Review by Jim McCarthy
After a blockbuster start with A Time to Kill in 1981, followed by a dozen equally captivating legal dramas and thrillers, John Grisham’s works beginning in the early 2000s began to stumble. The Reckoning seemed an attempt to recapture his early glory and storytelling power. Maybe yes, maybe no.
While this latest attempt has been on most best-seller lists for months, The Reckoning simply lacks the depth of both character and plot development that marked Grisham’s earlier efforts. It has some moments of authenticity, especially a description of the Bataan Death March in the Philippines in WWII. However, the climax of the novel is disappointing, mired as it is in a libidinous blind alley of family secrets that appears, on one hand, to be implausible and, on the other, a trifle.
The cast of characters, especially the family of the protagonist, is unfortunately tied to the chain of events and none are ever able to emerge as whole or full persons to meet the challenge of the drama in which they find themselves. Grisham attempts to weave some color by way of legal matters based upon his early years practicing in Mississippi, but there is little drama in estate battles where the stakes are not life threatening or fatal.
It is hoped that Grisham regains his mojo for the future to return us to those thrilling days of yesteryear.