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Sycamore Row

Sycamore Row

4.2 1377
by John Grisham

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John Grisham takes you back to where it all began . . .

John Grisham's A Time to Kill is one of the most popular novels of our time. Now we return to that famous courthouse in Clanton as Jake Brigance once again finds himself embroiled in a fiercely controversial trial-a trial that will expose old racial tensions and force Ford County to


John Grisham takes you back to where it all began . . .

John Grisham's A Time to Kill is one of the most popular novels of our time. Now we return to that famous courthouse in Clanton as Jake Brigance once again finds himself embroiled in a fiercely controversial trial-a trial that will expose old racial tensions and force Ford County to confront its tortured history.

Seth Hubbard is a wealthy man dying of lung cancer. He trusts no one. Before he hangs himself from a sycamore tree, Hubbard leaves a new, handwritten, will. It is an act that drags his adult children, his black maid, and Jake into a conflict as riveting and dramatic as the murder trial that made Brigance one of Ford County's most notorious citizens, just three years earlier.

The second will raises far more questions than it answers. Why would Hubbard leave nearly all of his fortune to his maid? Had chemotherapy and painkillers affected his ability to think clearly? And what does it all have to do with a piece of land once known as Sycamore Row?

In Sycamore Row, John Grisham returns to the setting and the compelling characters that first established him as America's favorite storyteller. Here, in his most assured and thrilling novel yet, is a powerful testament to the fact that Grisham remains the master of the legal thriller, nearly twenty-five years after the publication of A Time to Kill.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Janet Maslin
Mr. Grisham's gift for manipulating and explicating legal battles makes this multifaceted one satisfyingly cagey…Mr. Grisham knows what lawyers have been taught to do. More important, he also knows how they actually behave…As Sycamore Row finally reaches its trial phase, the author hits his full stride. He knows the courtroom inside out, and he helpfully describes each little step of these proceedings. Even if sharp-eyed readers already know how the book's surprises may arise…they will still miss the final whammy that Mr. Grisham has in store.
The New York Times Book Review - Charlie Rubin
…Grisham's 26th adult novel and one of his finest…Sycamore Row reminds us that the best legal fiction is written by lawyers…but this novel is unavoidably, and thankfully, about far more than just probating a will. Law is indistinguishable from the history of race in the South…I believe [Sycamore Row and A Time to Kill] will now be read back to back—and, standing together, at last dispel the long shadow of Harper Lee…
Publishers Weekly
★ 10/28/2013
Leave it to Grisham to make a battle about wills nail-bitingly suspenseful in his second novel featuring lawyer Jake Brigance, the hero of Grisham’s debut, A Time to Kill. It’s 1988, and Seth Hubbard, an elderly man dying of cancer, hangs himself after leaving detailed instructions for his funeral—and a handwritten will, penned the day before, that disinherits his children and gives 90% of his estate to his African-American caretaker, Lettie Lang. Since that unwitnessed document contradicts an earlier one, and Hubbard’s assets are north of $20 million, Brigance, who was asked by Hubbard in a note to represent his interests, has a battle on his hands when the disinherited lawyer up. The storyline takes several dramatic turns, even as why Hubbard was so generous to Lang, whom he was not close to, remains a mystery. All the author’s strengths are in evidence—his capturing the rhythms of small-town life in Clanton, Miss., his skill at making legal minutiae comprehensible, and his gift at getting readers to care about his characters. Agent: David Gernert, Gernert Company. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
Praise for the novels of John Grisham  

"John Grisham is about as good a storyteller as we've got in the United States these days." —The New York Times Book Review

"John Grisham is exceptionally good at what he does—indeed, right now in this country, nobody does it better." —Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post

"Grisham is a marvelous storyteller who works readers the way a good trial lawyer works a jury." —Philadelphia Inquirer

"John Grisham owns the legal thriller." —The Denver Post

"John Grisham is not just popular, he is one of the most popular novelists of our time. He is a craftsman and he writes good stories, engaging characters, and clever plots." —Seattle Times

"A legal literary legend." —USA Today

Library Journal
Remember A Time To Kill's Jake Brigance? He's back, trying to make sure that justice is served in Ford County, MS, even as one small town's trial of the century seems set to pull folks apart. Just starting to buzz—one wishes that there were more plot details—but the return of Jack Brigance will set readers on fire.
Kirkus Reviews
A long-after sequel, of a sort, to A Time to Kill (1989), in which dogged attorney Jake Brigance fights for justice in a Mississippi town where justice is not always easy to come by. That's especially true when the uncomfortable question of race comes up, and here, it's a doozy. When local curmudgeon and secret millionaire Seth Hubbard puts an end to a lingering death, he leaves a holographic will placing the bulk of his fortune in the hands of the black woman who's been taking care of him, cutting his children and ex-wives out of the deal. That will also alludes to having seen "something no human should ever see"--a promising prompt, that is to say, for the tangled tale that follows. When Jake brings the housekeeper, Lettie Lang, news of the extent of her newfound wealth, her world begins to unravel as her husband brings in a battery of attorneys to join the small army of lawyers already fighting over Hubbard's will. Grisham, as always, is spot-on when it comes to matters of the bar, and the reader will learn a thing or two from him--for instance, that Mondays are the busiest days for divorce lawyers, "as marriages cracked over the weekends and spouses already at war ramped up their attacks." This being 1988, there's casual sexism aplenty in Grisham's tale; it being the flatland Deep South, there are heaping helpings of racial tension, and it's on that fact that the story turns. Grisham, as ever, delivers a vivid, wisecracking and tautly constructed legal procedural from which the reader might draw at least this lesson: You never want to wind up in front of a judge, even one as wise as the earwig-welcoming Reuben V. Atlee, and if you do, you want to have Jake Brigance on your side. Trademark Grisham, with carefully situated echoes of To Kill a Mockingbird. A top-notch thriller.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.56(w) x 9.56(h) x 1.48(d)

Read an Excerpt


They found Seth Hubbard in the general area where he had promised to be, though not exactly in the condition expected. He was at the end of a rope, six feet off the ground and twisting slightly in the wind. A front was moving through and Seth was soaked when they found him, not that it mattered. Someone would point out that there was no mud on his shoes and no tracks below him, so therefore he was probably hanging and dead when the rain began. Why was that important? Ultimately, it was not.

The logistics of hanging oneself from a tree are not that simple. Evidently, Seth thought of everything. The rope was three-quarter-inch braided natural Manila, of some age and easily strong enough to handle Seth, who weighed 160 pounds a month earlier at the doctor's office. Later, an employee in one of Seth's factories would report that he had seen his boss cut the fifty-foot length from a spool a week before using it in such dramatic fashion. One end was tied firmly to a lower branch of the same tree and secured with a slapdash mix of knots and lashings. But, they held. The other end was looped over a higher branch, two feet in girth and exactly twenty-one feet from the ground. From there it fell about nine feet, culminating in a perfect hangman's knot, one that Seth had undoubtedly worked on for some time. The noose was straight from the textbook with thirteen coils designed to collapse the loop under pressure. A true hangman's knot snaps the neck, making death quicker and less painful, and apparently Seth had done his homework. Other than what was obvious, there was no sign of a struggle or suffering.

A six-foot stepladder had been kicked aside and was lying benignly nearby. Seth had picked his tree, flung his rope, tied it off, climbed the ladder, adjusted the noose, and, when everything was just right, kicked the ladder and fell. His hands were free and dangling near his pockets.

Had there been an instant of doubt, of second-guessing? When his feet left the safety of the ladder, but with his hands still free, had Seth instinctively grabbed the rope above his head and fought desperately until he surrendered? No one would ever know, but it looked doubtful. Later evidence would reveal that Seth had been a man on a mission.

For the occasion, he had selected his finest suit, a thick wool blend, dark gray and usually reserved for funerals in cooler weather. He owned only three. A proper hanging has the effect of stretching the body, so Seth's trouser cuffs stopped at his ankles and his jacket stopped at his waist. His black wing tips were polished and spotless. His blue necktie was perfectly knotted. His white shirt, though, was stained with blood that had oozed from under the rope. Within hours, it would be known that Seth Hubbard had attended the 11:00 a.m. worship service at a nearby church. He had spoken to acquaintances, joked with a deacon, placed an offering in the plate, and seemed in reasonably good spirits. Most folks knew Seth was battling lung cancer, though virtually no one knew the doctors had given him a short time to live. Seth was on several prayer lists at the church. However, he carried the stigma of two divorces and would always be tainted as a true Christian.

His suicide would not help matters.

The tree was an ancient sycamore Seth and his family had owned for many years. The land around it was thick with hardwoods, valuable timber Seth had mortgaged repeatedly and parlayed into wealth. His father had acquired the land by dubious means back in the 1930s. Both of Seth's ex-wives had tried valiantly to take the land in the divorce wars, but he held on. They got virtually everything else.

First on the scene was Calvin Boggs, a handyman and farm laborer Seth had employed for several years. Early Sunday morning, Calvin had received a call from his boss. "Meet me at the bridge at 2:00 p.m.," Seth said. He didn't explain anything and Calvin was not one to ask questions. If Mr. Hubbard said to meet him somewhere at a certain time, then he would be there. At the last minute, Calvin's ten-year-old boy begged to tag along, and, against his instincts, Calvin said yes. They followed a gravel road that zigzagged for miles through the Hubbard property. As Calvin drove, he was certainly curious about the meeting. He could not remember another occasion when he met his boss anywhere on a Sunday afternoon. He knew his boss was ill and there were rumors he was dying, but, like everything else, Mr. Hubbard kept it quiet.

The bridge was nothing more than a wooden platform spanning a nameless, narrow creek choked with kudzu and crawling with cottonmouths. For months, Mr. Hubbard had been planning to replace it with a large concrete culvert, but his bad health had sidetracked him. It was near a clearing where two dilapidated shacks rotted in the brush and overgrowth and offered the only hint that there was once a small settlement there.

Parked near the bridge was Mr. Hubbard's late-model Cadillac, its driver's door open, along with the trunk. Calvin rolled to a stop behind the car and stared at the open trunk and door and felt the first hint that something might be out of place. The rain was steady now and the wind had picked up, and there was no good reason for Mr. Hubbard to leave his door and trunk open. Calvin told his boy to stay in the truck, then slowly walked around the car without touching it. There was no sign of his boss. Calvin took a deep breath, wiped moisture from his face, and looked at the landscape. Beyond the clearing, maybe a hundred yards away, he saw a body hanging from a tree. He returned to his truck, again told the boy to stay inside and keep the doors locked, but it was too late. The boy was staring at the sycamore in the distance.

"Stay here now," Calvin said sternly. "And don't get out of the truck."

"Yes sir."

Calvin began walking. He took his time as his boots slipped in the mud and his mind tried to stay calm. What was the hurry? The closer he got the clearer things became. The man in the dark suit at the end of the rope was quite dead. Calvin finally recognized him, and he saw the stepladder, and he quickly put the scene and the events in order. Touching nothing, he backed away and returned to his truck.

It was October of 1988, and car phones had finally arrived in rural Mississippi. At Mr. Hubbard's insistence, Calvin had one installed in his truck. He called the Ford County sheriff's office, gave a brief report, and began waiting. Warmed by the heater and soothed by Merle Haggard on the radio, Calvin gazed through the windshield, ignored the boy, tapped his fingers along with the wipers, and realized he was crying. The boy was afraid to speak.


Meet the Author

JOHN GRISHAM is the author of twenty-six novels, one work of nonfiction, a collection of stories, and four novels for young readers.




Brief Biography

Oxford, Mississippi, and Albemarle County, Virginia
Date of Birth:
February 8, 1955
Place of Birth:
Jonesboro, Arkansas
B.S., Mississippi State, 1977; J.D., University of Mississippi, 1981

