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140 of 152 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Its about Time!
Finally, A Time to Kill, John Grisham's first novel, is a feature length movie. I just read this book, but I knew it was realeased in 1989. I'm only thirteen, and this was my first Grisham book.
In this story, Grisham hits us with a subject that most might not like to discuss: child rape. Ten-year old Tonya Hailey is brutally raped and almost killed by two drunken...
Published on July 25, 1996

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42 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Superficial Portrayal Leaves Something to be Desired
In the hands of a greater author, or perhaps if Grisham had paid as much attention to some aspects of the book as to others, this could have been a truly powerful piece of work. The subject itself is fascinating: a black man takes the lives of his little daughter's rapists in the heart of the Deep South, where justice is still tainted by color. After reading the book,...
Published on June 3, 1997


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140 of 152 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Its about Time!, July 25, 1996
By A Customer
This review is from: A Time to Kill (Mass Market Paperback)
Finally, A Time to Kill, John Grisham's first novel, is a feature length movie. I just read this book, but I knew it was realeased in 1989. I'm only thirteen, and this was my first Grisham book.
In this story, Grisham hits us with a subject that most might not like to discuss: child rape. Ten-year old Tonya Hailey is brutally raped and almost killed by two drunken rednecks; perhaps the saddest and hardest part to get through with the addition of little Tonya's dream of her father running to get her. After this horrid crime is committed, Tonya's father, Carl Lee exacts vengeance on the two rednecks, and kills them. He is put on trial, and lawyer Jake Brigance is introduced to us. He takes Carl Lee's case and must face his hated enemy, Rufus Buckley, in court. The days leading to the trial are filled with KKK threats, riots between blacks and the KKK, and several other chills and spills. Finally, the trial comes and the small town of Clanton, where the trial is held, is occupated by journalists, soldiers, KKK members, and thousands of blacks, as they all wait for the verdict on the edge of their seats..
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fast and entertaining read, August 17, 2000
By 
Danaë (Owchie Cactus, South Carolina) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Time to Kill (Mass Market Paperback)
"A Time to Kill" is John Grisham's first novel, but unless you read the foreword, it's not readily apparent. His fluid, detailed storytelling is unlike the choppy first attempts of many modern authors. (At times it may seem he pays *too* much attention to details, but after all, he *is* a lawyer.)
In a small town in the Deep South, two redneck hooligans rape and maim a ten-year-old black girl. Enraged, the girl's father, Carl Lee Hailey, takes justice into his own hands, killing the two rapists in a courthouse shooting. He seeks the help of defense lawyer Jake Brigance to save him from the gas chamber. Brigance, a young but sharp lawyer, has to find a way to win an impossible case: a black man is on trial for killing two white men, and his case is being heard by an all-white jury. Adding to the mix are violence between the Ku Klux Klan and the black community, and the fact that, during the shooting, Carl Lee had injured a sheriff's deputy (who later had to have part of his leg amputated).
Throughout the book, the odds stack against Brigance and his client, and the novel will definitely keep you turning the pages. No matter what your personal opinions on the death penalty or vigilante justice are, you won't be disappointed. As Jake's mentor, disbarred lawyer Lucien Wilbanks, says, "If you win this case, justice will prevail, but if you lose it, justice will also prevail."
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44 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In a word...wow..., August 15, 2005
By 
Amazon Customer (Jamestown, NY United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: A Time to Kill (Mass Market Paperback)
I'm sure you've read the story synopsis, so I won't bore you with it.

So why did I give it 5 stars? In short, it's a legal thriller at its best. The main character, Jake Brigance - defense lawyer for Carl Lee Hailey, is hardly endearing - he's openly hateful towards his secretary, lies to his wife, submits to the temptation of alcohol when the heat comes down. However, in reality, it makes the character more real - nobody's perfect, everyone has their dark sides. Sure, he's hounding after the publicity at first, but he also comes to care about the fate of his client, and while he flirts with his law clerk (always got a chuckle out of "Row Ark") he doesn't submit to THAT temptation and stays true to his wife.

