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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding
What a book. It is some time since I have read a John Grisham, Mainly because I had pretty much read them all. When I fell across this one in the library I grabbed it and read it as soon as I got home. Now I started it on Saturday night and spent ally day Sunday reading it. I was actually planning on working on my website rather than reading, so that will show you how...
Published 3 months ago by Wendy Jones

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Predictable
This book is overly long and I did see the ending before it arrived. Even once it becomes obvious, Grisham draws out the conclusion with a contrived story of missed flights and delays. Some things don't ring true, which other reviewers have picked up. Jake doesn't keep alcohol in the house, yet is regularly having whisky with the judge and beers in the office. However,...
Published 11 months ago by butterflymum


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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, 25 Aug 2014
By 
Wendy Jones "wjones7423" (Dundee, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Sycamore Row (Kindle Edition)
What a book. It is some time since I have read a John Grisham, Mainly because I had pretty much read them all. When I fell across this one in the library I grabbed it and read it as soon as I got home. Now I started it on Saturday night and spent ally day Sunday reading it. I was actually planning on working on my website rather than reading, so that will show you how good this book is.

Jake Brigance is a lawyer who we met in one of Grisham's previous books. Brigance is white. He is asked by Seth Hubbard, who is also white, to deal with his final will. Seth has left all his money to his black housekeeper, and this is in historically racial Mississippi. As can be understood, the dead man's family are not happy about this and object. This leads to an outstanding legal thriller. The story line is superb and moves the book along a t cracking pace. The characters are so well drawn that they seem to leap of the page. Some of them are eccentric, and one of those whom I particularly liked was the judge. We need judges like this in real life. Lettie Lang, the housekeeper is also a great character who finds herself both bewildered and excited about what is happening to her.

This is no dry courtroom drama. There are twists and turns aplenty which keep you reading 'just one more chapter'. I may not have finished my website, but I have read a book which I can now highly recommend.
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143 of 147 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Much Back on Form, 30 Oct 2013
By 
C. E. Utley "Charles Utley" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sycamore Row (Kindle Edition)
John Grisham keeps veering between writing exceptionally bad books for children (the Theodore Boone series) and outstandingly good legal thrillers for adults. This comes into the latter category.

We were first introduced to Jake Brigance, an idealistic and very poor lawyer, in A Time to Kill. He is still practising law in a small town in the deep south of America. Things are not going all that well for him. After his triumph in the murder trial which featured in A Time to Kill, the Klan has burned down his house and he, his wife and young daughter are living in reduced circumstances. The insurance company is refusing to pay for his destroyed house. Work (or paying work) is almost non-existent. The outlook is pretty bleak.

Then something happens. Seth Hubbard, an elderly (white) man in the final stages of lung cancer commits suicide, by hanging himself. The day before doing that he writes out a new will naming his black housekeeper as principal beneficiary and specifically excluding his children and grandchildren. He posts the will to Jake, whom he has never met, and charges him with the duty of championing it. Though no one realised it during his life time, Seth was a very rich man. His estate is worth more than $20M.

Seth's rather disagreeable son and daughter decide, not surprisingly, to challenge the will. They, in a rather quaint American phrase, "lawyer up". Before too many days have passed the town's court house is packed with greedy lawyers, all on contingency fees, who are determined to prove that Seth didn't know what he was doing when he left his vast fortune to a black servant.

It would be wrong to say more about the plot, save that the end is entirely predictable (and none the worse for that). But what I can say is that the story is wonderfully gripping, the characters are very well drawn and no fan of Grisham will be disappointed.

All is not perfect. The refusal of Jake and his wife to keep any alcohol in their house does make one rather irritated by them. When they entertain the daughter of Seth's housekeeper (a young woman eager to become a lawyer who has presciently been given the name "Portia") to dinner, they express momentary distress as she presents them with a bottle of wine (but good manners win the day and they drink it). It seems that, even in a small town in which almost everyone goes to church every week, the modern American way of referring to Christmas as "Holidays" has taken hold (can that really be true?). And, this crops up in many Grisham novels, the judge and his favourite lawyer (Jake) spend endless hours together, without any of the other lawyers being present, deciding how the case should be run (if that is really what happens in America it is truly dreadful).

