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on 14 March 2017
I didn't realise this was a true story until I was noticed that the style of writing was very different from the fictional stories that Grisham has written. This is a eye opening account of an utter miscarriage of justice where two men were sentenced to death for a murder they did not commit. The death penalty culture in the US is exposed as encouraging a conviction at all costs - to the point of ignoring other evidence as it does not correlate with the orifinal supposition of the investigators. This is dated - e.g. DNA were not available at the time of this conviction however, even in the absence of this it really does show how vulnerable people can be totally let down by system and egos. It was all the more relevant to me as I actually have a pen friend who is on death row - and whilst his conviction is presumably safe e.g. DNa evidence used this book allows us to question what motivations there are for having a a death penalty and for the treatment of those who are subject to a death sentence.
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on 27 October 2015
I bought and started reading this thinking it was fiction; a few chapters in, I started to wonder about it, had a look at the author's notes at the back and found that it was a true story.
It is the fascinating story of five wrongful convictions; of the five, after many years three were exonerated and released (one of them got to within six days of being executed) and the other two, if not dead, are probably still in prison.
Great writing by Mr Grisham - steady, clear, well paced and really drew me in.
A terrifying indictment of American justice and how some police and prosecutors work - look at the crime, ignore the evidence, decide who is guilty, look for evidence to support their guilt and, if there isn't any, manufacture it.
It is also an indictment of the American system of the local judiciary being elected and, thus, subject to the pressure of local public opinion.
I have always been a bit ambivalent about capital punishment but maybe inclined in favour of it; reading this has made me think seriously about it, recognising that you cannot justify having capital punishment sitting on top of a legal system which is rotten at its core.
A difficult but thought provoking and rewarding read.
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on 22 November 2015
Not your usual Grisham novel. This reads (and is!) a factual account of an injustice served against two men, but we closely follow the story of one, who ends up on death row and suffers extreme mental health issues.
The book tells the story of all that is wrong with the American "justice" system, with the twist that the protagonist is not poor and black but a middle-class ex-baseball minor star.
The book paints a very poor image of the District Attorney, Bill Peterson and I note that at least one other reader suggests reading his (Peterson's) account of the "facts" about this story. Peterson's website no longer appears to be active, he has retired and failed in his attempt to suit Grisham for defamation. In other words, the guy is the lying sh*t he is portrayed to be. Long may you rest in hell Mr Peterson!
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VINE VOICEon 14 November 2014
I've read lots of John Grisham novels over the years and am always interested in true crime books so could not resist being attracted by this book when it was recommended to me. The title of the book reveals the true horror of the story straight away - that an innocent man was convicted of a crime he didn't commit.
Ron Williamson, the convicted man, is not a nice man and has done everything he can, throughout his life, to turn people against him. This book then looks at the challenge that faces the US justice system to try him fairly and consider that he might be innocent despite his bad character and prejudice surrounding him.
JG has a wonderful easy writing style and uses it here to put some sense into the confused life that Ron has lived. At the beginning of the book the number of characters is overwhelming but it does settle down as the story progresses.
It's too easy to say that the police were lazy with this case as you need to look at all the factors around. This is the story of a man who was seriously let down by the system and specific individuals in it who were more convinced by gut than evidence.
My only gripe is that halfway through the book there are a batch of photos - great photos but they do give away a lot of the story which is yet to be revealed in the text - bit of a plot spoiler!!
This story is one that JG has not made up but it is easy to see why he was attracted to it. It does get over complicated at times but is an important lesson to the justice system.
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on 2 February 2017
A huge number of players, some with the same surname or first name makes for a patchy few early chapters. The shared names are unavoidable however, this being a true story, and the quality of the writing prevents it dissolving into a morass.

The reader is compelled to feel outrage at the gross injustice of the naked corruption in the judicial system of this Oklahoman county in the 80s.

A compelling and rewarding read that will not disappoint the Grisham fan.
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on 5 November 2011
A fantastic read. It really does make you think about those people who have been wrongly convicted. Law students should definitely read this book and, should they choose to go into criminal law, help try and ensure nothing like this can be allowed to happen again.

How on earth was this ever allowed to happen? I'd like to think that it couldn't in the UK but somehow I'm not that sure. Of course, the one saving grace here is that there is no death penalty.

One thing I did get out of the book: If I am ever arrested for anything I am making absolutely no comment until a lawyer is present. May make me sound like I am paranoid (perhaps I am) but after reading this book I challenge you not to think the same way. And this is from somebody who, on the whole, think that the Police and our criminal law system do a good job under very difficult circumstances.

A great read and real credit to John Grisham for writing about this issue. It would have been so easy for him to have just churned out another fictional novel which may have sold more copies than this non fiction work.
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on 2 February 2014
The quality of the writing was excellent. I felt it was a bit drawn out about 2/8ths into the story, and I flipped through that part. Afterwards, I had to go back and read that part to get a fuller picture of the main character. I read it in about three days, which is unusual as I have a lot of reading to do all the time, and I don't devote all my time to one book. Even now as I am writing this review tears are coming to my eyes, when I visualise the innocent victims on death row; only the tip of the ice berg of victims of corrupt police detectives. I have never seen the film, and I don't want to. The book has to be a classic. Real life stories such as this one and my own need to be exposed.
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on 6 January 2017
One associates John Grisham with legal thrillers, but this is a true story, extensively researched. Like the rest of Grisham's writing, it is a great read, but sobering as you remember that it's all true. And what a bad reflection on the USA justice system. This should be required reading for all those involved in any aspect of criminal law.
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on 16 January 2017
I usually love John Grisham but I found this so difficult to get into. I kept persevering, chapter after chapter, but it was so boring. I kept waiting for the story to be revealed. There was no real story, just endless narrative about Ron going to rehab then not actually recovering. I eventually gave up half way through the book.
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on 6 May 2017
I picked up this book with the expectation of a courtroom novel and ended up in a parallel universe where the normal rules of law and fairness were suspended - frightening and harrowing, nothing written previously by the author can match the twists and turns of this real life drama -a compelling read
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