Grisham is very acute indeed on how the best of intentions lead Ray not to any significant crime or atrocity but to quietly unconscionable behaviour. And then he realises he is being followed... Grisham can build suspense out of remarkably little and has a real gift for understanding the quiet anxieties of an ordinary man. --Roz Kaveney
From the Publisher
From the Back Cover
Ray Atlee, a professor of law at the university of Virginia, is forty-three and newly single. His father, a very sick old man who lives the life of a recluse in the ancestral home in Clanton, Mississippi, was once a beloved and powerful official who towered over local law and politics fo many years.
With the end in sight, Judge Atlee issues a summons to Ray to return home to Clanton, to discuss the details of the family estate.
Ray reluctantly heads south. But the family meeting does not take place. The Judge dies too soon, and in doing so leaves behind a shocking secret known only to Ray.
And perhaps someone else...
'John Grisham is a copper-bottomed promise of reliable storytelling... the legal trappings are as persuasive as ever' Independent
'Smooth, tough and addictive' Mirror
''Almost no one tells a story better than Grisham: there's ann Ancient Mariner implacability about the way the story grips one... and doesn't let up' Evening Standard
'Compelling' Times Literary Supplement--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
It came with another letter, a magazine, and two invoices, and was routinely placed in the law school mailbox of Professor Ray Atlee. He recognized it immediately since such envelopes had been a part of his life for as long as he could remember. It was from his father, a man he too called the Judge.
Professor Atlee studied the envelope, uncertain whether he should open it right there or wait a moment. Good news or bad, he never knew with the Judge, though the old man was dying and good news had been rare. It was thin and appeared to contain only one sheet of paper; nothing unusual about that. The Judge was frugal with the written word, though hed once been known for his windy lectures from the bench.
It was a business letter, that much was certain. The Judge was not one for small talk, hated gossip and idle chitchat, whether written or spoken. Ice tea with him on the porch would be a refighting of the Civil War, probably at Shiloh, where he would once again lay all blame for the Confederate defeat at the shiny, untouched boots of General Pierre G. T. Beauregard, a man he would hate even in heaven, if by chance they met there.
Hed be dead soon. Seventy-nine years old with cancer in his stomach. He was overweight, a diabetic, a heavy pipe smoker, had a bad heart that had survived three attacks, and a host of lesser ailments that had tormented him for twenty years and were now finally closing in for the kill. The pain was constant. During their last phone call three weeks earlier, a call initiated by Ray because the Judge thought long distance was a rip-off, the old man sounded weak and strained. They had talked for less than two minutes.
The return address was gold-embossed: Chancellor Reuben V. Atlee, 25th Chancery District, Ford County Courthouse, Clanton, Mississippi. Ray slid the envelope into the magazine and began walking. Judge Atlee no longer held the office of chancellor. The voters had retired him nine years earlier, a bitter defeat from which he would never recover. Thirty-two years of diligent service to his people, and they tossed him out in favor of a younger man with radio and television ads. The Judge had refused to campaign. He claimed he had too much work to do, and, more important, the people knew him well and if they wanted to reelect him then they would do so. His strategy had seemed arrogant to many. He carried Ford County but got shellacked in the other five.
It took three years to get him out of the courthouse. His office on the second floor had survived a fire and had missed two renovations. The Judge had not allowed them to touch it with paint or hammers. When the county supervisors finally convinced him that he had to leave or be evicted, he boxed up three decades worth of useless files and notes and dusty old books and took them home and stacked them in his study. When the study was full, he lined them down the hallways into the dining room and even the foyer.
Ray nodded to a student who was seated in the hall. Outside his office, he spoke to a colleague. Inside, he locked the door behind him and placed the mail in the center of his desk. He took off his jacket, hung it on the back of the door, stepped over a stack of thick law books hed been stepping over for half a year, and then to himself uttered his daily vow to organize the place.
The room was twelve by fifteen, with a small desk and a small sofa, both covered with enough work to make Ray seem like a very busy man. He was not. For the spring semester he was teaching one section of antitrust. And he was supposed to be writing a book, another drab, tedious volume on monopolies that would be read by no one but would add handsomely to his pedigree. He had tenure, but like all serious professors he was ruled by the "publish or perish" dictum of academic life.
He sat at his desk and shoved papers out of the way. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.