Library Journal Review
Injured World War II hero Pete Banning calmly walks into Rev. Dexter Bell's church office and shoots him in the head three times. Pete refuses to reveal his motive for the shooting to anyone, not even to his adoring wife, Liza; his two teenage children; or his concerned sister, Florry. The story flashes back to Pete's horrific experiences as an American soldier captured by the Japanese and as the commander of a band of resistance fighters. Soon after Pete returns to Clanton, his wife has a nervous breakdown and Pete admits her to a mental institution. Heartbreaking and surprising family secrets are revealed only at the end of the story. Michael Beck does an excellent reading. He moves seamlessly from the Standard English of the narrator to the pleasant Southern drawl of the main characters. -VERDICT Highly recommended for fiction collections and especially for Grisham and William Faulkner fans, as well as those who enjoy historical fiction and stories set in the South.-Ilka -Gordon, Beachwood, OH © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Why would a respected war hero cold-bloodedly gun down the local pastor? That's the central mystery in this subpar outing from bestseller Grisham (The Rooster Bar). One morning in 1946, Pete Banning, a WWII vet and Ford County, Miss., cotton farmer who recently committed his wife, Liza, to a hospital, accepts "the solemn reality that it was time for the killing." After having breakfast with his sister, Florry, Banning drives to the Clanton Methodist Church, where he shoots the Rev. Dexter Bell three times at point-blank range. He then aims his weapon at the black man who cleans the church, Hop Purdue, before sparing Hop's life and instructing him to fetch the sheriff. Banning offers no resistance to his arrest and no explanation for his actions-to the sheriff, his defense attorney, or Florry. He refuses to allow his attorney to plead insanity, or even to ask for a change of venue. It seems that the shooting may have something to do with Liza, but Banning's motive is only clarified late in the book, and that revelation doesn't make it easy for readers to empathize with him. Grisham fans will hope for a return to form next time. Agent: David Gernert, Gernert Company. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Booklist Review
Shortly after WWII, a decorated veteran, a genuine war hero, calmly and with malice aforethought murders a Methodist preacher. He makes no effort to conceal the crime, and, even after he's arrested and charged with homicide, he refuses to give anyone, even his lawyer, an explanation. His family is distraught; the murdered man's family is grief-stricken. What makes Grisham's latest something more than a typical legal thriller is its structure. The tale begins with the crime itself, then takes us back in time to 20 years before the murder, portraying the events that led up to it. Finally, the narrative jumps forward again, to the aftermath of the trial. If Grisham had elected to tell this story in a linear fashion, it would have been a good, if unremarkable, thriller. But spooled out in this deliberately disjointed fashion, it becomes a fascinating literary jigsaw puzzle, with pieces of the story from the book's multiple sections finally clicking into place in the end. This is Grisham experimenting with the traditional legal-thriller format, and his experiment yields thoroughly engaging results. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The Grisham brand shows no signs of losing its power to draw readers, giving him the leverage to play with the thriller format, as he does successfully here.--David Pitt Copyright 2018 Booklist