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A Time to Kill

Published: 1989
Author: John Grisham
Review by: CL3 Dmitri

The John Grisham novel A Time to Kill was a thorougly enjoyable, fast paced and suspensful read. I did though get the feeling that it lacked the finesse of his later books.

The book had everything to be expected from a novelist of Grisham's stature. But most importantly it has a compelling storyline with extremely well developed characters and an underlying tone of humour, usually in the form of the characters Harry Rex and Lucien Wilbanks which is something I got immense pleasure from.

The lack of finesse I talk of is due to the fact that this was Grisham's first novel. After it's release in 1989, A Time to Kill was largely overlooked and failed to become a bestseller. However, when Grisham later relased his second book called The Firm there was a re-newed interest in the writings of this new rookie author. This re-newed sense of interest led to Joel Schumacher (director) to become interested and resulted in the creation of a full length feature film.

If you are among the people that has seen the film A Time to Kill and did not find it enjoyable, then do not allow this to sour you on the prospect of reading this book. I myself have both read the book and viewed the movie and I found there to be some large irregularites between them. One of which being the near final summation scene as made by the character Jake Brigance. In addition to this I also found that there were large parts missing, especially at the beginning of the movie.

The book basically tells the story of a black father's (Carl Lee Hailey) need for retribution after two drunken, drug taking rednecks repeatedly rape and very nearly kill his 10 year old daughter. Carl Lee does the only thing he can to put his mind at rest. He acquires an M-16 from a affluent Viet Nam veteran like himself and kills the men that raped his daughter. Carl Lee is branded a hero by his people and it is not long until the Ku Klux Klan show up in town.

Contrary to what Carl Lee expected he is put on trial in which one possible outcome may result in his execution if sentenced by his all white partially racist and frigtened jury. Carl Lee hires the young and inexperienced lawyer Jake Brigance to defend him. Throughout the course of the trial Brigance is threatened by the Klan on many occasions and fears for his own safety and for the safety of his family.

Is Carl Lee convicted, or is an extraordinary brand of justice served?