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The Confession

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First time in paperback

An innocent man is about to be executed.
Only a guilty man can save him.

In 1998, in the small East Texas city of Sloan, Travis Boyette abducted, raped, and strangled a popular high school cheerleader. He buried her body so that it would never be found, then watched in amazement as police and prosecutors arrested and convicted Donté Drumm, a local football star, and marched him off to death row.
Now nine years have passed. Travis has just been paroled in Kansas for a different crime; Donté is four days away from his execution. Travis suffers from an inoperable brain tumor. For the first time in his miserable life, he decides to do what’s right and confess. But how can a guilty man convince lawyers, judges, and politicians that they’re about to execute an innocent man?

418 pages, Hardcover

First published October 26, 2010

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About the author

John Grisham

718 books75.3k followers
John Grisham is the author of forty-seven consecutive #1 bestsellers, which have been translated into nearly fifty languages. His recent books include The Judge's List, Sooley, and his third Jake Brigance novel, A Time for Mercy, which is being developed by HBO as a limited series.

Grisham is a two-time winner of the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction and was honored with the Library of Congress Creative Achievement Award for Fiction.

When he's not writing, Grisham serves on the board of directors of the Innocence Project and of Centurion Ministries, two national organizations dedicated to exonerating those who have been wrongfully convicted. Much of his fiction explores deep-seated problems in our criminal justice system.

John lives on a farm in central Virginia.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,449 reviews
Profile Image for Beth.
662 reviews24 followers
June 10, 2018
***If you have not read the book, but intend to, do not read my review.***
I loved the first half of the book because of the race to correct an injustice - to do the right thing. I hated the second half of the book because they didn't make it on time. Donte Drumm, an innocent man, was put to death because of the need of the racists in his town to exact revenge. And that happens in real life, not just in books. Innocent people are put to death and the state just basically says, "oops". That is never, ever acceptable. The death penalty does not deter criminals. They don't think they are going to get caught. The death penalty does not punish criminals - it's an easy escape. The death peanlty only works for people who are alive and breathing and need to take out their hate and anger on another person.
Another thing in the book that made me very sad was that Donte was blamed for the crime primarily because of his race. As if the pigmentation of a person's skin makes them more apt to commit a crime?! This attitude also exists in the real world. How I wish I could live in a world where the color of a person's skin truly didn't matter. Why must we divide ourselves into groups of "us" and "them"?
I can't believe that I am the one that suggested my book club read this book - it has so deeply disturbed me. As a result of reading it I have joined the TCAPD - the Texas Coalition for the Abolition of the Death Penalty. I think that the organizations mentioned in the book are fictitious. I truly hope that I see a change in my lifetime so that Texas is more focused on correction and rehabilitation than on revenge.
Profile Image for Stacy.
337 reviews
February 2, 2011
I feel so cynical, but seriously at times I felt like I was reading a political persuasion book, not a novel---"forget the story for a moment: let me persuade you to oppose the death penalty then we will go back to what happens next in the story"...

Ever notice that all those on the left were painted as great protaganists with kindness, honor and glory and those on the right were made out to be selfish, stupid pigs that wouldn't lift a finger for anyone but themeselves? OK, maybe that's a little much. Let's just say he disappointed me. And has disappointed me for quite some time.

I am a big fan of Grisham. I used to wait for every February for his latest book to come out. My favorites are The Firm (GREAT SUSPENSE!!!), The Client (Awesome) and The Pelican Brief(Yeah!)---all 3 of these are in my opinion his greatest works and each one made me hold my breath! This one made me expel my breath in frustration. Can I persuade you to agree that his greatest works have already surfaced, and now he's just depositing regular checks in the bank?
August 17, 2020
I'm not sure how to rate this one. Therefore, I start at 5 stars (as always):
- 1 star: I don't think that the root problem is the death row. Frankly, I don't think that life imprisonment is much better than death penalty. Is it? Is living in a cage for the rest of one's life so much better than death? I'd think both are horrible perspectives.
- 1 star: For failing to point our the root problems. Of which I'd like to point out 2:

> The 1st root problem is the routine miscarriage of justice: the courts and the police and the investigation process should be done properly.
People just should not be put to prison basing on some tangential evidence, on hearsay, on absense of alibi, on statistical probabilities or likeliness, on judgement or any other such bullshit.
Police should either have good evidence or just not bother people with nonsence.
Conviction rates should not be a thing for everyone: this would exclude the motivation of running fool cases into the ground (literally, in some cases). As is, these drive forward even idiotic cases.
Courts should have the freedom to throw out as many cases as they need to.
Bullshit science should just be abolished: polygraphs and the like. While these are not used in court, these should not be used even in investigation. Seriously, what do they prove? That the person who you are asking about 'Did you kill such-and-such on the 2nd June?' is worried about this line of questioning and the possible interpretations of their reactions? Duh.

Most of the cases which have been overturned (and not just the case in this book), involve very loose interpretation of non-evidence and lots of incorectly applied judgement which should not have flied anywhere in the first place, had everyone been doing their respective jobs properly.

