The wheels of justice grind so damn slow. And yet, if one were a condemned man living the nightmare of Death Row, all that time might just be the greatest gift given. THAT IS ... if the system weren't so darn slanted. In this particular look at the legal system and the society around hot issues, John Grisham takes on the death penalty and the state of Texas. The story revolves around a missing person case, an assumed murder, a railroaded young man (who happens to be black), a heavily coerced confession of rape and murder, a zealous defense lawyer with a real crazy streak, a forthright Luthern preacher, an ex-con with a strange onset of conscience, and the police, politicians, and legal system in which all of them are embroiled.
This was a hard book to put down, as there is so much going on in it - from the frenzied last minute appeal process to the wranglings and avoidance of the appellate judges and lawyers- from the emotional rollercoaster that the families of the presumed victim and the presumed killer ride before the death sentence date arrives to the tense and delicate discussions between preacher and confessor - from the circus of the media trucks to the smoky destruction of black and white churches in the town where the trial has been based. The pages fly by.
There have been books that I've read that have made me think deeply on my feelings about capital punishment. Dead Man Walking, In Cold Blood, and Helter Skelter come to mind immediately. Each time, I've had such strong reactions that it surprised me. This book also caused soul searching. The legal system is portrayed as broken, manipulated in the worst way, politicized for the sake of careers, and gawked at by media and public alike. Victims and accused become commodities to be exploited, played for digital bits and left aside when a bigger story comes along. Truth is a thing that is beside the point.
Somewhere in that muddled mess is the humanity behind the concept of justice and truth. It comes to the fore in the character of Rev. Keith Schroeder, a man placed in the position of knowing the truth and having the chance to right a wrong. Righting that wrong, though,takes him on a strange trip into the heart of the legal wranglings around the death sentence of a young man who has sat and watched the wheels of justice grind away and waited for too long.
Another good read from John Grisham ...