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A Time to Kill

(Jake Brigance #1)

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  718,711 ratings  ·  5,509 reviews
Librarian's Note: Alternate-cover edition for ISBN: "" 0385338600 / 9780385338608

Before "The Firm" and "The Pelican Brief" made him a superstar, John Grisham wrote this riveting story of retribution and justice. In this searing courtroom drama, best-selling author John Grisham probes the savage depths of racial violence, as he delive
Paperback, 515 pages
Published March 15th 2004 by Dell (first published 1989)
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Juan Jo Ponce In fact, it was written back in 1989. This was John Grisham´s first novel! No one ever believed this was going to become such a great and successful n…moreIn fact, it was written back in 1989. This was John Grisham´s first novel! No one ever believed this was going to become such a great and successful novel. It was rejected by a lot of publishers, until Grisham got one opportunity and he blasted, with this jewel! It captivated me, and now I am excited to be able to read it again! Great impact, great story, incomparable book! (less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Juan Jo Ponce I have read it once already. Some time later, I borrowed it o a friend who unfortunately left it in the public bus and my book got lost. Now, last wee…moreI have read it once already. Some time later, I borrowed it o a friend who unfortunately left it in the public bus and my book got lost. Now, last weekend I found and purchased a used version for only $3.00, therefore, I am happy to be able to read this incredible novel again! You won´t regret it, this is a 10-star book! This a must-read novel! (Thumbs down to spoilers! Buuuuuu!)(less)
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Average rating 4.08  · 
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Dec 11, 2010 rated it liked it
Considered Grisham's best novel by many readers far more perspicacious than moi, this well-written, emotionally-charged thriller certainly delivers. While it doesn't rank as my eye's own personal apple, I can certainly see why it is esteemed by fans of both the legal-thriller and Grisham.

Despite being fast-paced and a true page-turner (what I would call a popcorn-read), there's a gravity and social conscience that pervades the story and adds a weight to the narrative. There is depth here, more
Ahmad Sharabiani
A Time to Kill (Jake Brigance, #1), John Grisham

A Time to Kill is a 1988 legal thriller by John Grisham. It was Grisham's first novel.

In the small town of Clanton, in fictional Ford County, Mississippi, a ten-year-old African-American girl named Tonya Hailey is viciously raped and beaten by two white supremacists, James "Pete" Willard and Billy Ray Cobb.

Tonya is later found and rushed to the hospital while Pete and Billy Ray are heard bragging at a roadside bar about their crime. Tonya's distr
Oct 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This 1988 first Grisham novel is outstanding. 10 of 10 stars!
Original Mid-90s Star Only Review – 5 Stars
Re-Read in 2020 Review – 4 Stars

You will notice a drop in the stars above, but you can take that with a grain of salt. It is still a great book that will pull you in and not let go. If you are familiar with Grisham’s work, this is where it all began, and I think some consider it mainly downhill from here. Not necessarily a big downhill – but it sure does seem in some aspects like he was at the top of his game for his first few novels. He mentioned in hi
Fabian {Councillor}
"A Time to Kill" is a riveting story of retribution and justice ... so does the title imply. Replace riveting by frustrating and you know what I felt while reading this doorstopper of a book.

On more than 500 pages, John Grisham delves deep into the schemes and entanglements of a trial in the Southern USA. The premise was so interesting that it was impossible not to pick this book up: A ten-year-old girl is raped by two drunken men, and her father takes the law into his own hands by killing the r
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
2.5 stars. One of my least favorites of Grisham's books, and that's saying something. Actually I kind of liked The Pelican Brief and one or two of his others, but mostly they strike me as mediocre writing combined, more often than not, with pulpit-pounding and breast-beating about some particular legal issue.

In this case the setting is a murder trial for a African-American man who gunned down his 10 year old daughter's rapists, who are stereotypical Southern white trash racists who tried to mur
May 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is my first John Grisham book, I am embarrassed to admit. I felt like I was in Clanton, Mississippi reliving this gruesome murder. His writing and knowledge on the law system is pretty amazing to read. Makes you realize all the politics and behind the door negotiations going on.

This is a story of two pothead white trash drug dealers that rape a 10-year-old black girl. They urinate on her, tie her legs and hands to a fence and tree, beat her, pour beer on her while she is calling for her da
Feb 12, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: grisham
This was John Grisham' s very first book.He dreamed of getting it published,and went through innumerable rejections.It was largely ignored,when it was first published.Grisham was inspired by an actual court room case to write it.

It is about rape,retribution and racial violence,in the American South.A young black girl is raped,and her outraged father takes justice into his own hands.A young defence attorney tries to save his life,only to find himself in danger.And then comes all that racial viole
James Thane
Mar 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: legal-thrillers
I confess that when one of my book clubs made this our monthly selection, I approached it with more than a little trepidation. I knew that this was Grisham's first book and that when it was first published as a hardcover, he could hardly give it away. Sales were so poor that there was initially no paperback release. Only after the success of The Firm and other of Grisham's books was this one finally resurrected and released in paperback.

