Russ's Reviews > A Time to Kill

A Time to Kill by John Grisham
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's review
Feb 22, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: 2010, novel, thriller
Read from February 22 to March 02, 2010 , read count: 1

** spoiler alert ** A Time To Kill was John Grisham's first novel. So how did he do?

He did very well indeed! I enjoy Grisham's novels, but I'm also very critical of them. I would put A Time To Kill right up there with The Firm among Grisham's best.

I really admire how Grisham made this novel action-packed and full of tension. I got a sense that the narrative was progressing, getting stronger and stronger until it reached its thrilling climax. I really felt the craziness and confusion of the situation and wondered what it would be like to live in a small town during a big, controversial trial. I had real empathy for the characters, afraid for their lives while trying to do the right thing. I hardly wanted to put the book down.

Since this was Grisham's first novel, it's interesting to see how he treated the technical parts of the book. The courtroom scenes are interesting, but occasionally a bit tedious. Watching a trial is not always fun, so reading about one can't always be fun either. In later novels, I think Grisham found ways to get across the courtroom action without putting in ever detail of the proceedings.

One thing Grisham does well is write characters. The characters here are certainly colorful. We don't really get to know Carl Lee Hailey all that well, but maybe that's not such a bad thing. Jake Brigance is the main character, though, and I like what Grisham did with him. He put in little details like Jake's love of cigars, his tense relationship with his secretary, and his vanity. All of these things make Jake more than just an "everyman" whom we are supposed to identify with. He's not perfect, but he tries. I also liked his sassy banter with Ellen "Row Ark" Roark. I could tell the two had a respect for each other and a mentor-student quality about them. I appreciate that Grisham did not put any romance in the equation. That happens far too often in novels in situations where it doesn't belong. It's refreshing to see an older, married man and a younger woman have a strictly professional relationship.

Lucien and Harry Rex are two of the more colorful characters in the novel, but I think they were a bit too simplistic with all their drinking. Alcohol seems to be all they thought about, and when you add Dr. Bass and his drinking, it's just too much. That said, Lucien is one of the more memorable characters. He's a true free spirit and livens up the action.

I don't know what more to write than to say I really enjoyed this novel. It's a classic Grisham novel.

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Reading Progress

03/03/2010 "Done!"

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