Novelties: “Sycamore Row,” by John Grisham

In 1989, John Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill, was released. Though it initially had a modest showing, the novel ultimately became a best-seller, even being made into a feature film in 1996. Twenty-four years later we have Sycamore Row (2013), Grisham’s latest offering, which reunites readers with the time, place, and familiar characters from his incredible debut.

A master of the legal thriller, Grisham is also returning to the subject of race relations in Sycamore Row. Jake Brigance is a Mississippi lawyer facing an interesting case. An elderly and extremely wealthy man has hanged himself after penning an alternate will that cuts off his immediate family and leaves the bulk of his estate to his African-American housekeeper. Brigance has been chosen to ensure that the will is faithfully executed—largely due to the reputation he earned in A Time to Kill—which proves difficult once the deceased’s next-of-kin learn they have been passed-over. In working the case he partners with several familiar faces, including Lucien Wilbanks and Harry Rex Vonner from A Time to KillSycamore Row’s place on the New York Times Best Seller List testifies to Grisham’s ability to write complex legal fiction in a way that is engaging and leaves the reader ready for more.
If you can’t get your hands on Sycamore Row right away, consider looking into The Reversal (2010), by Michael Connelly. Being a NoveList Plus read-alike for Grisham’s latest, the two have a lot in common: they are both legal thrillers, they both have fast-paced, suspenseful storylines, and they both revisit a recurring character from their author’s extended universe. Mickey Haller is a defense attorney, first introduced to readers in The Lincoln Lawyer (2005). In The Reversal, however, Haller is called upon to join the prosecution for a case involving a man whose conviction for killing a young girl has been recently overturned. Haller agrees to work on the retrial along with his ex-wife and half-brother, both characters fans of Connelly will be familiar with—Haller’s half-brother Harry Bosch is actually the subject of his own series of books by Connelly. Like Grisham, Connelly manages to write courtroom scenes in a way that turns even routine procedures into page-turning scenes.
Rounding out this legal suspense trio is I Heard That Song Before (2007), by Mary Higgins Clark. When she was a child, Kay Lansing—the daughter of a gardener who worked on an estate owned by the Carrington family—overheard a suspicious exchange involving desperation and blackmail. Now 28 years old, Kay returns to the estate to ask a favor of its present owner, Peter Carrington, and finds herself falling in love with him. But Peter has a shady past, having been suspected of involvement with the death of a teenage girl years before, not to mention the death of his pregnant wife some time later. As the accusations unfold, Kay struggles with the faith she has in her husband on the one hand and a gnawing sense of doubt on the other. Ultimately, she learns that finding the truth might mean putting herself in significant danger. While Clark’s formula may feel familiar to her avid fans, it will most likely keep you guessing until the very end.

Sycamore Row, The Reversal, and I Heard That Song Before are all available to borrow at E.P. Foster Library. You can also access NoveList Plus from our eLibrary’s Reading Suggestions section. If the book you are interested in is not currently on the shelf at your branch, you can always request a copy either in-person, over the phone, or online through our catalog.


Woven together by Ronald Martin.