The court scenes are splendid. The story is one which you have to read to the end.

I have no hesitation in recommending this excellent novel.

Charles
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dead Man’s Will Walks Tall, 10 Aug 2014
This review is from: Sycamore Row (Kindle Edition)
‘Sycamore Row’(2013) by John Grisham is a sequel to ‘A Time To Kill’ (1989) and includes several allusions to the earlier work. However, there are homages to his other works by this prolific (and very successful!) author, such as ‘The Runaway Jury’, ‘The Testament’ and (really a sort of prequel) ‘The Summons’. So really it’s more of the same to the delight of his fans such as myself. Again it’s a legal David takes on Goliath in courtroom conflict – or, more accurately, defies ten opponents.
There are certain weaknesses. One red herring turns out to be really a damp squib and the ‘deus ex machina’ (to use a theatrical term) I basically guessed about 300 pages before it appeared. Jake Brigance (the hero) has a far too cosy relationship with the judge, legal help seems to fall into his lap, and the sides are definitely black and white with never a shade of grey between them,
Even so, I was really hooked, especially by the odd twists inserted to upset the steady progress of justice and moved by the final revelation, even though guessed some time before.
Just as I’ve learned horse racing from Trevor Francis and late18th century naval warfare from Patrick O’Brien, I’m learning US Law – and the terrifying mass of lawyers, paralegals and court procedures from John Grisham.
So, well done, Mr.. Grisham 5 stars and I look forward to buying your next book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Predictable, 4 Dec 2013
This review is from: Sycamore Row (Hardcover)
This book is overly long and I did see the ending before it arrived. Even once it becomes obvious, Grisham draws out the conclusion with a contrived story of missed flights and delays. Some things don't ring true, which other reviewers have picked up. Jake doesn't keep alcohol in the house, yet is regularly having whisky with the judge and beers in the office. However, Grisham is always worth reading and the racial inequalities of the south and their impact on the family descendants are interesting.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 27 Sep 2014
By 
Ms P. E. Vernon "Verns" (Weston-Super-Mare, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sycamore Row (Paperback)
Well, the book’s poor enough – being slow and unmemorable – but I have a major beef with his publishers or, more specifically, with whichever moron publicist decided to give away the novel’s only surprise … on the front cover and in the blurb on the back cover. I kid you not.

Sycamore Row is a follow-up (of sorts) to A Time to Kill, the novel that made John Grisham’s name as a fine writer of courtroom dramas. It again features Jake Brigance, the lawyer in a sleepy Mississippi backwater who made his name in that bestseller defending a black man who killed the men who raped and left for dead his young daughter. This time around, Jake has been asked to defend the last will and testament of Seth Hubbard, who has scrapped a properly drawn-up will leaving his property to his family in favour of a new, handwritten will leaving virtually everything he owns ($24 million) to his black housemaid.

SPOILER ALERT! Read no further if you don’t want to know the ending and, for heaven’s sake, rip the cover off the paperback if you want to read it, or buy the Kindle version.

The book is 516 pages long. We find out why the novel is even called Sycamore Row on page 492, where we also find out why Seth left his money to Lettie in the first place. Or you could just read the cover of the book instead: ‘Sycamore Row – He will make them pay’ is on the front page. And on the back: ‘As a child, Seth Hubbard witnessed something no person should ever see. When he kills himself, he is an old, rich man. In that moment, his revenge begins.’

