A Time To Kill by John Grisham

‘A Time To Kill’ is the first John Grisham book that I’ve read for years and now I can’t work out why I haven’t been reading Grisham books regularly. I picked this book up because ‘Sycamore Row’, due for release later this year, is a sequel to this book.

This book was written in the late 1980s but set in the 1970s in the small town of Clanton Mississippi (it could be the 1870s given the state of race relations portrayed in the book). The story starts with 10 year old Tonya, a black girl, being brutally raped by two drunken, drugged white men. Her father – Carl Lee, believing that there can be no real justice for blacks against whites, gets hold of an assault rifle and kills the two rapists as they are leaving the courthouse.

Carl Lee has already chosen Jake Brigance to defend him. Jake is a young and inexperienced local defense lawyer (white) who does much of his work for the local black people and poorer whites.

The book highlights the racial tensions caused by the court case which polarises the county into those who wanted Carl Lee found guilty and those who wanted him set free. Both the Ku Klux Klan and the NAACP get heavily involved in the case.

Obviously Carl Lee murdered the two rapists, but if a white man killed two black men who raped his daughter, would he end up on death row?


This was an excellent novel. I’ve heard that the movie is also excellent. The novel could have been a bit shorter – some parts seemed to drag a bit, but on the whole it kept my attention and the character portrayal was brilliant. There were some particularly gruesome scenes which turned my stomach. The whole area of vigilantism is a grey one for me, and this story certainly didn’t help me in that regard.

I’m not sure why I haven’t read much John Grisham lately, but I intend to remedy that. And, I can’t wait to read the sequel to this book – ‘Sycamore Row’.


Book Published 1989


See a full list of books by John Grisham

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