Sycamore Row

John Grisham. Doubleday, $28.95 (464p) ISBN 978-0-385-53713-1
Leave it to Grisham to make a battle about wills nail-bitingly suspenseful in his second novel featuring lawyer Jake Brigance, the hero of Grisham’s debut, A Time to Kill. It’s 1988, and Seth Hubbard, an elderly man dying of cancer, hangs himself after leaving detailed instructions for his funeral—and a handwritten will, penned the day before, that disinherits his children and gives 90% of his estate to his African-American caretaker, Lettie Lang. Since that unwitnessed document contradicts an earlier one, and Hubbard’s assets are north of $20 million, Brigance, who was asked by Hubbard in a note to represent his interests, has a battle on his hands when the disinherited lawyer up. The storyline takes several dramatic turns, even as why Hubbard was so generous to Lang, whom he was not close to, remains a mystery. All the author’s strengths are in evidence—his capturing the rhythms of small-town life in Clanton, Miss., his skill at making legal minutiae comprehensible, and his gift at getting readers to care about his characters. Agent: David Gernert, Gernert Company. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/28/2013
Release date: 10/01/2013
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