The topic is interesting - how the law should treat a vigilante killer. Yet deeper than that is the fundamental question of equality of treatment between whites and blacks in the law. Yes, the law itself holds all people as equal, but it's the eyes of the 12 jury members that really determines the guilt or innocence of a person.

The characters are well crafted - not all likeable, but at least, for the most part, believable. The pace of the story nicely snowballs - adding in essential tension with the addition of the Klu Klux Klan's involvement in the proceedings.

So it certainly deserves the 5 stars and I thoroughly recommend it it anyone (which is more than I can say for the movie adaptation, but that's another story!)
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grisham's best, August 3, 2001
This review is from: A Time to Kill (Mass Market Paperback)
A Time to Kill is, in my opinion, Grisham's finest work (standing just a little higher that The Firm). It was also Grisham's first book and I read somewhere that he had it privately published because, at the time, no-one would touch it. (Shows what unknown struggling authors have to put up with, doesn't it!). Anyway, the good news is that, after Grisham hit the top-sellers lists, A Time to Kill was republished and it, too, became a bestseller.
It's a gripping tale of a young lawyer defending a black Vietnam war hero who has killed two white men (who raped his daughter). The tale is a mixture of the Grisham-style legal story and of America's tragic history of slavery and black repression. Grisham tells the story perfectly. His dialogue is spot on. There is one, superb passage where the local reverend is preaching to his flock. If you can imagine a 'Blues Brothers' type of scenario with 'I have seen the light' coming from the congretation as the preacher winds them up, you'll get the picture.
Carl Lee Hailey (the Vietnam war veteran) gets hold of an M-16, kills the rapists on the courthouse steps, then turns for help to attorney Jake Brigance. Some of the local folk want to give Carl Lee a second medal for his action, but premeditated murder is hard to ignore, and anyway, the town is divided. Blacks note that a white man shooting a black rapist would be acquitted. The KKK turns up the heat. The NAACP gets involved. Due to the publicity, a big local firm of lawyers get in on the act and try to outmaneuver Jake. Jake has a secret weapon though - his brilliant, but disbarred ex-partner.
As Amazon's own review says�'Crosses burn, people die, crowds chant "Free Carl Lee!" and "Fry Carl Lee!" in the antiphony of America's classical tragedy.' A superb book. A wonderful story, brilliantly written.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brycass5, October 31, 2001
By 
bryan (Herndon, VA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Time to Kill (Mass Market Paperback)
A Time To Kill, by John Grisham, is the story of a black man whose young daughter was brutally raped by two white, southern "rednecks". This book dramatically shows the reality of the racism that is evident in the South, even today.
Carl Lee, the father of the young girl, is a black Vietnam War Veteran. He lives in Mississippi with his wife and children. One afternoon when Carl's young daughter, Tanya, was walking home, she was abducted by the two rednecks, beaten and brutally raped.
The men were brought to trial. The jury, the witnesses, the judge were all white. Carl, expecting a verdict of not guilty, went to the courthouse armed to take his own revenge. After shooting the men he is arrested for murder and held for trial.
During the trial scene's you could feel the emotions of the people in the courtroom, the anger, the sadness, and the helplessness. Whatever the emotion it could be felt.
Carl's bold act of revenge and the trial kept me reading and trying to anticipate what the outcome would be. This book took me on a roller coaster of emotions. I could only imagine the anger and helplessness that Carl must have felt having his daughter violated in such a brutal way. This was a brilliantly written book that I would recommemd to all readers.
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42 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Superficial Portrayal Leaves Something to be Desired, June 3, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: A Time to Kill (Mass Market Paperback)
In the hands of a greater author, or perhaps if Grisham had paid as much attention to some aspects of the book as to others, this could have been a truly powerful piece of work. The subject itself is fascinating: a black man takes the lives of his little daughter's rapists in the heart of the Deep South, where justice is still tainted by color. After reading the book, however, I couldn't help but feel that Grisham missed the mark somewhere.

