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More Social Criticism than Legal Thrills
on November 11, 2010
"And though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death." -- Acts 13:28 (NKJV)
If you ask most people whether they favor the death penalty, you'll get an opinion that's largely unrelated to the practical issues involved. The crusading death-penalty skeptic in John Grisham comes out in this novel, much as the social reformer in Charles Dickens can be found in David Copperfield and Oliver Twist.
If you are familiar with death penalty legal practice, you'll be impressed with the accuracy of the fictional portrayal here. Grisham knows what he's writing about.
If you read this book, you'll learn how easy it is for an innocent person to be convicted of murder in Texas, how expensive it is to put someone to death, and the various sordid agendas that can play out in death-penalty cases. As such, this book is a pretty good substitute for reading a nonfiction book on the same subject . . . the risk of the innocent being condemned to death. If you doubt that can happen, check out some Web site that shows how many convicted "murderers" have been found innocent through DNA testing, many years after the fact of false incarceration and much suffering.
But that's probably not why you pick up a John Grisham novel about the law. You probably want to read great stuff about how corrupt lawyers are. There's definitely some legal malpractice here, but there's also some unselfish legal practice. All in all, the book won't satisfy most people who want to see lawyers discredited.
I also didn't find that the book contained enough suspense to keep my interest at a high level. It seemed to me that the twists and turns of the plot were thoroughly telegraphed well in advance.
Ultimately, this is one of those depressing stories that some people will wish they had not read. Even where comeuppance occurs, it doesn't completely satisfy.
But as an entertaining read, The Confession is a pretty ordinary book compared to the best of what John Grisham has done in the past.