Publication date: October 2019
Review, short version: Four roses out of four.
Review, long version:
The last time I reviewed a John Grisham book – The Reckoning – I gave it three out of four skunks.
I also gave three out of four skunks to the Grisham book I reviewed before that: Camino Island.
So you’d have good reason to wonder why I keep reading John Grisham books.
Here’s the reason:
Grisham’s latest, The Guardians.
Everything’s coming up roses for this one!
Grisham chose a subject I’m hugely interested in – the exoneration of people wrongly imprisoned.
You might have read or seen the stories, like this one:
The length of time wrongly convicted men and women spend in prisons is staggering, and it happens because somewhere, someone along the line from arrest to conviction made a mistake or lied. Sometimes multiple people make mistakes or lie. As Grisham puts it,
“This can be a dirty business. We are forced to deal with witnesses who have lied, police who have fabricated evidence, experts who have misled juries, and prosecutors who have suborned perjury.”
From Grisham’s point of view, there are no mistakes, only lies.
Lies that put innocent people behind bars, many of them on death row.
In The Guardians, the “we” in the above quote is first-person narrator Cullen Post, a lawyer and one of three people that comprise the Guardians, a non-profit committed to freeing the wrongly convicted, or “innocence cases.” The plot concerns Post investigating a murder and the man, Quincy Miller, convicted for it 22 years ago – 22 years spent in prison for a crime that the Guardians believe Miller didn’t commit.
Post spends his time driving endless miles to talk to cops, snitches, and past witnesses – or trying to talk to them – and dealing with a prosecutor who, according to Post:
“Instead of pursuing the lofty goal of finding the truth and unraveling an injustice, he attacks me because I’m trying to prove him wrong and exonerate and innocent man.”
Post also spends his time meeting with clients in various prisons, his descriptions of which are unfailingly grim:
“Prison is a nightmare for those who deserve it. For those who don’t, it is a daily struggle to maintain some level of sanity. For those who suddenly learn that there is proof of their innocence yet they remain locked up, the situation is literally maddening.”
And Post spends a lot of time waiting – for the justice system to work, for juries to vote, for judges to decide:
“Waiting is one of the hazards in this business. I’ve seen a dozen courts sit on cases involving innocent men as if time doesn’t matter, and I’ve wished a hundred times that some pompous judge could be forced to spend a weekend in jail. Just three nights, and it would do wonders for his work ethic.”
Grisham weaves a tangled web, but he wrote this book so well that the storyline and multiple characters are easy to follow. You can’t help but cheer for Post and the Guardians team, and want them to win Quincy Miller’s freedom.
But will they?
And since I believe that Grisham did his homework on this one and knows what he’s talking about – you can’t help but curse our justice system when it allows the innocent to pay for the guilty.
And the guilty free to offend again.
I highly recommend The Guardians.
And I strongly encourage you to get acquainted with the nonprofit organizations that are committed to doing what the Guardians do: correct the injustice of wrongful convictions that occur in the U.S. Judicial system.
A good place to start is A-JustCause.com, which lists a number of those organizations (click the Affiliates tab on the home page). You can read some success stories, and maybe donate some money so they can keep doing this important work.
After all, you might need their help one day, just like this innocent man did: