A Time to Kill by John Grisham

Published February 17, 2019

A Time to Kill by John Grisham

Book info

  • Title A Time to Kill
  • Author John Grisham
  • Year 1989
  • Genres Mystery, Thriller, Crime, Suspense

When Carl Lee Hailey guns down the violent racists who raped his ten-year-old daughter, the people of the small town of Clanton, Mississippi see it as justice done, and call for his acquittal. But when extremists outside Clanton - including the KKK - hear that a black man has killed two white men, they invade the town, determined to destroy anything and anyone that opposes their sense of justice. A national media circus descends on Clanton. As tensions mount, Hailey hires the inexperienced Jake Brigance to defend him. It's the kind of case that could make a young lawyer's career. But it's also the kind of case that could get a young lawyer killed.


I love reading John Grisham’s legal thrillers so I don’t really need an excuse to pick one up, however I was urged towards this after watching the film. The movie is very close to the book, but my word the novel moves glacially slowly. You can see that it’s pace is designed to ramp up the tensions felt by everyone involved but it does make it a bit of a slog, especially in the middle.

I get that picking a jury is an important part of the process, but I don’t necessarily want to know the details of every single potential juror. Still, it is a fascinating glimpse of the frustrations of practicing law in areas that have segregation and racism even where they should have grown out of both things.

There are hard details in there, moments of violence and hatred that make you stop and think, but in the end, our protagonist does what he can and the verdict is reached. It’s hard to know whether it’s a happy ending or not, but it’s a satisfying conclusion after a long old read.

Rating: 3 / 5

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