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A Time to Kill: A Novel Paperback – June 23, 2009
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From Library Journal
- David Keymer, SUNY Coll. of Technology, Utica
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Photo credit Maki Galimberti
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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..
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."
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!)
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Liked the book because of author's sincerity in writing on the subject, and highlighting the fact that a father's mind acts in the same way, irrespective of race. Read morePublished 3 days ago by S Deb
Good story line. Shows how much has changed, but much is still the same with a long way to go in terms of equality.Published 5 days ago by VChurch
Good read with several twists and turns. A little slow in spots, but overall, a read that held my attention.Published 5 days ago by Donald D. Munday
The book was for my girl friend who loved it. She raved about it . I had read it before and saw the movie which I thought was great from the actors and actress it was over the hill... Read morePublished 5 days ago by Dennis Sentelle