It’s rural Mississippi in the 1980s. In the 1920s a boy witnesses something that, 60 years later, brings him to the decision to leave his fortune to a black servant. Fill in the gaps yourself – I did - and you don’t even need to read the book, which is pretty turgid and tells us nothing new about the American justice system or about race relations in the Southern states. I’ve enjoyed most of John Grisham’s books but this was writing by numbers and I’m disappointed I wasted my time on it.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent page-turner with plenty to think about, 21 Dec 2013
By 
A Common Reader "Committed to reading" (Sussex, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sycamore Row (Hardcover)
I've not read a John Grisham novel for a very long time but was tempted by his new book Sycamore Row which is a sequel to his very first book published in 1989, A Time to Kill. In the first novel we see young attorney Jake Brignance defending Carl Lee Hailey, who has murdered two white racists who have raped and terribly injured his ten-year old daughter. Jake takes on Carl Lee's defence but as a result, the Mississippi Ku Klux Klan pursue a vendetta against him, leading to Jake being shot at and his house and property torched. A Time to Kill made John Grisham's name as a crime writer unafraid to tackle the most inflammatory topics and he has had a hugely successful career as a result, publishing about 30 best-selling novels.

It has taken John Grisham 25 years to return to Ford County but the events described in it happened only three years on from those in A Time to Kill. We find ourselves in 1989 and Jake is now living with his family in poor rented accommodation while he tries to get adequate insurance compensation for the arson attack on his home. While he has won general acclaim for his work in the Hailey trial, it has not brought him success among the highly conservative population who tend to employ more established legal firms for advice and litigation.

The book opens with an employee of a local businessman, Seth Hubbard, being told to meet his boss one Sunday afternoon. The employee finds Seth hanging by the neck from a sycamore tree on his estate. He has been suffering from terminal lung cancer which has become too painful to bear and he has ended his life quickly but shockingly. The next morning, a letter arrives in Jake Brignance's office from the dead man, instructing him to take care of his affairs and containing a new hand-written will which renounces an earlier will drawn up by a respected legal firm.

Brigance opens the letter and reads that Mr. Hubbard has written a new holographic will that renounces one he wrote a year ago in which he had left money to his daughter and son as well as their grandchildren. Now, his children are cut out of the will and 90% of his money is left to his black housekeeper, Lettie Lang, who has served him so faithfully over the last few years.

As Jake predicts while reading the letter, an almighty legal battle is going to be fought over the new will. Was Seth competent to make it or did his lung cancer and the pain-killing drugs he was taking effect his mind so badly that he didn't know what he was doing? Did Lettie have exercise and undue influence over Seth in his dying days, perhaps even earlier on in their relationship by offering sexual favours? There is no doubt that every affected party is going to recruit lawyers to represent them, while Jake will have to stand alone as defender of the will and Seth's right to make whatever bequests he wished.

This is a long and convoluted story. As Jake expected, Seth's children recruit powerful teams of lawyers to represent them, while Lettie herself finds a black lawyer from Chicago who seems to have the get up and go to stand against these southern vested interests and racial prejudice. At least Jake has the comfort of knowing that the judge in the case is going to be the elderly Reuben Atlee who seems to be well aware of the trickiness that will be employed by the other lawyers in their efforts to rake off huge fees from any sums awarded to their clients.

While most of Grisham's books have had vast commercial success and were perhaps designed to do so, his motivation in writing A Time to Kill was around having a story to tell which he had to put down on paper. In Sycamore Row, this same motivation burns through the pages and has led to a novel which would stand as a masterpiece for any writer.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The writing is fine, but it feels like John Grisham is writing ..., 6 Aug 2014
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This review is from: Sycamore Row (Kindle Edition)
Unfortunately not a return to form in my eyes. There is only so interesting a probate case can be, and the first half of the book is spent building background on the characters with nothing much actually happening. The writing is fine, but it feels like John Grisham is writing this with it being made into a film in mind. I found it quite slow paced and it was clear what was going to happen a long time before the end.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars He does itagain, 23 Jan 2014
By 
Alexander Bryce (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sycamore Row (Hardcover)
What can one say about Mr. Grisham that has not been said before. He writes great stories that pull you in from the first page and keep you there until the last. This is no exception: where there's a will there's a family and if the inheritance is big enough more lawyers than you can shake a stick at . Did old Seth know what he was doing when his hand written will cut out his family and left his vast fortune to his housekeeper and carer Lettie who was a black lady. Even in this 1980s Mississippi his final action stirred up racial resentment.
Mr.G documents the lawyers wheeling and dealing expertly and keeps the readers interest alive throughout the court proceedings.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Courthouse drama full of suspense, conspiracy, twists and turns..., 10 Nov 2013
By 
Denis Vukosav - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sycamore Row (Hardcover)
"Sycamore Row" by John Grisham is kind of writer's return to the beginning of his career, sort of sequel to his first book "A Time to Kill" that was released in 1988.