> The 2nd root problem is that the general standards of education are rather low and seem to be going down further. People generally seem to be not ready to live in the real world, where they might have to talk to police (being either suspects or witnesses) or work as police and respect other people's right to be free in case they did not commit any wrongdoings. As a result the society gets the double whammy of both police who skip a lot of edges and get wrong people in prison for crimes they did non commit and people who have little to no ability to defend themselves in case they are interviewed by the police. Who can be intimidated... yes, really, not even tortured into but just screamed into ... making BS confessions of crimes they did not commit.

People who have good education, really good one, who know their rights and their place in the world, who know they don't have to take blame, who can recognise the basic manipulation techniques are hard to intimidate and to manipulate. The opposite is the people who understand that 'truth doesn't matter', 'police will do whatever they want', 'I'm just a little man with no security in this world', 'I'll miss my morning work shift and will be fired and will live on the street' etc. They can be manipulated, intimidated, they will not know their rights or basic laws of the country they live in, they will not have access to good attorneys, they will even have trouble representing themselves in a sensible, guilt-free way just because they would be scared during the interview and therefore would not look convincing.
And the bingo is when these meet on the same case. Sad story, what can I say?

> There might also a 3d root problem (in some cases, likely). Which might be the jury trial. Whoever the fuck decided that random people who have little idea about anything involving law can make good decisions? People generally are spectacularly bad at making decisions. Using laymen jury turns the trials into a form of art which can get quite entertaining but which will never get fair and will always depend on jury liking or disliking some random stuff: hair of the defendant, speech of particular representatives... etc.

Anyway, I would have liked Mr Grisham to have addressed more than the 2-bit idea that the death penalty is bad and particularly so when the person is not guilty. Yeah, OK, what else is new?

- 1 star: Q: If a simple question about coffee took a full ten seconds, then one about church attendance might require an hour. (c) This might've actually applied to the whole book, I've felt there wan't enough ideas aroud for a whole novel. Frankly. I think all the preachery against the death row got really old by the middle of the book. Let alone the end.

+ 1 star: Love Grisham's style. So very clear-cut.
+ 1 star: Nice pacing. Lovely feeling of doom approaching.
+ 1 star: Love how most of wrong-doers got theirs coming: Kerber, Koffee. Would've loved more of that.
+- 0 stars: Nice to see Mr. Grisham being politically correct. *eyeroll* Cardboard politically correct. *eyeroll workout*
Will their ever be a novel with 2 Afroamericans, 1 crimedoer and 1 incorrectly blamed?
Or maybe 2 Chinese?
Or maybe 1 Norwegian expat (crimedoer) and 1 Russian (incorrectly blamed)?
Or... you get my drift :P

Overall: 5 stars even for all my harping.

Prisons are hate factories, Pastor, and society wants more and more of them. (c)
Kerber asked Donté to just imagine his mother, sitting in the witness room, waving at him for the last time, crying her eyes out, as they strapped him down and adjusted the chemicals. You’re a dead man, he said more than once. But there was an option. If Donté would come clean, tell them what happened, make a full confession, then he, Kerber, would guarantee that the state would not seek the death penalty. Donté would get life with no parole, which was no piece of cake, but at least he could write letters to his mom and see her twice a month.
Such threats of death and promises of leniency are unconstitutional, and the police know it. (с) How very nice.
But the truth was not important. (c) Well, it should be.
Profile Image for Johnrh.
177 reviews15 followers
June 24, 2011
Read The Confession. As in 'red', past tense, or 'reed', you read this. I'm referring to John Grisham's The Confession: A Nove l, published in 2010. I devoured it over a 48 hour period, fast reading for me, but it was a page turner and page burner. Totally engrossing. Only once, briefly, did I think "Oh yeah, another Grisham novel". Multiple story lines, where will they converge? Grisham is a master at this. He can weave a taut tale, getting into a character's being and making him seem very real. It was nicely wrapped up too, IMO, completing all the story lines thoroughly. Too many popular authors these days seem to churn out a great story, then realize they've got to conclude before it gets too long and they rush to a quick, unsatisfying conclusion. Tsk tsk.

This is a work of FICTION but it will give you plenty to think about re: death row and the death penalty. I highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Molly.
64 reviews247 followers
August 10, 2011
Dunno why he even bothered having a plot to this book, the veil over the pontificating isn't even thin. This book is basically a treatise on why the Death Penalty is eviller than anything man ever ever did I swear to you really, it's bad nasty evil. It's even got the balls to try to make you actively sneer at and hate the mother of a brutally murdered rape victim. As unfair and unbalanced as FOX news. Grisham is a good writer and draws you into a story, and while his books often have a ham-handed message to impart, like "help the homeless" (The Street Lawyer) or "lawyers are evil"; this book is a punch in the face with a book attached. It's like a Kanye West tirade.
Profile Image for Eric_W.
1,920 reviews354 followers
January 4, 2013
The problem with reading clubs is that occasionally someone suggests a dud and one feels forced to finish the book out of courtesy to the other participants. That's what happened here.

I abhor the death penalty. I approve of Grisham's message 100%, but my goodness this book is repetitive and tedious. Not to mention I felt bruised and battered by being hit over the head constantly by the message. I listened to it and found the FF button to be incredibly useful. The irony was I could fast forward 15 minutes and think I hadn't moved forward at all. The characters are stereotypical cardboard cutouts. Their speeches (they don't talk, they proclaim,) are all cookie-cutter, but the dough gets stale quickly. The book would have been much stronger had there been some shades of gray, some ethical tensions. There just are none here.