Like most of Grisham's other readers, I jumped aboard the t
Mar 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Read when it first came out. I really ought to reread this prior to reading Sycamore Row. I remember being captivated with the story of Jake Brigance but I details are sketchy at best at this time. Seems like a summer reread is on the horizon.
Andre Gonzalez
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book totally rocked my world! I had asked for a legal thriller as a recommendation and I'm glad to have this one suggested! The racial tension in this story felt as real as it did in To Kill A Mockingbird. I felt I was right there in Clanton, Mississippi trying to dodge the KKK and marching with everyone else. This is my first Grisham novel, and I'll definitely be exploring more! ...more
Oct 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A courtroom thriller published 1989

This is John Grisham’s first novel but not his first published.
The setting is in Mississippi where, even in 1989, the divide between the white and the black communities was still very obvious. And guess what, here we are 41 years later and what’s changed, not much it would seem.

A little ten year old black girl is brutally raped and beaten. She is found and taken to the hospital where the doctors put her back together physically but her emotional condition is no
Fred Shaw
Jun 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
In my humble opinion, this is Grisham's finest work. Not only are his characters stirring and unforgettable but the story is powerful. ...more
Tara Rock
Nov 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read this sensational novel over 30 years ago; a banned book in some southern states at the time. Since Mr. Grisham published, in October of 2020, the third novel depicting our street lawyer Jake Brigance I decided to start from #1. It is a gripping, captivating story embedded with violence and a large dose of humour and compassion.
Susan's Reviews
Oct 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was the very first Grisham book I read - loved it!
Brought back memories of To Kill a Mockingbird.
I read this author's next few books, but after a while, his books stopped appealing to me.
This one had me glued to each page, swept away by the gripping action and the hero's determination to defend his client come what may - and boy, did he and his family pay a big price for his unwillingness to back away from his client. Hats off to him! A truly heroic lawyer in the image of Atticus Finch.
This one was really good. Hard to believe it was John Grisham first novel. This is a legal thriller and much more. The story took place in Mississippi. Two rednecks rape a ten year old black girl. Her father shot them dead in front of the courthouse and Jake Brigance is the criminal defense attorney who represented him.

I read Sycamore Row a while back but didn't know it was second in the series. The third book, A Time for Mercy will be released on Oct 13th, 2020.

I really like this book although
May 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2016
A satisfying legal thriller.

Grisham gives the reader much to ponder in this story of a black man who kills two men who raped and brutally beat his 10 year-old daughter. It's hard not to root for the father. It also makes one wonder if the story would have worked as well had it been his wife or sister who had been raped instead (probably not), which in and of itself is worth thinking about. It certainly makes one wonder if and when murder is ever justifiable, and exactly how we draw those lines i
Feb 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Continuing with my reading of all Grisham titles. This is the first I've read of the southern trial novels. Extensive use of the N word was disturbing but it's used for an accurate portrayal of the voice of white southerners of the period, not gratuitously. Much more disturbing was the scene of the violent attack on a little girl that's the basis of the story. Again, not gratuitous. This novel was based on a true story. A thoughtful and thought provoking reminder of the cruelty and racial prejud ...more
Terence M ;-)
Audiobook - 12:21 hours - Narrator: Robert Petkoff
3.0 out of 5.0 stars - "I Liked It" (Second "reading")

My GR friend Tim read this a few weeks ago and awarded it a very rare, for him, 10 out of 10 stars. Because of this, I decided to read listen to it for a second time.

I first read "A Time to Kill" as a paperback in the early 1990's, following John Grisham's huge success with "The Firm", "The Pelican Brief", and those that followed annually in his first decade as a top-line author. As I tuned in
Jack Heath
5 Stars. Not as great as "To Kill a Mockingbird" when it comes to the issues of race relations, society, and the law in the southern US, but both deserve a 5. Maybe "Mockingbird" a 5.3? One difference is the point of view; a young girl, now a woman, is the narrator of the story set in the mid 1930s. It's endearing and full of love for her father, Atticus. "Time to Kill" is novel of our times, the 2020s, although it focuses on the 1980s. It's a courtroom drama which reels from a string of brutal ...more
Karl Marberger
I liked it.
Feb 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
My favorite Grisham, and I've read almost all of them. He states in his own words that sometimes he gets "a bit verbose" - but I really liked it because of the depth that he goes into on the characters, which is mostly absent from his other stories. ...more
Mar 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobook
Before returning to Clanton Mississippi and Ford County, I took some time to refresh myself of my first journey here, to see where the Grisham journey had its humble roots. While it is likely this novel is not the traditional 'must-read' before diving into SYCAMORE ROW, I chose to remember the powerful novel that Grisham admits barely made a blip on the radar until after THE FIRM pushed him to the top of all the reading lists. This is a wonderful book that introduces readers to a Mississippi whe ...more
Aug 22, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: J. Grisham fans
There are 104 pages of review on this book, and I read two pages worth and agreed with a dozen or so. I always wondered why cheap thrillers like this book never get discussed in great literature classes and I think I can answer that question. 1. Because there is no interpretation. Books like this are no brainers. Little thinking is required.
That's really it.
Now for the book review. First of all, Grisham needed like 1 or 2 more pages to close out. He rushed the ending.
Sure it was a great thrill
Jun 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Reading this book again was still a fast and thrilling ride. I haven’t read it in years and ha e only seen the movie once many years ago so the story was not boring to re-read at all. Now reading to read Sycamore Row and then I will be prepared for the third book of the Jake Brigance novel when it releases.
Cody | CodysBookshelf
My first John Grisham novel was his latest release, The Whistler: a capable, if not entirely thrilling, read. Because I give every author two chances to 'wow' me, I decided to take a stab at Grisham's debut, A Time to Kill.

