Books – Review of John Grisham’s favourite Genre – Legal Thrillers – A Time for Mercy – Jake Brigance # 3
My Rating 4 out of 5
Plot Summary – Book Review
John Grisham’s best has always been in the books of the Legal genre. Though this year’s first release was Camino Winds, which took the readers back to the fictitious Camino Island and its residents. While it was enjoyable, it was a far cry from the books that John’s fan love him for!
With a Time for Mercy, he corrects that deviation and brings back his lovable small town fighter-lawyer – Jake Brigance. The first in the series of books, A Time to Kill (published 1989), was a runaway hit (later made into a successful film too) and established John Grisham’s reputation as the Master of the Legal Thrillers. The next in the series came 24 years later in 2013 – Sycamore Row, another hit!
Now, in 2020, the third of series, A Time for Mercy is released, and we see whether it lives up to the exciting legacies of the two earlier books.
Like the earlier two, this is also set in the sleepy little town of Clanton, Mississippi, deep in the southern US, in the year 1990. Racial tensions still prevail, as a palpable undercurrent, though not as strong as in 1985, when Jake brought Carl Lee Hailey back from death row (A Time to Kill). The colored population of Clanton, still hero-worship Jake and the White part now looks at him with respect, if not love.
Ozzie Walls, now the Sheriff of Clanton, is also black and one of Jake’s good friends but all that is about to change. A much loved deputy of the Police force, Stuart Kofer, lives a little out of town with his live-in girlfriend Josie Gamble and her two teen aged kids, Drew (16) and Kiera (14). Both are from Josie’s earlier liaisons and she, herself, has a chequered past, involving drugs, jail and other criminal incidents.
The two kids know their father not, and have spent most of their lives floating from one temporary residence to another, be it foster homes, trailer parks and even in Josie’s car. For the first time, they have some kind of permanency in their lives, at least as far their having a roof over their head goes. But Stuart Kofer is not all that he seems in public life, a decorated and loved Police officer.
He drinks heavily, gambles and gets into bar fights with frightening regularity and then he turns his attention to Josie. He brutally beats her up, and the children too, from time to time. He resents the fact that he is having to bring up Josie’s children and alcohol only fuels that resentment into a violent rage. Twice Josie has called 911, but once the Police arrived, she declined to press charges, fearing losing the roof over their heads and hoping, praying that Stuart will get over his anger issues.
On one such night, Stuart comes home dead drunk. Josie was waiting in the kitchen, while the two children cowered in their bedroom, waiting for Stuart temper to explode. Stuart hits Josie so badly, she’s knocked unconscious and then he stumbles upstairs to torment the kids. The locked and barred door saves them but they fear Josie has finally been killed by Stuart or otherwise she’d have been trying to prevent Stuart from coming up.
After a while, they hear no sound and tiptoe downstairs, only to find Josie lying unresponsive on the kitchen floor and Stuart, passed out on his bed. A distraught Drew, picks up Stuart’s service gun and shoots him dead. Then he calls 911 and waits for them to arrive. It’s a open and shut case, and local police want the death sentence for Drew for killing one of their own. Never mind if that person was a violent alcoholic!
Enter local lawyer Jake Brigance, hero of the earlier books in the series, who’s forced into the case by Judge Omar Noose (how appropriately named!). Jake did not want to take this up as he knows that the antipathy in the Town’s populace towards him will multiply manifold and he and his family would not like to relive the times from the Carl Lee Hailey trial.
But, Jake has to see it through, as no other lawyer, in Clanton or nearby, is willing to take it on, for fear of the negative publicity they will garner. Jake and his wife Carla, get involved and as the horrors of Josie’s life are revealed to them, Jake’s reluctance slowly gives way to a thirst for justice. The two terrified children, who life has subjected to unimaginable travails, deserve a better deal and Jake sets out to get it for them.
Conclusion – Book Review
While the storyline is fluid and engaging, I felt that the courtroom sequences lacked the drama of the earlier books, appear as they did in the later quarter of the book. Characters are brilliantly etched as always, the life of the times of the early ’90s is brought very well to our minds. The racial tensions, the prejudices and biases are actually timeless, only the manifestation has evolved somewhat.
This is no doubt a good read, especially if you’ve read the earlier two books, but only in comparison does it pale a little. I hope you enjoy reading it as I have and this review serves to whet your appetite!
Please keep watching this space for more reviews and I wish more Books for all Book Lovers!! Thank You….