For example, did the prosecutors and cops set out to kill an innocent man? Of course, not. They were subject to cultural, racial, and political pressures. An examination of the force of those pressures would have made a much more interesting book. And what if there had been no confession? How about an examination of the legal hurdles that prevent uncovering police malfeasance? Or an examination of the Supreme Court's reasoning that innocence is not a defense? (See Connick v Thomson.) To quote Reason Magazine: "Scalia has written in the past that there's nothing in the Constitution to prevent the government from executing an innocent person. He also apparently believes there's no duty for the government to preserve or turn over evidence that would prove a person's innocence. Finally, from Connick we learn he also believes that prosecutors and municipalities shouldn't be held liable to people who are wrongly convicted and imprisoned, either, even if prosecutors knowingly concealed the evidence that would have exonerated them." Now *that* would have made a fascinating book.

I don't like giving negative ratings and usually don't review books I didn't like, but in this case I resent the time spent listening to this; it was like trying to move through quicksand. Be interesting to see what the rest of the group thinks, especially since they are a particularly high-minded literary group.

Do you suppose the moderator got it wrong and it should have been Augustine's Confessions?

Profile Image for Duffy Pratt.
469 reviews133 followers
September 23, 2011
Grisham is an astonishingly lazy writer. This from the Author's Note at the end of the book:

"Some overly observant readers may stumble across a fact or two that might appear to be in error. They may consider writing me letters to point out my shortcomings. They should conserve paper. There are mistakes in this book, as always, and as long as I continue to loathe research, while at the same time remaining perfectly content to occasionally dress up the facts, I'm afraid the mistakes will continue."

Here's one small example of the sorts of mistakes he makes. At one point he says that the Supreme Court denied two petitions for writ of certiorari, both by a vote of 5-4. What are the problems here? First, the Supreme Court does not say what the vote is when there is a denial of cert. The only time that there is an indication of a split in the vote is when one of the Justices files a dissent from the denial of cert, and that happens very rarely. If it happened here, it would be worth noting as part of the novel.

That's not the bad part, though. The court will grant a cert petition if there are four votes to consider the case. Thus, if there had been a 5-4 vote in th court, the petitions would have been granted, and not denied. Again this seems like a very small detail and one that Grisham could pass over without hurting his book.

But it's worse. It only takes four votes to grant cert. However, it takes a full five votes to grant a motion for a stay of execution. Thus, its perfectly possible for the Court to grant a petition for cert, but fail to stay the execution. Only about 1% of cert petitions get granted, so when one does, it's pretty extraordinary. But in death cases, the Court can decide that the case is extraordinary enough to merit a hearing, but not enough to delay the execution. And, of course, once the execution gets carried out, the case becomes moot, and is thus dropped.

Grisham wrote an anti-death penalty polemic thinly disguised as a novel. He went to law school. But he cannot be bothered enough to gather tidbits that would help him make his case, like the Court agreeing to hear the case because its so important, but at the same time letting the prisoner and the case die. That's part of what comes from his "loathing" of research. This would be a bit less troublesome to me except that Grisham was trained as a lawyer and really should know this stuff without doing research.

The laziness, however, goes further than just research. This book has two kinds of characters: paper thin stereotypes and cyphers. The stereotypes tend to be either loathsome or saintly. The cyphers are almost totally empty. Not only is he lazy about finding out the details of the system he critiques, he is lazy about inventing the people who inhabit his work.

Furthermore, he's lazy in his plotting. Another example. The real killer jumps parole and leaves Kansas to go to Texas to confess his crime and try to stop the execution. He's dying of a brain tumor. The attempt to stop the execution fails, but if he can lead authorities to the body he could prove that his story is true. At this point, the prosecutor and the police detective know that they might be in deep crap. So does the governor. What do they do? Nothing. I don't know what would happen in real life, but the villains in the book should at least have tried to get Kansas to issue an arrest warrant for the guy for jumping parole. They could then try to arrest him, and get him shut away so that he can't lead anyone to the body. Without the body, he would still plausibly be just another crackpot. With these guys trying to prevent the discovery of the body, while the "good" guys are trying to find the body, there could be some interesting storytelling going on, with people acting out of real motives. Is this plausible? There are cases where prosecutors have made legal efforts to destroy backlogged evidence so that it could not be DNA tested, years after everything is made moot. I don't know if it's entirely plausible, but it could make for some good storytelling, something that does not appear to interest Grisham.

