Sycamore Row - John Grisham

***** A secret guarded by sycamores

This novel by Grisham, despite being set in the same place and having the same protagonist of “A Time to Kill,” is not a real sequel to it, and can be read without knowing the story of the first one, of which just a few mentions are made, only where necessary.
The theme is the same, namely that of racism. This time Jack Brigance, a lawyer in Ford County, a county in the southern United States where racism was still a major problem thirty years ago (and I suppose it still is), is grappling with a holographic will written by a wealthy white man that, before committing suicide (he was dying of cancer), decides to disinherit his children and leave 90% of his assets, 24 million dollars, to his black maid. This gives rise to a legal battle to contest the will.
I loved, as always, the characterization of the characters, both main and secondary ones, and the reconstruction of the setting (Ford County in the 80’s). Add to this the usual skill of Grisham in telling the many tricks behind the preparation of a law suit capable of doing much fanfare.
While the disinherited children go to great lengths to accuse Lettie of captation (i.e. of pushing the man to change his will, taking advantage of his condition, so that he left everything to her), no one seems to wonder why he did it, what is below his action.
And so, quietly, a subplot unravels that leads to the truth, and that is related to the title.
This is a story of something that could really have happened, strikingly realistic. It’s a story that fascinates and leaves a smile at its epilogue.

I have only one negative note to report. I love the way Grisham wants you to enter the setting, even by telling all legal mechanisms and details about the characters. In this book, though, I had the impression that the info-dump was really a bit excessive or otherwise told in a little engaging way.

Sycamore Row on Amazon.