Jack Brigance is back in a long awaited sequel to the ‘A Time to Kill’. The book, set in early 1980s, has been amiably named after the sycamore trees which play a significant role from the start and in the end. The story begins three years after the events of the preceding novel, it begins with the suicide of the wealthy and recluse Seth Hubbard and is found by his employee hanging on a sycamore tree. The protagonist Jack Brigrance, who has gained fame defending Carl Lee Hailey is struggling monetarily after the KKK burnt down his home during the trial of Hailey has been locked head on with the insurance company for his burnt home and even after attaining fame does not have a lucrative practice, receives a mail from the deceased Hubbard, who is revealed to terminally ill with lung cancer and was in tremendous pain, which arrives a day after his death with a holographic will and expressly renouncing his previous one in which his children and grandchildren would have inherited, and set of instructions which he would like Brigance to follow with regards to his new one.
In the new, last minute drafted will which he himself has drafted, and legal and binding according law, disowns and leaves nothing to his children and instead five percent be given to his brother of whom nothing has been heard of for more than a decade, five to a local church and the remaining ninety percent of his estate to his black house-keeper. The nature of the will creates quite controversy in the county and people are bewildered why the black house-keeper, Lettie Langis set to be inherit millions and possibly the reason for such unheard action.
The will is soon challengedby the deceased’s children in the court of law and Jack has to defend the will and make sure is implemented as instructed against a battery of lawyers. Whilst awaiting trial, the entry of a new lawyer teaming up with Rufus Buckley from the previous novel whose race baiting can severely damage the changes of Jack’s to win the case tried by jury in racially segregated Deep South, and Lettie’s husband who under influence of alcoholrams his truck and kills two teenagers turns the people against them which makes the already difficult case to win nearly impossible. Lucien Wilbanks, the disbarred only white NAACP member and Jack’s mentor makes a comeback, cutting his drinking down and with the determination of passing bar exam once more.
Helping them in the trial are Jake’s old friend and Lettie’s daughter who has recently discharged from the army and aspires to join law school and become a lawyer. Stakes are high as the opposing is ready to bend the rules and have few surprises up their sleeve which came change the case to their side. The courtroom scenes are thrilling and grip you like all John Grisham novels do. The exchanges from the both side are fun and keeps you guessing which way the verdict will go. The case seems to be all lost when Lucien comes to the rescue with the sensational deposition of Ancil Hubbard who is still alive. This deposition is the life of this novel and hits home and reveals the reason why Seth Hubbard made such a will. It reveals the bitter history of Deep South where the blacks were attacked and lynched with impunity while the police looked as a bystander, sometimes encouraging such lawless action. The final chapter will bring a tear in the eye of the reader.
Willie Traynor (from the novel ‘The Last Juror’) makes a cameo which is appreciable and does not feel forced. The novel deals with various themes of law as well as society. The lawyer’s duty towards his client the ethics, the relation between the bar and the judge, how a lawyer should conduct himself in the court and not hurt his client’s case for his own personal fame. The protagonist has an unusual and close relation with the presiding judge of the case, from being invited to his house and discussing the case and sometimes making remarks which help Jack to make the required change in his strategy.
This relation is passed off as usual for a small town but if this relation would have been with the other side, the reader would cry of the violation of fair trial. The Memphis lawyer who is trying to hijack the trial and take the case from Jack is amply being described with the features like clothes, build, manner of addressing the judge and the jury and is notorious for suing the police department is very close to that of Late Johnnie Cockrun who is famous for successfully defending O.J. Simpson among many celebrities is relegated to only racially dividing the jury to win. The book starts with slow pace but becomes interesting and completely grind you to end. The book divulges into one the important sphere of trial where the procedure is explained when the deposition of Ancil Hubbard is allowed to be presented to the jury which according to law should not have been done.
This becomes one of the main arguments for the opposing side in the appeal and Jake, who ‘expectedly’ on advice of the judge, reaches a settlement with Seth Hubbard’s children to bring an end to the case. The ending is quite powerful and will bring tears when Lettie meets with Ancil. I have deliberately left out what was in the testimony of Ancil but has given ample clues to piece together. Read the book and you will not be disappointed. One last clue, it is the important thing United States which is currently bitterly divided amongst racial lines and Black Lives Matter highlighting the racial prejudice of the police and dangerous thinking of people who think they will not be brought before law if their victim is a coloured person, this one word which is reviled and not to mentioned to any side: Reconciliation.
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
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