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Sycamore Row 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1377 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading Sycamore Row and could not put it down!  Wonderfully written, you feel as though you are right there with Jake Brigance throughout the book.  It has a lot of twists and turns and tells it like it was and is in the deep South.  I can't wait until his next book comes out! 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was taking a plane trip from San Diego airport to Seattle. Didn't have a book to read so purchased the first novel of John Grisham....started it as soon as we were in the air.....reached my destination and didn't want to put the book down....have been a fan of Grisham since....He is just the best. My entire family of myself,my husband and 5 children all feel the same way. Hard to put his books down.. Thank you John Grisham for all your wonderful stories.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read every book Grisham has written. He is of course a very accomplished author. This is a tremendous story, and it was very well crafted. In many ways, it might have been the very best, as it did literally bring a tear yo my eye. Read this book. 
PattonJ More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down. If you enjoy a great mystery then this is the book for you. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the formula Grisham used in his best novels. It's a page turner that grabs you on the first page and doesn't let go until the last sentence on the last page. So many twists and turns, plots and sub-plots, surprises and disappointments. I enjoyed it do much, I hated to see it end.
ATLNoel More than 1 year ago
Grisham has done it again!  I've read all of his legal thrillers, and this is one of his best. I REALLY hope they consider making this a film, too.   I could not read the book fast enough.  Keep them coming!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is classic Grisham. Some of his books are a bit humorous. Some are very serious. All are great stories told by a true story-teller. This one, well, I'm not far enough into it to tell you whether it's humorous or serious but enough to say it's in his tradition of great stories!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can already visualize this book made into a movie. The characters from "A Time To Kill" again sharing an interesting tale. My only regret is that this book was published too late to have been my companion as I sat on the beach in Destin. Good page turners seem all to rare and I've come to rely on the consistency of this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such great plots, twists, and turns. You had no idea which way to lean from one page to the next. So many incredible surprises that put knots in my stomach. Grisham is a masterful storyteller and writer. Hated to see the story come to an end. MJM
XXXOOOBookwormOOOXXX More than 1 year ago
This was hands-down the best book I've read in many years. Grisham knows how to spin a yarn, but this one took the cake! From the opening pages, it captures the imagination: What was going on with Seth Hubbard? Totally dysfunctional family or just a sick, bitter old man on a mission? I could not lay this book down and was deliciously surprised at so many twists and turns. Every passage, every character reagent to the incredible outcome, so pay attention! Thought I had this one figured out, only to have Mr. Gresham throw me a delightful curve during the last few pages. I just don't think I will EVER forget this book. I loved reading about Jake and Harry Rex and how they continued on after the murder trial. I would love to read a follow up to Sycamore Row too. Maybe a book where Jake has finally "arrived" much like the career path that Grisham's life took. Good work Mr Grisham!! As always this book was quite entertaining. "Sycamore Row" brings the some of the main characters from "A Time to Kill" back to life in a story that kept me turning pages. As always with Grisham, I felt like I knew the characters personally. Here's hoping for more Jake Brigance novels and a Hollywood adaptation of "Sycamore Row".  Absolutely loved the book.    
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read all of Grisham's books. Until now, "A Time to Kill" was my favorite even though I haven't found one I didn't like. I just finished this book and it is his best. After reading all of them, you know there is going to be a twist at the end; but the finishing few pages of 'Sycamore Row" are without equal. Kudos Mr. Grisham!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not his best, but a good read. Somewhat predictable and occasionally drawn out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A little drawn out. A time to kill was much better,and more plausible. I enjoy John Grisholm books,this was a little disappointing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome! Another hit!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very great book one of the best grishom books to me
FP-Ballard More than 1 year ago
Good verses bad. Right versus wrong. Justice versus injustice. All these apply to Sycamore Row. I enjoyed the book. I knew I would. The setting in the story stick with you. The characters John was writing about grip you. You feel the emotion in small story after small story within this novel. There's a terrific build up to a twist and turn ending. If you enjoy Grisham's novels, then this is a must read for you.
coreyblissford More than 1 year ago
A fantastic book. One of Grisham's best.
Tough_critique More than 1 year ago
I have read more than half. I am not sure if I should waste time reading more. How many days does it take for John Grisham to write his novels, I wonder. It is simple, everything is as expected and to satisfy the reader. After reading a couple of award winner books back to back, I found this novel extremely simple. Disappointing. (It could be useful for people who are in litigation for inheritance..)
readzalot2 More than 1 year ago
After reading about Sycamore Row, I purchased A Time To Kill on my Nook to re-read. I fell in love with the characters all over again, and was reminded how I once loved John Grisham's writing. I then purchased Sycamore Row, also on my Nook, and was so excited about starting the story. I was sorely disappointed. The characters fell short...I found I didn't really care about them. I struggled to even finish the novel, finding myself nodding off when reading...it just did not hold my interest.
Mysticbooks More than 1 year ago
I give Sycamore Row 5 stars.
Kaayres More than 1 year ago
I must say I was very excited to get this book because A Time To Kill is not only my favorite Grisham but one of my favorite books ever. However, with 85 pages to go in the book I kept waiting for it to get better. The sub-plot with the house was boring and tedious, there were so many ancillary characters that I just couldn't care about them. I would say it is worth a read, in paperback, don't spend the money on hardcover or Nook. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
started off great but fast became every slow and borring, Very predictable and dissapoiting.
JHinNH More than 1 year ago
Great read, but it falls apart a bit at the end. There are some gaping holes in the conclusions -- too many unexplained coincidences where Grisham is usually so tight.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We all still love Jake Brigance. The character is the only saving grace for this book. Very predictable, nothing shocking. Court room scenes were also ok. All in all a decent read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Okay,I read, John Grisham's, Theodore Boone series and i loved it. So I know when I read this book I will love it too. His books just seem to captivate you from the first word. I used to never be interested in books like that, that is until I picked up a book by John Grisham. He is like the only author who seems to really understand what he is writing about. I have loved his work from the very beginning. When people tell me they have never read any of his books, I literally freak out. I am his #1 fan!