I was amused when I saw that this book was required reading for an introductory Afro-American history class at my college. First of all, this book is not about a black father avenging his daughter. The book is about a white lawyer who braves the dangers and hatred of his peers to defend that father. In essence, the book ends up being a far weaker, more contemporary version of To Kill a Mockingbird. Anyone who expects otherwise will be disappointed. The black characters in the novel are secondary and painted in very broad strokes: Carl Lee Hailey at times appears to be a slow-witted oaf, his wife Gwen is a subservient black woman, and the black preachers are all stereotyped. Tonya Hailey is perhaps the strongest black character, and well-so. The opening scene of her rape is vivid and heart-rending, and Grisham portrays her later suffering throughout the book in a manner that is poignantly real.

Still, the white characters end up being decidedly stronger than the black. Jake Brigance, the lawyer, is the noble white knight who risks all to save the black man from the Klan, rednecks, and the closet racists of Clanton, Mississippi. His wife is quiet, proud, and believable in her concern for her husband. Ellen Roark, the law student who aids Brigance in his defense of Hailey, is brilliant and vibrant. After the initial rape and murder of the two rednecks, the focus shifts mainly on the whites and the blacks are reduced to cameo roles.

My biggest gripe about the book is the glib manner in which Grisham handles his subject. At times the novel seems to be almost frivolous in content. Harry Rex Vonner, Lucien Wilbanks, Rufus Buckley, and even Judge Noose are all cartoonish and rarely exhibit human depth. The word 'nigger' is used constantly and, at times, unnecessarily, particularly among the more liberal white characters in the novel. There is almost too much humor for a subject of this importance, especially in some of the dialogue. Comic relief is understandably needed in a novel this intense, but Grisham overdoes it.

Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad book at all. Grisham's breezy writing style makes for a comfortable read, and it is admittedly a page-turner. When he takes his subject matter seriously, he shines. The reader can feel Tonya's pain and sympathize with Carl Lee's justifiable wrath. The trials that Jake Brigance undergoes to defend Carl Lee are vivid and well-told, and his closing argument is perhaps the high point of the entire story. The diverging sentiments of the residents of Clanton both for and against Carl Lee are also well-described. Still, these moments are too few and far between. This is one instance when I can definitely say I thought the movie was more powerful than the book. The black characters and white characters are presented more on an even level and it makes a stronger statement about race and justice in this country. The book, while showing a lot of promise, ends up falling short of what it could have been. Like many other contemporary novels it fails to achieve any real depth, and the characters fail to linger with you after you've put it down. Still, if you are looking for an entertaining read, don't hesitate to pick up this book. Just don't expect it to make you think overlong about real race issues facing this country.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Grisham's best, October 27, 2004
This review is from: A Time to Kill (Mass Market Paperback)
Street lawyer Jake Brigance is thrust into the national spotlight when he takes a case defending a black man who has murdered two white men for raping his twelve year old daughter. Brigance is the center of a legion of competing pressures and concerns, including escalating involvement in the case by the Mississippi population of blacks, and by the Ku Klux Klan. We get an intimate look at the legal process, as Jake fights off other lawyers seeking to represent his client, attempts to manipulate the press, the judge, the prosecution, and the jury, and faces problems dealing with practicing law on a tight budget. He walks a fine moral line as the situation escalates, and eventually finds himself hiding out at a friends house while the Klan tries to murder him.

The Good and the Bad:

After reading two or three other novels by this author (including The Firm), I've been talking down John Grisham for years, but this book has made me revise my opinion of him. A preface tells us that this is Grisham's most personal work, and his first; I think that those two factors may be what makes this book stand out to me.

This book has a lot going for it. The pacing is well-done, mixing violence and action scenes in with the also-exciting twists and turns in the legal arena. The book slowly builds to a natural climax with the jury decision, and the obstacles and situations Jake faces are varied and inventive. The language and writing are also very serviceable, with appropriate amounts of description and dialogue (although there seems to be a near-obsessive tendency to include detailed descriptions of every meal and drink consumed by the characters). This writing gives the author the air of a seasoned professional rather than the first-timer he was at the time.

The book also contains enough nuanced ethical considerations to be the focus of a college ethics course. Time and again, Jake is confronted with moral decisions, and his decisions are all over the place ethically. At times, I was impressed with his morality; often, I was shocked at his immorality. The other characters are also instruments of moral dilemmas, not the least of which is Carl Lee's murder of the two rapists.