Why does this bother me so much? For one thing, it makes for a bad novel (although somewhat engaging and very easy to read). But my main objection is that it seems obviously to have a polarizing effect. Reading the reviews, it seems pretty obvious that people who dislike the death penalty like the book, and people strongly in favor of the death penalty hate it. I haven't seen any review where someone claimed that the book made him think, or convinced him to change his mind. It's just preaching, and preaching to the choir. For what it's worth, I agree with Grisham about the death penalty. I spent some time working in death penalty defense. But I don't think this kind of sloppy book does the "cause" any good. Instead, it delivers exactly what people expect and are comfortable with, no more and no less. Thus, its easy for those in favor of the death penalty to shrug it off.
38 reviews
September 16, 2012
Loved it. As a criminal defense attorney, I appreciated Grisham's expression of certain insights into how criminal justice actually works. It's far from perfect. Innocent people do get arrested, convicted, even executed. Innocent people do make false confessions. When defense attorneys lose, they often do suffer the burden of second-guessing their strategies and tactics. I myself have not tried a capital (death penalty) case, but I have assisted at a murder trial which resulted in a sentence of life without parole. For a defendant age 19. Grisham does a fine job bringing in a many dimensions of a criminal case -- how it touches upon a great many people. And he well understands how,the urgency of our need to have answers very easily leads to incomplete and erroneous investigations, where once a theory of the case is hatched, police and detectives often lose their self-discipline, their critical edge. Instead, they launch headlong, uncritically, into the selective amassing of "evidence" to fit their presumptive theory.
An excellent story -- one that really could, alas DOES happen!
Profile Image for Paul Weiss.
1,221 reviews167 followers
April 5, 2023
A compelling novel and a powerful political statement

Donté Drumm, a young black man who had had no previous brushes with the law, sits on death row in a Texas penitentiary awaiting execution for the alleged murder of a white cheerleader who refused his advances when he was a college football star. At least, so the testimony indicated during his controversial trial. Believing in his client's innocence and sure in the conviction that the guilty verdict, rendered by an all white jury, was based on flimsy, inadmissible, manufactured evidence and perhaps even prosecutorial and police misconduct, Drumm's attorney, Robbie Flak, has been labouring for years through every conceivable legal strategy to forestall the day of reckoning, to gain a new trial or to have the verdict reversed.

Now, virtually on the eve of the execution, Travis Boyette, a multiple sex offender with marginal credibility who appears also to be struggling with some mental illness issues, approaches a minister in the state of Kansas confessing that he's the real murder. THE CONFESSION is the heart-wrenching story of Flak's last ditch efforts to put Boyette's confession before the Texas justice system and to save Drumm from what is portrayed as state-sanctioned murder by lethal injection.

Throughout the novel, Grisham is clearly making no apologies for wearing his anti-capital punishment agenda on his sleeve. While many denizens of the political right wing may disagree with the politics of the novel and feel that such an overt statement translates poorly into fiction, Grisham's fans (including me) will gobble up THE CONFESSION. Aside from being compelling, superb reading, it's also a heartfelt critique of the Texas justice system as being particularly bloodthirsty in its unseemly rush to execute criminals, a fascinating portrayal of the ins and outs of the procedures of criminal law and a compelling statement against the dangers of executing innocent men and women.

Highly recommended.

Paul Weiss
Profile Image for Rex Hammock.
11 reviews2 followers
August 29, 2012
Something about Grisham novels make them my go-to books for reading on flights -- his expertise is pacing, I've decidied This is pure soapbox Grisham -- an anti death penalty diatrabe. However, I think anyone who's ever watched a few episodes of Law and Order could have done a better job keeping the accused off death row. [Later: Okay, I've added an extra star to this book since reading this article in the New Yorker from 2009 about Cameron Todd Willingham. Apparently the Texas criminal justice system can be as bad as Grisham describes.
Profile Image for Jonathan K (Max Outlier).
614 reviews117 followers
April 28, 2021
Am sure that from time to time you begin reading a book and realize it seems familiar. Such was the case with this one which for some reason failed to be rated or reviewed on this site. Researching the books read from our library I found I had reviewed it in 2012, prior to being a GR member. That said, this is not one of the author's best due to a plot that has been used many times. Regardless, Grisham is a master at pacing which is important to keep a reader engaged. Characters are good, plot twists as expected and overall an OK read but far below books like A Time to Kill, The Pelican Brief and others.
Profile Image for Angela.
66 reviews6 followers
November 27, 2010
If you're in the mood to read 400+ pages of liberal preaching, then go ahead and pick this book up.

I usually love John Grisham's brand of legal thrillers. I heard this was going to be his best work since "The Firm" and was very excited to read it. However, the preaching ruined it for me.

Every character that was on the "right" was painted to be an absolute idiot, a bad person, a naive moron, etc. Every character on the "left" was painted to be the most intelligent individual anyone has ever come across. It was so obviously slanted it made me not want to read it. Of course, by the time the heavy preaching comes, you're more than halfway through the book and want to know what happens to the characters.

Speaking of the characters, they were poorly developed (all of them), and really more of a channel through which Grisham preached his political point of views.

I found it extremely insulting to readers that Grisham thought that anyone would want to read several straight pages about various anti-death penalty groups under the guise that the "character" was "reasearching" them online. It was so transparent, and like I said, it was insulting.

Unfortunately, it is hard to find authors that don't use their supposedly fictional works as a platform for their own political views. This is something that does not impress me, and I don't enjoy reading it. If you want to write a book about politics, then go ahead. Don't tell me this is a fictional legal thriller and then use it to get on your soapbox. If I wanted to research the death penalty to come up with a stance to take on it, I would. I don't need John Grisham to paint a slanted picture for me.