Wow. Wow wow wow. Was I impressed!

Set in northeastern Mississippi (an area I've ridden through many times, and have a certain affection for), a young black girl is kidnapped and brutally raped by two white rednecks, both career criminals despite only being in their twenties.
Reading Sycamore Row took me down the memory lane to its prequel, A Time to Kill. And I realized that I haven't written a review for this much beloved book. So here I'm trying to rectify that omission.

A Time to Kill is one of the few emotional contemporary books that I have read. Based on the theme of racism and set in mid-eighties in a southern town in Mississippi, Grisham tells the tale of a black man who murdered two white men who raped his child and one white lawyer's heroic struggle to d
The Bursting Bookshelf of a Wallflower
4 stars!

Die Jury - A Time To Kill in English – was the first Grisham I have read. I’ve heard about him and his books a lot, but somehow I kept going back for other authors I already knew. But I have to say that I enjoyed this one a lot.

I won’t write anything about the plot itself – most people know it anyways, either because there are tons of good summarizing reviews out there, or because they have read or seen the movie (which isn’t nearly as good as the book) themselves. So let me just say a
Oct 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
My favorite Grisham book & movie showing Jake Brigance defending Carl Lee Hailey with southern prejudice still existing. The movie can be watched over & over many times.

IMDb - credit to Grisham book for movie
YouTube - Official Movie trailer

Matthew McConnelly stars as
the Jake Brigance character

Movie Poster

Cast & Actors
Matthew McConaughey ... Jake Tyler Brigance
Sandra Bullock ... Ellen Roark
Samuel L. Jackson ... Carl Lee Hailey

* interview (added 10/4/2020)
Matthew McConaughey talks with Joe Le
Paul Eckert
Feb 11, 2011 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Reading Order 4 43 Feb 06, 2020 07:14PM  
2021 Reading Chal...: This topic has been closed to new comments. A Time to Kill (Jake Brigance #1) 3 49 Jan 25, 2020 10:17AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Alternate cover edition 4 10 Jul 10, 2018 10:51AM  
Goodreads Librari...: format correction 1 12 Jul 07, 2018 10:37AM  
YA Buddy Readers'...: A Time to Kill (Jake Brigance #1) by John Grisham - Starting May 1st 2018 5 8 May 02, 2018 04:18AM  
Where are my books? 1 13 Apr 03, 2018 03:32AM  

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"Long before his name became synonymous with the modern legal thriller, he was working 60-70 hours a week at a small Southaven, Mississippi law practice, squeezing in time before going to the office and during courtroom recesses to work on his hobby—writing his first novel.

Born on February 8, 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to a construction worker and a homemaker, John Grisham as a child dreamed of

Other books in the series

Jake Brigance (3 books)
  • Sycamore Row (Jake Brigance, #2)
  • A Time for Mercy (Jake Brigance, #3)

Articles featuring this book

Ever wonder what bestselling authors like Sarah J. Maas, Neil Gaiman, Paulo Coelho, or Tayari Jones were thinking as they were writing?...
44 likes · 3 comments
“Mr. Buckley, let me explain it this way. And I'll do so very carefully and slowly so that even you will understand it. If I was the sheriff, I would not have arrested him. If I was on the grand jury, I would not have indicted him. If I was the judge, I would not try him. If I was the D.A., I would not prosecute him. If I was on the trial jury, I would vote to give him a key to the city, a plaque to hang on his wall, and I would send him home to his family. And, Mr. Buckley, if my daughter is ever raped, I hope I have the guts to do what he did.” 41 likes
“With murder, the victim is gone, and not forced to deal with what happened to her. The family must deal with it, but not the victim. But rape is much worse. The victim has a lifetime of coping, trying to understand, of asking questions, and the worst part, of knowing the rapist is still alive and may someday escape or be released. Every hour of every day, the victim thinks of the rape and asks herself a thousand questions. She relives it, step by step, minute by minute, and it hurts just as bad.
Perhaps the most horrible crime of all is the violent rape of a child. A woman who is raped has a pretty good idea why it happened. Some animal was filled with hatred, anger and violence. But a child? A ten-year-old child? Suppose you're a parent. Imagine yourself trying to explain to your child why she was raped. Imagine yourself trying to explain why she cannot bear children.”
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