Plot summary :
In 1998 , in the East Texas city of Sloan , Nicole Yarber , a popular high-school cheerleader went missing when she had gone to a mall with her friends . The police arrested Donte Drumm , a local football star based on an anonymous tip . The trial , conviction and the sentence followed surprisingly very quickly – Drumm is currently on death row . Over the past nine years , Donte ‘ s lawyer , Robbie Flak , had mounted a fierce defense for his client but it had not helped .
Now , just four days from the scheduled execution of Donte , the real murderer , Travis Boyette , who is suffering from an inoperable Stage IV glioblastoma finally decides that it is time to do the right thing . He had abducted Nicole , raped her repeatedly before murdering her and burying the body so that it could never be found . He knows his end is near and now wants to save an innocent kid from the needle .
With the clock ticking on relentlessly , Robbie Flask leaves no appeals unfiled in the hope that he might still get his client a few more days – and hope that something would turn up in the meanwhile to help clear his name . Finally Travis B. lands in the office of Flask , only 24 hours before the scheduled execution of Donte .
But can Travis ‘ confession help Donte , when it comes at the eleventh hour ?
My thoughts about the book :
The book opens with four days only to go for the scheduled execution of Donte Drumm for Nicole ‘ s murder . Donte ‘ s existence suddenly is recognized by the townspeople who had almost forgotten him during the last nine years – the blacks are angry about Donte’s conviction by an all-white jury while the whites are hell-bent on seeing the execution through . The city becomes further polarized with radical ” leaders ” making short appearances and making hatred fueling speeches . In short , the city is looking at a possible race riot – even if it is on a smaller scale . And with all this drama centered around one man’s question of life or death , Grisham has done a fabulous job of exploring the entire timeline post the wrongful conviction – from the forced confession extracted from 18 year old Donte to a city that is racially divided in it’s opinions about his guilt and punishment , nine years later & staring at a grim possibility of a race-riot breaking out .
We have all seen suspense authors struggling to come up with interesting scenes for a 270 – 300 page thriller and sometimes failing miserably at it – the time and place might be different , but it’s still the regular pub visit or weekend parties which the reader will be reading about , for the umpteenth time . But Grisham does not seem to have that issue – with all the pro – Donte protests , the internet abduct-the-prisoner schemes , the defense-lawyer’s-office-drama , the-governor’s-office – drama , the-defendant’s – story and a lot more all packed in a 418 paperback , it is an immensely entertaining and racy read .
It does more than entertain alone actually – it gets the reader thinking about innocent victims who have been / are being persecuted by the state ‘ s judicial system . I am not from USA , but what has been portrayed in the fictional Sloan can happen in Salem in TN [ state in India ] . Specially , the portions covering Donte ‘ s prison life were not-an-easy read . For the truly guilty , perhaps , there would be some kind of acceptance of their punishment as justified . Grisham has given a glimpse into the life of an innocent man , sentenced to death – the treatment in prison , the loneliness , the agonizing over what-could-have-if-only train of thoughts and the lingering nightmare of the eventual death that awaits him .
The prose of Grisham reflects the race against time – there are no adverbs / overly descriptive fluffy words yet it gives a really good picture of the situation and surroundings . Every Grisham creation talks like their creator – sharpshooting & thoroughly entertaining . Perhaps , he agrees with Stephen King that the road to hell is paved with adverbs . Robbie Flak , like several eccentric – lawyer creations of Grisham , is a rebel – a thorn on the side of prosecutors and detectives who go with crowd-pleasing propositions – like asking for death penalty for Donte . On Robbie Flak’s efforts to exonerate Drumm in the murder case :
” For nine years , he had fought for Donte Drumm . He had waged war as he had never before . He had fought like a madman at the ridiculous trial in which Donte was convicted of the murder . He had abused the appellate courts during his appeals . He danced around ethics and skirted the law. He had written grating articles declaring his client’s innocence . He had paid experts to concoct novel theories that no one bought . He pestered the governor to the point that his calls were not returned , not even by lowly staffers . He had lobbied politicians , innocence groups , religious groups , bar associations , civil rights advocates , the ACLU , Amnesty International , death-penalty abolitionists , anybody and everybody who might be possibly able to do something to save his client . Yet the clock had not stopped . It is still ticking louder and louder…”
Loved this book . Grisham says in his note that ” 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 …” While , I have little idea about investigation and police procedural in USA ( or even India , for that matter ) , I have decided to take his advice and stop even gushing too much about the writing and the terrific plot . I have given a sample paragraph – the entire book’s every paragraph is like the one above , sharpshooting and witty , very often satirical .
Only one line for the readers of this post out there – a must-read for thriller fans out there .
Rating : 5 / 5
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