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Sycamore Row    by John Grisham order for
Sycamore Row
by John Grisham
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

John Grisham's Sycamore Row brings back the engaging characters of A Time to Kill three years later in Clanton, Mississippi. Though that case significantly enhanced his reputation, attorney Jake Brigance is still trying to recover his finances from its impact - his house was burned down (and his dog killed) by the Klan and the insurance claim has not yet been settled.

Sycamore Row opens on a well planned suicide. Seth Hubbard, dying of lung cancer, hung himself from an ancient sycamore on his property. Jake receives a letter from the deceased, along with a will. Hubbard has chosen Jake because of the Carl Lee Hailey trial, and wants him to act as attorney for the estate. Inexplicably, he has left almost everything to his black housekeeper, Lettie Lang, who's married to Simeon, a deadbeat, on and off the wagon.

Of course, we know that trouble looms for Jake once more and read on in total fascination. The estate is worth twenty million dollars. The two children (and grandchildren) excluded by the will contest it, flying in high powered attorneys. As always, Jake benefits from Harry Rex's advice. Lucien Wilbanks ('a toxic legend') stirs the pot as well, and though Jake didn't really want him involved, he ultimately makes a key contribution.

A simple case compared to the previous one? Seems so at first, but complications arise and the opposing lawyers (once their number is whittled down) exploit them with skill. Jake takes on Lettie's smart daughter Portia (who had just left the Army) as an intern. They research Lettie's ancestry and the search is on for Seth Hubbard's long lost brother, also named in the will.

As we expect, the case does not go well for Jake and his client and it's down to the wire when all learn why Seth Hubbard really left so much money to Lettie Lang. John Grisham is at the top of his game in Sycamore Row, which I highly recommend to you as a thoroughly satisfying and well developed legal mystery.

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