A young man has been convicted of murder and is scheduled to be executed in a few days. A shady-looking character, Travis Boyette, drops into Pastor Keith Schroeder’s church office and says he doesn’t want that boy to die for a crime that he, Travis, committed. Long story short, he coerces Keith into taking him to Sloan, Texas, so he can confess and show them literally where the body is buried.
John Grisham is a master of twists and turns. No matter how many times you’re sure you know what’s going to happen, you don’t. That’s all I can tell you about the story without giving taking all the fun out of it.
The first thing this book is, is a scathing indictment of the Texas legal system. Of course, this story never happened, but for Mr. Grisham to be that critical of their capital punishment practices and paint such horrendous pictures of the people who let this happen, ya gotta figure he’s done his homework.
It’s also about the racial tension in the city. It seemed like everyone got along, but when a Black boy is accused of murdering a white girl, it created a divide. Things are still pretty much okay, right up until a few days before the execution.
Travis does arrive in time to stop the execution and does go very public with his confession, siting details no one knew, but that fit perfectly with what they do know, but the legal system doesn’t want to hear it. They have no intention of backing down from their stance. They caught the monster who did it and to admit otherwise would mean they had made a mistake.
This is where the heart of the book is, watching how time after time, detectives, judges, the mayor, and the governor slam the door – in one case, literally – in the faces of the attorneys trying to present exculpatory evidence. It seems unbelievable that things like that could actually happen, that politicians and police could be so heartless and self-serving as to knowingly execute the wrong man. But again, I have to assume…
Many times, the reader is put in Keith’s spot, wondering what is the right thing to do. Most of the time, it’s not really clear and it makes the reader wonder about their own courage and where their loyalties lie. Any book that gets you thinking like that is worth reading, in my mind. I really think you’ll like this book.