Another great aspect of the book was the authority with which the legal profession is presented. As a lawyer, Grisham clearly knows the ins and outs of the profession, and his insider view of jury selection, expert psychiatric testimony, and the way that lawyers compete for a desirable case are all fascinating.

On the down side, I have two major criticisms, and they both cropped up so frequently that they inhibited my ability to lose myself in the story. I didn't like Grisham's other novels because I felt that the characters weren't flawed enough to make them interesting. Jake is flawed, all right, and his flaws make him kind of detestable. Detestable might be too strong of a word, but certainly, he was less than sympathetic in many ways. He hungers for media attention, putting it above his client's best interests. He threatens to sever a friendship with a court administrative aid if she doesn't give him a list of prospective jurors that the judge has ordered her not to give him. He flirts with his beautiful legal assistant, and keeps her existence a secret from his wife. In fact, he keeps a lot of secrets from his wife, including the fact that the Klan has burned down their house. He stands idly by while a sheriff literally breaks the legs of a Klan member, and then jokes about it the next day. He seems to use the word nigger interchangeably with black man, and states prejudiced views, such as "nigger are unpredictable, especially when they're in trouble." I could go on, but you get the point. This is a main character that's hard to root for. The other characters are generally interesting, but sometimes cartoonish, especially the prosecutor, a fat political aspirant whose main function seems to be getting blustered at Jake's shot-from-the-hip one liners.

That leads to my other criticism, which is that too often, Grisham turns to the camera and winks, asking us to chuckle or give an affirming cheer. Every time we see Brigance confront Buckley, the exchange ends in Jake getting the last word in, and it infuriating Buckley. Things like this, extending to several plot points, are just a little too pat.