I'll continue to be interested in any new works that Grisham puts out, but I'll tread carefully and look for reviews to find out if it's another liberal rant first.
Profile Image for Annet.
570 reviews723 followers
October 5, 2019
3.5. Used to love reading Grisham. He's a master in writing page turners. The Client is one of my favorites. But then the storylines are generally the same. A case of injustice, good legal guys fighting for client or a worthy cause. Bad guys, including high government or police officials. Lots of stuff happens, the good guys win, at least morally and usually at some cost. I stopped reading Grisham for some time as I lost interest. This is my first adult Grisham in some time ( read a junior Grisham, Theodore Boone, earlier this year), picked this one up at the airport, and I liked it, although the storyline is still the same as described above. No doubt, Grisham is a skilled storyteller. The story topic is tragic, it's about an innocent guy on death row. Creepy killer who did the crime is out there, wanting to confess as he is terminally ill. Legal guy fighting fiercefully for Donte, the innocent guy and a minister unwillingly gets involved. Bad government guys oppose... And the story goes. A heartbreaking story at points... Grisham is 'can't put down the book', but also, skipping sentences to move on for me. Yes, I did enjoyed it after a long time returning to Grisham.
Profile Image for Karen.J..
212 reviews178 followers
March 17, 2021
“The Confession” by John Grisham
Maybe a 3🌟 maybe a 4🌟

Honestly I’m not sure how to rate “The Confession”. It’s an excellent story line but I just feel there is something missing. I don’t know if it’s the story itself or the way John Grisham wrote it. Regardless I have the greatest respect for John Grisham and his amazing ability to research and write incredible books.
Profile Image for Krystal.
1,447 reviews363 followers
May 16, 2023
My god this stupid book did a number on me.

Brilliant, but goddamn what a rollercoaster of frustration.

The story begins with the titular Confession - a man named Travis rocks up to a church and confesses to a murder in another state. He's recently got out of prison and realised the man accused of his crime is about to be executed. So begins the race to save an innocent man.

The intensity of rage I felt at the legal process while reading this book is almost unparalleled. Everything was so drawn out, the loopholes and paperwork and arguing and technicalities and bad police work, corruption ... it was absolutely endless. You're given a murder, a man who was set up and imprisoned for the murder, and now a man coming forward to confess to the crime. So it should have been so goddamn SIMPLE but instead we have to read through 300-odd pages of this drawn out BEUROCRACY that sits like an impossible mountain between an innocent man and his freedom.

Hence the frustration.

The worst part of this 'thriller' is that this is the reality of the justice system. A little corruption goes a long way and all of the little details that impede justice being done are just a friggin JOKE when you look at it from a logical standpoint. People covering their own asses and considering that more important than saving an innocent man. It really sickened me.

I'll make my own confession - I nearly gave up on this book, because it was breaking my heart.

This is just not in any way a satisfying story, but it IS insanely captivating and highlights so many issues with the American justice system. It definitely kept me on the edge.

I can't recommend it genuinely because it honestly was a traumatising read, but if you're after a thriller that will fully immerse you then maybe you'll love it. It's a brilliantly written story, but GOD IT HURTS.
Profile Image for Pamela .
1,417 reviews75 followers
July 24, 2011
When you pick up a Grisham book it’s like taking a big gamble. I find his books to be either amazing or just plain awful. For me this one leans towards the latter.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about what the novel is about as there are plenty of reviews already written about it. I will say that this novel deals with the highly controversial issue of the Death Penalty.

I have to say that this book did not move slowly but fast. Too fast at times. Grisham goes back and forth from the present to the past and also between so many other characters, a lot of whom just felt like fillers for the book. When I finished the book I couldn’t help but wonder if he based the novel on real events with elements of fiction or if he just wanted to portray his thoughts and opinions on the issue. I also felt the book was way too long, the characters were not fully developed, you’re given just the bare minimum and as for being a legal thriller, it was anything but that. Reading a book like this novel, one would only hope for some suspense and drama, both of which was clearly lacking. There were a lot of things going on throughout but because of its simplicity they were completely boring.

I have to say I don’t think I’ll read any of his books again.
Profile Image for J.
907 reviews
February 17, 2011
Very disappointing. Grisham has some writing power, but he uses it for evil in this book... liberal lawyer nonsense at its finest. An innocent man that the system failed is on death row, while Grisham's heros struggle to bring truth and justice to light. And it is a black man wrongfully accused of attacking a pretty white woman to boot. As offensive as it is cliche.

My editorial: Lawyers aren't the good guys - especially defense lawyers (i.e. Jeffrey Figer) - they are educated criminals in suits, who know enough about the law to keep themselves and their clients out of jail. They are without souls or moral compasses. They pump themselves up with self-righteous nonsense about defending innocence, when really they are enabling evil and clogging up the justice system - denying real victims their justice.

The writing is pointed and points in the wrong direction. Everyone who supports the death penalty is portrayed negatively and shown to be lazy, have blood lust or be crazy. Hating Texas and "red states" is portrayed as a virtue. Religion is shown overwhelmingly negative. The victim's mother is treated especially cruelly by the author and openly mocked in the story. And by victim I mean the murdered cheerleader - though the author seems to want to disregard her except to set up the story for his intended martyr/victim - the aforesaid innocent black man.

