Friday 15 December 2017

Review: The Confession by John Grisham

Century, €22.22, Hardback

With more than 250 million copies of his books published in 29 languages, John Grisham is a publishing phenomenon. Hard to believe now, but he actually got off to a slow start -- his first novel, A Time to Kill, appeared in 1989 after being rejected by 28 publishers.

In 1991 he hit the literary jackpot with the publication of The Firm, a nail-biting story of a young lawyer who accepts a job too good to be true. It spent 47 weeks on the New York Times bestsellers list, sold seven million copies and was turned into a successful Sidney Pollack film starring Tom Cruise.

The former lawyer is passionately anti-death penalty. Four years ago his first non-fiction work, The Innocent Man, told the true story of two friends tried and convicted of the murder of a cocktail waitress in Oklahoma.

Grisham's investigation excoriated the police and the prosecutor in the case, who used forced confessions, unreliable witnesses and flimsy evidence to obtain their conviction. His latest novel, The Confession, fictionalises many of the key episodes of this book.

In The Confession, Reverend Keith Schroder is a 35-year-old Lutheran minister in Topeka, Kansas, living a fulfilling and relatively uncomplicated life. Then Travis Boyette, a convicted sex offender, walks into his office and confesses to murder. He says that in 1998 he abducted, raped and killed a popular high school cheerleader in Texas and buried her body in a different state. He has an inoperable and fast-growing brain tumour and wants to clean the slate before he meets his maker.

Even more shocking is the fact that, as he tells Reverend Schroder, an innocent man, a black teenager from the girl's home town called Donté Drumm, was charged with the murder, convicted and is due to be executed in just four days. Troubled by Boyette's confession, Schroder delves into the murder case and becomes convinced he has to do something to try to save the young man's life.

Drumm has always denied he killed the young woman. Robbie Flak, a flamboyant pro-bono civil rights lawyer has taken up cudgels on behalf of Donté, and can prove the case against Drumm is hugely flawed, but all his meticulously prepared appeals have been turned down. Flak and his crack team of lawyers will need a miracle if an innocent man is not to die.

A juggernaut of a legal thriller that will have readers turning pages in a blur.

Irish Independent

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