Overall, an enjoyable novel that should help you burn some midnight oil.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Way Better than Killing Time Watching TV, August 7, 2000
This review is from: A Time to Kill (Mass Market Paperback)
Jake Brigance is a small-town lawyer with a small-town law practice, taking nickel & dime cases to make ends meet. A young attorney in Clanton, Mississippi, Jake's future as a big-time criminal defense lawyer is incredibly turned down a frightening path in which he encounters the desperate and grim face of racism at its worst. Because of his skill in defending Lester Hailey, Jake is hired to defend Carl Lee Hailey in hopes of obtaining Carl Lee's freedom, despite Carl Lee's admittedly pre-meditated murder of two white men, Billy Ray Cobb and Ernest "Pete" Willard.
The rape of ten year old Tanya, Carl Lee's daughter, by Billy Ray and Pete, has to be one of the most torturous events in fiction that Grisham has written; to even imagine that two men could perpetrate such an act on so young a child is absolutely horrific and incredible. Throughout, Grisham plays strongly on the premise that people who have children know exactly what they would do, were they in Carl Lee's shoes - to avenge the horror of such despicable actions in the only way such men would understand - violent death.
When I first read this novel, I was angered and irritated by the depth of hatred that exists within racism. I was angered that had Carl Lee been a white man bent on avenging his daughter's suffering, he would never have had to face trial. Grisham in fact, points this out several times throughout the novel, and this becomes a rallying point for Carl Lee's supporters. Whereas vigilante justice is not acceptable by any stretch of the imagination, Grisham appeals to the emotions of parents - black or white - and succeeds in winning us over. In fact, this is exactly how the jury decides Carl Lee's fate, rejecting the pressure of the Klan, as well as the black community who thronged the courthouse chanting, "Free Carl Lee!".
A Time to Kill is a disturbing novel, aside from the raping and killing that opens the tale. It is not possible to look at our justice system the same way, especially from the viewpoint of the black community in the South - even today. It seems that although we have come far since the 1960's and Dr. King, Grisham would have us believe that not much has changed for the better.
Peace Out.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Make time to read A Time To Kill, April 19, 2003
This review is from: A Time to Kill (Mass Market Paperback)
A Time To Kill, John Grisham's first novel, is a remarkably compelling, bold, fearless, lofty achievement for a new writer. While the book was picked up and published in small numbers at first, it was not until The Firm placed Grisham squarely on the map that this earlier effort was republished and made available for the masses of his new fans. What impresses me most about A Time To Kill is the way in which Grisham grabs your attention and sucks you right into the story immediately every time you pick it up; my interest and fascination was retained throughout the whole 500+ pages. I'm generally not a fan of lawyer or police novels, but the criminal events forming the crux of this novel are visceral right from the start, as little 10-year old Tonya Hailey, a black girl, is brutally raped and assaulted by two cruel white men. Grisham doesn't wait around to throw his best stuff directly at the reader. The two men are arrested and put on trial, but Carl Lee Hailey, Tonya's father, gets hold of an M-16 and blows both guys away (along with a deputy's lower leg) in the very halls of the courthouse. Jake Brigance, our protagonist, is determined to get his new client acquitted, a very tough task when everyone knows how the man planned and carried out the murders in cold blood. Naturally, some folks think Carl Lee should be declared a hero for what he did, while others argue that vigilante justice cannot be permitted. Since a black man killed two white men for raping his black daughter, race quickly becomes the big tent under which a legal and social circus is performed in the small town of Clanton, Mississippi. The black churches organize to support Carl Lee, calling in the NAACP and urging blacks from all over that part of the state to come to the courthouse demanding Carl Lee's release. The defunct Klan reemerges in the town and goes well beyond simple intimidation of jurors and Jake Brigance himself. Needless to say, there is a lot of human drama contained in these pages.
As eminently readable as this novel is, though, a few things about it bother me enough for me to take away one star from my rating. The action is just not real enough. Carl Lee is given unimaginable privileges by the black sheriff while being held in jail, for one thing. The most prominent black preacher in the county has a number of sinful ways about him. The judges seem to behave inappropriately at times, and some of the antics of Jake and the D.A. during the trial provide sources of humor that seem inappropriate. As for Jack, I found it impossible to ever really like the man. All he cares about is keeping this client and getting all the publicity for defending this man before the eyes of the nation. He tells his wife he will drop the case if it looks like he or his family is in danger, but that is pledge is proven quite false. He is rather unethical at times, proves himself to be less than careful in his trial preparation, and he spends the better part of the crucial days drinking like a fish. John Grisham says there is a lot of himself in Jake Brigance, and maybe all lawyers really are as superficial as the protagonist, but I hope that is not the case.
As compelling a read as this book is, much of its fate naturally hinges on its conclusion. Will Carl Lee be freed or sentenced to death? I can accept the climax of these events as it is written, but it does feel somewhat rushed. After oftentimes slowly and carefully picking over every bit of action and dialogue, things just happen too quickly in the end. The judgment of the case also belies events in the courtroom, and one main character is all but forgotten at the end. No first novel should be perfect, and this one certainly isn't, but it is nevertheless one of the most amazing first novels I have read from an author. Grisham keeps your hands glued to the pages from start to finish.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review for "A Time to Kill", April 25, 2001
By 
Jennifer Ferguson (Greenville, SC, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Time to Kill (Hardcover)
"A Time To Kill" was written in the middle 1980's by John Grisham, but was set in the small town of Clanton, Mississippi, on the late 1970's. Jake Brigance, the protagonist, is a lawyer who is trying to win a case that can help his career while at the same time endangers himself, his family, and any other people invovled with the case. The case involves a black man, Carl Lee Hailey, who violently took the law into his own hands by murdering his ten-year-old daughter's two white rapists. The entire town has their own opinions of the black man killing the two white men and of Jake because he took Mr. Hailey's case. The town of Clanton versus racism is one of the conflicts of this novel. Racism is the antagonist against Jake and the angered father that sought revenge for his daughter's pain. The themes are that although people think racism is a thing of the past, it is still alive in some people and very dangerous. Another theme is that when the law is taken into your own hands, it may seem like the best and possibly even the only solution at the time. However, when it is all said and done, it may not be the best way to solve your problem after all. This book was amazingly well written to be the first novel of a new writter. I really liked it and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys to read.
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A Time to Kill
A Time to Kill by John Grisham (Mass Market Paperback - July 1, 1992)
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