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The Reckoning
Cover of The Reckoning
The Reckoning
A Novel
#1 bestselling author John Grisham's The Reckoning is his most powerful, surprising, and suspenseful thriller yet.

"A murder mystery, a courtroom drama, a family saga...The Reckoning is Grisham's argument that he's not just a boilerplate thriller writer. Most jurors will think the counselor has made his case."
USA Today

October 1946, Clanton, Mississippi

Pete Banning was Clanton, Mississippi's favorite son—a decorated World War II hero, the patriarch of a prominent family, a farmer, father, neighbor, and a faithful member of the Methodist church. Then one cool October morning he rose early, drove into town, and committed a shocking crime. Pete's only statement about it—to the sheriff, to his lawyers, to the judge, to the jury, and to his family—was: "I have nothing to say." He was not afraid of death and was willing to take his motive to the grave.

In a major novel unlike anything he has written before, John Grisham takes us on an incredible journey, from the Jim Crow South to the jungles of the Philippines during World War II; from an insane asylum filled with secrets to the Clanton courtroom where Pete's defense attorney tries desperately to save him.
Reminiscent of the finest tradition of Southern Gothic storytelling, The Reckoning would not be complete without Grisham's signature layers of legal suspense, and he delivers on every page.
#1 bestselling author John Grisham's The Reckoning is his most powerful, surprising, and suspenseful thriller yet.

"A murder mystery, a courtroom drama, a family saga...The Reckoning is Grisham's argument that he's not just a boilerplate thriller writer. Most jurors will think the counselor has made his case."
USA Today

October 1946, Clanton, Mississippi

Pete Banning was Clanton, Mississippi's favorite son—a decorated World War II hero, the patriarch of a prominent family, a farmer, father, neighbor, and a faithful member of the Methodist church. Then one cool October morning he rose early, drove into town, and committed a shocking crime. Pete's only statement about it—to the sheriff, to his lawyers, to the judge, to the jury, and to his family—was: "I have nothing to say." He was not afraid of death and was willing to take his motive to the grave.

In a major novel unlike anything he has written before, John Grisham takes us on an incredible journey, from the Jim Crow South to the jungles of the Philippines during World War II; from an insane asylum filled with secrets to the Clanton courtroom where Pete's defense attorney tries desperately to save him.
Reminiscent of the finest tradition of Southern Gothic storytelling, The Reckoning would not be complete without Grisham's signature layers of legal suspense, and he delivers on every page.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book Chapter 1


    On a cold morning in early October of 1946, Pete Banning awoke before sunrise and had no thoughts of going back to sleep. For a long time he lay in the center of his bed, stared at the dark ceiling, and asked himself for the thousandth time if he had the courage. Finally, as the first trace of dawn peeked through a window, he accepted the solemn reality that it was time for the killing. The need for it had become so overwhelming that he could not continue with his daily routines. He could not remain the man he was until the deed was done. Its planning was simple, yet difficult to imagine. Its aftershocks would rattle on for decades and change the lives of those he loved and many of those he didn't. Its notoriety would create a legend, though he certainly wanted no fame. Indeed, as was his nature, he wished to avoid the attention, but that would not be possible. He had no choice. The truth had slowly been revealed, and once he had the full grasp of it, the killing became as inevitable as the sunrise.
    He dressed slowly, as always, his war‑wounded legs stiff and painful from the night, and made his way through the dark house to the kitchen, where he turned on a dim light and brewed his coffee. As it percolated, he stood ramrod straight beside the breakfast table, clasped his hands behind his head, and gently bent both knees. He grimaced as pain radiated from his hips to his ankles, but he held the squat for ten seconds. He relaxed, did it again and again, each time sinking lower. There were metal rods in his left leg and shrapnel in his right.
    Pete poured coffee, added milk and sugar, and walked outside onto the back porch, where he stood at the steps and looked across his land. The sun was breaking in the east and a yellowish light cast itself across the sea of white. The fields were thick and heavy with cotton that looked like fallen snow, and on any other day Pete would manage a smile at what would certainly be a bumper crop. But there would be no smiles on this day; only tears, and lots of them. To avoid the killing, though, would be an act of cowardice, a notion unknown to his being. He sipped his coffee and admired his land and was comforted by its security. Below the blanket of white was a layer of rich black topsoil that had been owned by Bannings for over a hundred years. Those in power would take him away and would probably execute him, but his land would endure forever and support his family.
    Mack, his bluetick hound, awoke from his slumber and joined him on the porch. Pete spoke to him and rubbed his head.
    The cotton was bursting in the bolls and straining to be picked, and before long teams of field hands would load into wagons for the ride to the far acres. As a boy, Pete rode in the wagon with the Negroes and pulled a cotton sack twelve hours a day. The Bannings were farmers and landowners, but they were workers, not gentrified planters with decadent lives made possible by the sweat of others.
    He sipped his coffee and watched the fallen snow grow whiter as the sky brightened. In the distance, beyond the cattle barn and the chicken coop, he heard the voices of the Negroes as they were gathering at the tractor shed for another long day. They were men and women he had known his entire life, dirt‑poor field hands whose ancestors had toiled the same land for a century. What would happen to them after the killing? Nothing, really. They had survived with little and knew nothing else. Tomorrow, they would gather in stunned silence at the same time in the same place, and whisper over the fire, then head to the fields, worried, no doubt, but also eager to pursue their labors and collect...
About the Author-
  • John Grisham is the author of thirty-two novels, one work of nonfiction, a collection of stories, and six novels for young readers.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    May 15, 2018

