Book Review: Am I Giving Up On Grisham?

Publication date:  October 2020

Review, short version:  Three skunks out of four.

Review, long version:

Once again I’m in a position I’ve been in so often, it’s like a second home.

I am out of step with the book-reading public.

The book-reading public that, for awhile, put John Grisham’s latest, A Time for Mercy, at #1 on the New York Times’ best seller list:

I am out of step with professional book reviewers, who are saying the book is…

“…riveting…suspenseful.”  (New York Times)

“…a morally complex story…Grisham’s mastery of the courtroom thriller is never in question.”  (Bookpage)

“Impossible to put down…complex and surprising.”  (Booklist)

I didn’t find A Time for Mercy “impossible to put down.”  In fact, I put it down and read two other books, then reluctantly picked up the Grisham book again.

After slogging through another 50 pages, I put it down and read another book.

I ignored A Time for Mercy for so long, it looked like this:

Then I gave it one more try, and at page 248 out of 464, I put it down for good.

My own good, that is.

We were introduced to the book’s main character, Jake Brigance, in Grisham’s first book, A Time to Kill, published in 1993.  Jake’s second appearance was in Sycamore Row in 2013, and A Time for Mercy is Jake’s third outing.

Jake is preparing for a big trial, a trial that’s going to bring him the fame he really wants and the money he desperately needs.  Jake is representing a family that was killed in a collision with a train, and the railroad company has deep pockets.

Jake aims to lighten those pockets, something along the lines of $2 million.

Then Jake gets a call from his friend and mentor, Judge Omar Noose – seriously, that’s the judge’s name – who wants Jake to take on an indigent case, a 16-year-old boy who’s accused of murdering a local police officer.

The boy’s name is Drew.  He has a 14-year-old sister, Kiera, and their mom is 32-year- is Josie.  They live with Stu, Josie’s boyfriend, the cop Drew is accused of murdering.

And here, I think, is the cause of my lack of interest:

So many of the circumstances were so predictable.

Drew and Kiera have different fathers, though of course they don’t know that, and of course were born out of wedlock.  Josie is chronically broke, and while of course she loves her kids, she’s on track to give them the same (of course) crappy upbringing she had.

Stu, apparently a wonderful cop in the daytime, turns into a drunken monster at night and of course he comes home and beats up Josie – regularly.  On the night in question, Stu’s beating leads to Josie’s death, so of course, Drew takes Stu’s gun and shoots Stu, of course in the head.

In the meantime, of course Jake doesn’t want to take the case, but of course Judge Noose insists and of course, Jake caves.

In the meantime, Josie’s daughter Kiera reveals she’s pregnant, of course by Stu, who – of course – raped her repeatedly.

In the meantime, Jake and his wife have wanted to have another baby for years, so of course Jake’s wife suggests they adopt Kiera’s baby.

I figured if I kept reading, eventually Jake’s wife would want to adopt Kiera, too, and oh, hell, why not adopt Drew and Josie, adopt the whole indigent family?

Because of course, Josie wasn’t dead from Stu’s beating, as Drew had thought.

What an irony!  What a plot twist!  Josie’s not dead – who could have predicted that?


According to my research, Grisham’s books have sold 300 million copies and he’s written 28 consecutive number one bestsellers, a publishing success that’s hard to argue with.

So, I won’t argue.

I’ll just stay in my out-of-step mode along with the few naysayers – a mere 4% of the 35,000+ reviews on Amazon – who said, among other things:

“A rambling, poorly plotted narrative with threads that lead nowhere, no clear climax and a denouement that resolves very little.”

“…boringly repetitive.  Every other chapter seemed to be about Brigance’s financial problems, his desire to ditch the client that was forced on him, and even the peripheral lawsuit that he was involved in.  The ending took way too long and resolved nothing.”

And this review, my favorite:

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