Offensive to law enforcement and real victims of violent crimes, who appreciate the good guys in blue. Also, offensive to all those who toil in the justice system. Their work to protect society from criminals is demeaned by the author's assumption that they are incompetent at best and, at worst, actively assisting in the persecution of innocent people. And the entire justice system is also undermined by the seed the author purposely plants that there could be an innocent man on death row. Readers, remember this is a work of fiction and it was crafted to make a political point. There are a hundred checks and balances built into our legal system and the system is biased towards finding people not guilty. (OJ Simpson, need I say more?) This novel is NOT based on real life or things that actually happen in real life - beyond a defense lawyer's delusion crusade to justify his own morally corrupt profession.

Badly done, Grisham.
Profile Image for James Thane.
Author 9 books6,915 followers
January 1, 2012
In The Appeal, John Grisham took on the important issue of electing state judges and allowing them to collect huge campaign contributions from people and institutions who might have business before the courts to which they are elected. Now, in The Confession, he takes on an even more important issue in the death penalty.

Keith Schroeder, a Lutheran minister in Kansas, is working in his study one morning when Travis Boyette, a career criminal currently out on parole and residing in a local half-way house, asks to see him. Boyette had attended services at Schroeder's church the previous Sunday and had been impressed by the minister's sermon on forgiveness. Boyette claims to be suffering from a terminal illness and has something that he'd like to get off his chest before he shuffles off into that long good night. He's decided that Keith is the man to hear his confession.

Boyette claims that nine years earlier, he had kidnapped, raped and murdered Nicole Yarber, a popular high school cheerleader in the small town of Sloan, Texas. He left Texas shortly thereafter and then was arrested, convicted and imprisoned for a subsequent crime. In the meantime, officials in Sloan arrested a young black man, Donte Drumm, a classmate of Nicole's, who confessed to the murder that Boyette claims to have committed. Complicating matters is that fact that Nicole's body was never recovered.

Donte Drumm quickly repudiated his confession, claiming that it had been coerced. He was defended by a bulldog of an attorney, Robbie Flak. But in spite of all of Flak's efforts and in spite of the fact that there was no body and no proof that Nicole was even dead, a judge and jury convicted Drumm of the killing on the basis of his confession and sentenced him to death. For the last nine years, Flak has done everything possible to delay the execution, but all of Donte's appeals have been exhausted and he is scheduled to die within days.

After his confession to Keith Schroeder, Boyette suggests that he might be willing to go to Texas and tell his story in the hope of saving Donte. But then again, maybe he wouldn't. He vacillates back and forth while the minister attempts to determine whether Boyette is telling the truth or if he is just another one of the nutcases or publicity seekers who turn up on such occasions looking for their fifteen minutes in the limelight.

The story takes off from that point as the clock rapidly ticks down toward Donte Drumm's execution, and as the story progresses, the reader gets a vivid look at the death penalty and the machinery by which it operates, especially in the state of Texas, which executes far more people than any other state in the Union. Irrespective of how one might feel about the issue, this book is bound to provoke some soul-searching on the matter.

In truth, while this is a very good book, it does lag at some points. Grisham obviously feels strongly about this issue and he sometimes overloads the reader with a bit too much detail and slows the momentum of the story. Some of the characters are also a bit one-dimensional in service of the argument that Grisham wants to make. Still it's a compelling story and once it grabs your attention, you're likely to keep reading well into the day or night in order to see the conclusion.
Profile Image for Beth.
86 reviews2 followers
July 29, 2011
Very enjoyable and exciting thriller. I actually gasped out loud twice during this book, and I never got bored reading it. I haven't read a Grisham novel in years - - - I really liked this and found it to be an engrossing and quick read.

Profile Image for Bren fall in love with the sea..
1,574 reviews271 followers
February 20, 2020
“Death row is a nightmare to serial killers and ax murderers. For an innocent man, it's a life of mental torture that the human spirit is not equipped to survive.”
― John Grisham, The Confession

This remains the ONLY Grisham book I skimmed.

I could not help it. I just couldn't get into it. Or maybe it was that I just got impatient and wanted to know how it would all end.

I do not know what it was but I think it is the only Grisham book that was not a page turner for me. It is still very well written. I just got sort of impatient reading it and did not have the self discipline to continue on without skimming.

I'd still say read it if you are Grisham fan. It is still fast moving and there really is not anything wrong with The Confession.
Profile Image for ☮Karen.
1,492 reviews9 followers
July 28, 2015
Reading The Confession I learned, if Mr. Grisham has his facts right, and of course he does, that in Texas they will convict for murder even if there's no dead body, AND, they can and will sentence you to death even if no dead body or DNA or evidence of any kind to speak of!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Maybe I need a few more exclamation points!

In Grisham's (I think) second book dedicated to slamming the death penalty, the action is all last minute. A guy is just days away from execution in Texas when someone else confesses to a Lutheran minister that he is the real killer. What to do and how to accomplish it, is there time, and does anyone care anymore? In Texas, what the officials really cared about was chalking up another successful execution, and not much more. There are a couple good guys working to pull off a last minute save, the requisite heroes of the novel; and since they were sharing that status here, I don't think Grisham fleshed them out fully enough for me.

