Publication date: October 2018
Review, short version: Three skunks out of four.
Review, long version:
If you put author John Grisham’s name on just about anything, I’m pretty sure it would be a bestseller – a book, a cereal box, a roll of toilet paper.
And his new book, The Reckoning, stays true to form – as of January 13, 2019 it was #1 on The New York Times bestseller list, its 10th week on the list:
In the front of The Reckoning there’s a list of Grisham’s earlier books – all 39 of them – so he’s prolific, as well as popular. Grisham’s books have been translated into 40 languages and 11 of his novels have been made into films, with three more in the works.
Not bad for someone who, according to his website, says, “I never dreamed of being a writer.”
I’ve read many of Grisham’s books, liking some and others, not so much. But I’ve never done with one of his books what I did with The Reckoning:
Skimmed through more than 200 pages, starting around page 180.
If you go back up to the bestsellers image, there’s a one-sentence summary of the book:
“A decorated WWII veteran shoots and kills a pastor.”
And that’s an accurate summary of Part I of the book.
As for Part 2, in an interview on the PBS NewsHour, Grisham described it this way:
“The book takes a hard left turn and goes off to World War II, to the Philippines, and the Bataan Death March, because our hero, or antihero…went off to fight in the war.”
And that’s where I lost interest.
I read Grisham for stories about law and lawyers and crime and justice – or injustice – and legal shenanigans.
When I want to know more about World War II, the Philippines and the Bataan Death March, I read books on those subjects.
Perhaps Grisham offered 200+ pages of his interpretation of the war as an explanation for lead character Pete Banning’s behavior – committing premeditated murder. Perhaps those war experiences “speak to his state of mind,” as lawyers like to say.
But whatever the war did to Banning, it makes no difference – he’s arrested, tried and executed. Starting around page 404 we get The Big Reveal about why Banning did what he did, and whoops! Maybe he killed the wrong guy.
In the Author’s Note Grisham explains that he based his book on a story he’d heard years earlier:
“I believe it to be true but cannot remember who told it, or where it happened, or when…If any reader out there recognizes this story, please let me know. I would love to have it verified.”
I would love not to have wasted my time on The Reckoning.