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A Time to Kill Mass Market Paperback – June 1, 1992

4.5 out of 5 stars 2,326 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Jake Brigance Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This addictive tale of a young lawyer defending a black Vietnam war hero who kills the white druggies who raped his child in tiny Clanton, Mississippi, is John Grisham's first novel, and his favorite of his first six. He polished it for three years and every detail shines like pebbles at the bottom of a swift, sunlit stream. Grisham is a born legal storyteller and his dialogue is pitch perfect.

The plot turns with jeweled precision. Carl Lee Hailey gets an M-16 from the Chicago hoodlum he'd saved at Da Nang, wastes the rapists on the courthouse steps, then turns to attorney Jake Brigance, who needs a conspicuous win to boost his career. Folks want to give Carl Lee a second medal, but how can they ignore premeditated execution? The town is split, revealing its social structure. Blacks note that a white man shooting a black rapist would be acquitted; the KKK starts a new Clanton chapter; the NAACP, the ambitious local reverend, a snobby, Harvard-infested big local firm, and others try to outmaneuver Jake and his brilliant, disbarred drunk of an ex-law partner. Jake hits the books and the bottle himself. Crosses burn, people die, crowds chant "Free Carl Lee!" and "Fry Carl Lee!" in the antiphony of America's classical tragedy. Because he's lived in Oxford, Mississippi, Grisham gets compared to Faulkner, but he's really got the lean style and fierce folk moralism of John Steinbeck. --Tim Appelo

From Library Journal

In this lively novel, Grisham explores the uneasy relationship of blacks and whites in the rural South. His treatment is balanced and humane, if not particularly profound, slighting neither blacks nor whites. Life becomes complicated in the backwoods town of Clanton, Mississippi, when a black worker is brought to trial for the murder of the two whites who raped and tortured his young daughter. Everyone gets involved, from Klan to NAACP. Grisham's pleasure in relating the byzantine complexities of Clanton politics is contagious, and he tells a good story. There are touches of humor in the dialogue; the characters are salty and down-to-earth. An enjoyable book, which displays a respect for Mississippi ways and for the contrary people who live there. Recommended.
- 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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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 515 pages
  • Publisher: Island Books (July 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0440211727
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440211723
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,326 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #703,786 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on July 25, 1996
Format: 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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Format: 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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Format: 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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By bryan on October 31, 2001
Format: 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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