carla scurried out of bed and stood beside it. She frowned at Jake as if someone was lying. Three weeks earlier, Officer Stuart Kofer had visited her class of sixth graders and given a wonderful presentation on the dangers of illegal drugs.
&;But he&;s only sixteen,&; Jake said, scratching his eyes.
&;Spoken like a true liberal defense lawyer. Noose will be calling you before you know it, Jake. Think about it. Who tried the last capital murder case in Ford County? You. Carl Lee Hailey.&;
&;But that was five years ago.&;
&;Doesn&;t matter. Name another lawyer around here who&;ll even think about taking a serious criminal case. Nobody. And more important, Jake, there&;s no one else in the county who&;s competent enough to take a capital case.&;
&;No way. What about Jack Walter?&;
&;He&;s back in the sauce. Noose got two complaints last month from disgruntled clients and he&;s about to notify the state bar.&; How Harry Rex knew such things was always a marvel to Jake.
&;I thought they sent him away.&;
&;They did, but he came back, thirstier than ever.&;
&;What about Gill Maynard?&;
&;He got burned in that rape case last year. Told Noose he&;d surrender his license before he got stuck with another bad criminal appointment. And, he&;s pretty awful on his feet. Noose was beyond frustrated with the guy in the courtroom. Give me another name.&;
&;Okay, okay. Let me think a minute.&;
&;A waste of time. I&;m telling you, Jake, Noose will call you sometime today. Can you leave the country for a week or so?&;
&;Don&;t be ridiculous, Harry Rex. We have motions before Noose at ten Tuesday morning, the rather insignificant matter of the Smallwood case? Remember that one?&;
&;Dammit. I thought it was next week.&;
&;Good thing I&;m in charge of the case. Not to mention such trivial matters as Carla and her job and Hanna and her classes. It&;s silly to think we can just disappear. I&;m not running, Harry Rex.&;
&;You&;ll wish you had, believe me. This case is nothing but trouble.&;