Sycamore Row by John Grisham

John Grisham worked as a lawyer in Mississippi for about ten years before becoming a Sycamore Rowbestselling novelist.  His legal background helps him to give the details that make his legal thrillers so believable.

His first novel, published in 1988, was A Time to Kill, which I read years ago.  In this novel (published in 2013), he writes about the same small Mississippi town, and about some of the same characters, including lawyer Jake Brigance.

As this novel begins, Jake receives a letter from Seth Hubbard, a wealthy man who recently died.  The letter includes the following sentences: “By the time you read this I will be dead…I have taken my own life but only because my death by lung cancer is imminent…I want you as the attorney for my estate.  I want this will defended at all costs.”  Inside the envelope is an extraordinary handwritten will.  Most of Seth’s fortune will go to his housekeeper; he specifically excludes his children, grandchildren, and ex-wives.

Not surprisingly, the family members hire lawyers – lots of lawyers – to prove that Seth was not in his right mind.  The ensuing legal battle and the efforts to find the reason for Hubbard’s strange bequest make a fascinating story.

If you enjoyed A Time to Kill, you’ll want to read Sycamore Row as well.  If not, you’ve missed one of Grisham’s best novels.  While I’d advise reading both novels, this is a new case, not a continuation of the case in the first novel, and it stands very well on its own.

(Helen Snow, retired from Information Services)

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