As a short reminder of its subject, it was a story about a young black girl who was raped and deformed by two white guys, set in a small Mississippi town called Clanton.
A furious father took the law into his own hands and killed those two murders in shooting that occurred in a courthouse, and afterwards was saved from capital punishment by young lawyer named Jake Brigance.

Twenty-five years had passed and author takes us back to Clanton and Jake Brigance to tell the story about new trial which will again for its subject expose racial conflicts in this city on the American South.
The story continues three years after the events of the original, Jake remained the lawyer in this small town, although the case attracted a lot of attention.

When Seth Hubbard, a rich old man who was dying of cancer was found dead hanging from a sycamore tree, his maid who took care of him will be thrown out of the house by Seth's family who came in order to inherit his legacy.
But suddenly the new Seth's will would arrive to Jake which cancels the old one and leaves almost complete money to his black maid, completely leaving out his children and grandchildren, asking him to defend it on court if necessary.

Now everyone will start asking whether it's fair that the black maid gets all that money, and was the new will really Seth's will or maybe been written under coercion.
But Jack won't be discouraged, he'll go into legal battle to prove that it's not important whether someone is black or white, but that the last will of man must be respected...

John Grisham knows how to get the best from any judicial process and make an exciting story out of it.
This time he won't disappoint his loyal fans with his just published novel, although it's not as violent as some previous ones, especially comparing to "A Time to Kill" on whose action he continues this exciting story.

Its plot is as usually full of suspense, with a few inevitable turns which will keep the reader constantly in anticipation how the story will unfold, and is there is a different version of events than what we thought at the novel's beginning.
John Grisham is a true thriller master of events that are happing both in his courtrooms and outside of them, creating dramatic cases full of twists and interesting plot.

Therefore, this new novel from world's favorite legal thriller author John Grisham is must read both for his existing fans and those who would like to read drama full of suspense, conspiracy, twists and turns which are the characteristics of his last work, as well as the previous.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Battle of wills., 3 Oct 2014
By 
Sue Kichenside - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Sycamore Row (Paperback)
The book opens with the suicide of Seth Hubbard, an embittered 71-year old recluse and self-made millionaire racked with lung cancer. The day before he hangs himself, he leaves a hand-written will, cutting out his family and leaving the bulk of his substantial estate to his black housekeeper, Lettie.

This is the stand-alone sequel to the hugely successful 'A Time to Kill' but it appears as though John Grisham just phoned this one in. The characterisation throughout is paper-thin, the plot lines are predictable and the author seems priggish in his disdain for smoking and drinking despite the story being set in the more tolerant 80s. A writer as seasoned as Grisham should have been capable of self-editing; this needed cutting by at least a third. Finally, and most damagingly, the plot rests on a fundamental flaw which will be obvious to readers from the outset. (But this has to be overcome otherwise there would be no book at all.)

Having come to Sycamore Row directly from another legal read, I found that the difference in quality of writing was thrown into the sharpest relief. Whereas Ian McEwan's The Children Act is like an exquisitely crafted Faberge egg, Grisham serves up a flabby over-egged pudding. No prizes for guessing how it ends either.
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