    Grisham takes a trip back to Clanton, MS, where Pete Banning--a family patriarch, war hero, good neighbor, and good Methodist--walks in to the church one crisp October morning in 1946 and shoots the Rev. Dexter Bell to death. All he says is, "I have nothing to say."

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 3, 2018
    Why would a respected war hero cold-bloodedly gun down the local pastor? That’s the central mystery in this subpar outing from bestseller Grisham (The Rooster Bar). One morning in 1946, Pete Banning, a WWII vet and Ford County, Miss., cotton farmer who recently committed his wife, Liza, to a hospital, accepts “the solemn reality that it was time for the killing.” After having breakfast with his sister, Florry, Banning drives to the Clanton Methodist Church, where he shoots the Rev. Dexter Bell three times at point-blank range. He then aims his weapon at the black man who cleans the church, Hop Purdue, before sparing Hop’s life and instructing him to fetch the sheriff. Banning offers no resistance to his arrest and no explanation for his actions—to the sheriff, his defense attorney, or Florry. He refuses to allow his attorney to plead insanity, or even to ask for a change of venue. It seems that the shooting may have something to do with Liza, but Banning’s motive is only clarified late in the book, and that revelation doesn’t make it easy for readers to empathize with him. Grisham fans will hope for a return to form next time. Agent: David Gernert, Gernert Company.

  • Kirkus

    October 1, 2018
    In 1946, months after returning home to Mississippi from fighting in the Philippines, decorated war hero Pete Banning strolls into the local church and shoots pastor Dexter Bell dead. Even when facing the electric chair, he won't say why he murdered his old friend.Did it have something to do with word that in Pete's absence his wife, Liza, was seen with Bell, who was known for straying from his marriage? Liza, who three years before her husband's shocking return had been traumatized by a notification that he was missing in action and presumed dead, is in no condition to answer any questions. She is in the state mental hospital, where Pete, head of a prominent farm family in Clanton, got her committed for iffy reasons after his homecoming. Brutally tortured by the Japanese, he himself appears to be in a reduced mental state. This being a Grisham (The Rooster Bar, 2017, etc.) novel, we spend a fair amount of time in the courtroom, first with the insistently tight-lipped Pete's trial and then after Bell's widow files a wrongful death suit against Pete's family that stands to wipe them out. As usual, Grisham does a solid job of portraying a Southern town at a particular moment in time, touching upon social issues as he goes. But the book never overcomes the hole at its center. It's one thing to create a character who is a mystery to those around him, quite another to reveal next to nothing about that character to the reader. After a while, Pete's one-note act becomes a bit of a drag.Grisham' entertaining wartime novel is not lacking in ambition or scope, but the spark of imagination that would grease its pages is largely missing.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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