Always great to read a very straight-forward, concise rendering of a legal case--just a very good story--that would make sense to anyone choosing to read it. This author never fails me.
Profile Image for Matthew.
40 reviews
August 6, 2021
John Grisham took an unfortunate approach in his effort to use fiction to turn his readers against the death penalty. I have nothing against didactism in fiction if it's well done, and I'm not resistant to the political position Grisham clearly hopes his readers will take, but this novel ultimately fails in its obvious mission to persuade readers to oppose capital punishment. It may have the opposite effect.

The problem is that his cast of characters -- a black Texas high school football star convicted of a rape and murder he didn't commit, his maverick defense attorney, the real killer who mysteriously decides to come clean on the eve of execution, and the Kansas pastor who hears the real killer's belated confession -- are caught up in such a perfect storm of wrongheaded prosecution and judicial incompetence that this is really a book about wrongful conviction, not capital punishment. That would be fine if Grisham were telling, as he has in other books, a story about wrongful conviction. But his singular focus on the horror of execution in this book makes the entire message backfire, and the reader may actually depart with the opposite sentiment from the one Grisham plainly desires -- that is, the reader may conlude that it takes such a fanciful set of circumstances to cause the execution of an innocent man that the risk of it happening in the real world is exceptionally low indeed.

Grisham never really connects the dots between wrongful conviction -- a very real problem -- and his opposition to capital punishment, and the result is that it often looks like he's straining to use a real problem to bootstrap opposition to a different problem. This book is occasionally entertaining, and the character of the real killer is particularly well drawn, but a book that tries this hard to teach a lesson needs to do a better job of it.
Profile Image for Pamela.
1,364 reviews75 followers
March 24, 2014
There was so much wrong with this book, and so little right with it that it's difficult to find a place to start the review. Although I am anti-death penalty and liberal and should have been Grisham's chosen choir to preach to, I couldn't finish the thing. It was beyond ridiculous.

Every character on the defendant's side was good. All the others--even the victim's mother--were horribly, horribly bad. Example: Mother of the victim blubbers when she cries. When mother of defendant cries, her "tears fall like gentle rain". Gimme a break!

This was bad enough, but when added to the fact that not a single one of the characters had any depth or dimension, it would have been laughable if it weren't so pathetic.

The plotting was contrived and convuluted. You didn't know what was going to happen next because none of it made any sense. Example:

The narrator in the audio version I listened to did his best to use different voices for the different characters, but even he couldn't do anything about the words. Grisham didn't bother to give different voices to his characters. He basically used one voice for the baddies and one voice for the goodies. The result is that the defendant used the same words and sounded exactly like the lawyer, and the governor sounded like the detective.

And the preaching! Sheesh! Minutes and minutes (pages and pages) of nothing but ranting and raving about how terrible the death penalty is. Mr. Grisham, does the phrase show don't tell ring a bell?

One thing I did learn from this book is that I will not be reading any more Grisham ever again. Never!

Profile Image for Corey.
422 reviews97 followers
January 8, 2020
For the longest time as much as I enjoyed the story and the setting, there were many times I just wanted to get up and throw something when I got to the point of corruption and talk of putting an innocent man wrongly convicted to death.

In the late 90's, in Texas, convict Travis Boyette abducted, raped, murdered High School cheerleader Nicole Yarber, and hid her body in a place that would never be found. Then Boyette sat by and watched as the Police arrested African-American High School Football star Donte Drumm, who attended the same school as Nicole, and who everyone believes is Nicole's killer, which Donte repeatedly denies.

Nine years later, Travis Boyette is out on parole for a different crime in the state of Kansas, and is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, and Donte Drumm in Texas is 4 days away from being executed by lethal injection. Now for the first time in his life, Boyette decides to come forward and confess, with the assistance of a young pastor Reverend Keith Schroeder, who has checked out Boyette's history and background, reluctantly agrees to take him across the state line (Which he can't legally do with Boyette being out on parole), to meet with Drumm's lawyer Robbie Flak (who years after Donte's conviction, still believes him to be innocent and hopes to learn the truth before it's too late) and have Boyette tell his side of the story and confess, and prevent the execution of an innocent man. But how can a guilty man convince the entire state of Texas that they're about to wrongfully execute the wrong man?

An intriguing powerful story, sad and tragic at times. I feel it has a lot of similarities to the film Dead Man Walking with Susan Sarandon and Sean Penn, where one of the main topics is the death penalty.
Profile Image for Sumit RK.
481 reviews456 followers
August 10, 2016
Just like the 'The Chamber' by the same author, 'The Confession' too deals with the highly controversial issue of the Death Penalty. But while the former had a plot, storyline, strong characters, this book reads a more like a political statement where the story, the characters,all have been relegated to the background.
The book feels long, the characters feel one-dimensional,the plot is convoluted and the preaching gets repetitive till the point of boredom. Grisham uses the problem of wrongful conviction to further his opposition to capital punishment and wastes an opportunity to present a thoughtful argument against the death penalty (which you may or may not agree).
Overall, A disappointing read. 2/5 stars
Profile Image for Ettore1207.
387 reviews
December 16, 2017
Lento, zeppo di particolari inutili, una palla di 400 e passa pagine probabilmente e proficuamente condensabili in meno della metà.
Un esempio qui sotto, l'inizio del Cap. 5. Sapete quanto è funzionale al romanzo questa pappardella? Ve lo dico io: niente. Sapete quando incontreremo di nuovo Mrs Aurelia e Mr Charles Cooper? Mai.

Al terzo piano del St Francis Hospital, Mrs Aurelia Lindmar si stava riprendendo da un intervento alla cistifellea e si sentiva piuttosto bene. Keith passò venti minuti con lei, mangiò due pezzetti di cioccolato scadente inviato per posta da una nipote e riuscì a congedarsi con grazia quando un'infermiera entrò con una siringa. Al terzo piano si fermò a parlare nel corridoio con quella che tra non molto sarebbe diventata la vedova di Mr Charles Cooper, un attivo membro di St Mark il cui cuore malandato stava ormai per cedere.
C'erano altri tre degenti che Keith avrebbe dovuto visitare, ma erano in condizioni stabili e sarebbero sopravvissuti fino all'indomani, quando avrebbe avuto più tempo a disposizione. Al primo piano trovò finalmente il dottor Herzlich il quale, seduto da solo in un salottino, stava leggendo un testo a caratteri fitti mentre mangiava un sandwich preso a un distributore automatico.
«Hai già pranzato?» chiese educatamente Kyle Herzlich, offrendo una sedia al suo pastore.
Keith si mise a sedere, lanciò un'occhiata al misero sandwich - pane bianco con in mezzo una sottile fetta di qualche salume dall'aspetto artificiale - e rispose: «No, grazie. Ho fatto colazione tardi»

La Nota dell'Autore a fine libro si commenta da sola:
Alcuni lettori oltremodo attenti potranno forse rilevare un paio di punti apparentemente erronei e prendere in considerazione l'idea di scrivermi per segnalarmeli. Che risparmino la carta. In questo libro ci sono degli errori, come sempre, e fino a quando continuerò a detestare il lavoro di ricerca - e contemporaneamente a non avere problemi nel manipolare ogni tanto i fatti - temo che gli errori continueranno a esserci. La mia speranza è che siano insignificanti.

Al di là dell'atteggiamento spocchioso, non capisco perché i lettori dovrebbero segnalare punti apparentemente erronei quando ce ne sono di realmente erronei.
A re Grisham tutto è concesso.
Profile Image for Natalie Vellacott.
Author 18 books858 followers
March 18, 2018
"Death is death and in the end nothing else matters except your relationship with God."

A truer statement would be tough to find anywhere in the world. It's sad that this isn't the focus of this book as Grisham once again uses his popularity as a platform for his anti-capital punishment views. Oh, and to highlight racist attitudes within the judicial system.

This time, we have a convicted murderer on death row awaiting his fate. The victim's body has never been found, but that isn't a problem in Texas as the lad is clearly guilty. After all, he confessed.

400 miles away in Kansas, Travis Boyette, a low-life criminal with a serious of sexual convictions, interrupts the life of a country vicar with his own confession of guilt. He seems to know a lot of details and offers to lead authorities to the location of the body. Will anyone take him seriously this long after the crime or will they execute an innocent man?

The first half of this book was interesting but it became somewhat repetitive and tedious after that. I wanted some twists and turns and less predictability, but sadly it wasn't to be. There was the usual amount of profanity; not a lot but it was there. There were details of murder and some sexual detail but I don't recall anything overly graphic.

I guess the moral of this story is that your conscience will eat away at you if there are skeletons in your closet. Boyette thought he had gotten away with murder, and in reality he had because another man was awaiting execution for the crime. However, we will all have to answer to God for our crimes in the end; to escape justice here on earth means nothing in the eyes of the Ultimate Judge who sees everything and will repay. Boyette's conscience began to bother him as he realised he might be dying and he determined to try and put things right. Living with a troubled conscience isn't much fun as most of us can testify!

There are better Grisham books, but this is worth a read.

Check out my John Grisham Shelf!
Profile Image for Chase.
76 reviews2 followers
July 30, 2011
Another well-written Grisham novel. This one covers the suspenseful hours potentially leading up a man's execution in East Texas during which time we see if the true murderer, the pastor escorting him and the convicted man's defense attorney can convince the authorities they have the wrong man. Although it is darker in subject matter than most of his work (including a brutal murder, wrongful conviction and looming execution), the book is full of the typical Grisham characters including powerful villains spinning a web of conspiracy versus an spunky team of underdog heroes risking it all in the fight for justice. It became readily apparent to me that Grisham wanted to convince the reader of the inhumanity of capital punishment (and I tend to agree, which perhaps made the novel more palatable for me.) Regardless of the author's social agenda, however, Grisham is a gifted storyteller who creates incredibly believable and gripping novels. This story was particularly compelling since it seems as if it could very well occur today (although admittedly in a less heart-pounding and climactic version).
Profile Image for Mike Adamchuk.
975 reviews
November 5, 2022
High school football hero Donte Druman was arrested, tried and convicted of the rape, murder and burial of a high school cheerleader. Loser Travis Baylor, released from prison for another crime, finds out that Donte is scheduled to be executed soon. Travis shows up at the church of Keith Broeder and tells him he is guilty of the murder. Together, they must convince lawyers to stop the execution. Good suspenseful story.
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