The Reckoning

The Reckoning

Book - 2018
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"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, walked into the church, and calmly shot and killed his pastor and friend, the Reverend Dexter Bell. As if the murder weren't shocking enough, it was even more baffling that 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. --Publisher description.
Publisher: New York : Doubleday, 2018.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780385544153
0385544154
Call Number: GRISHAM
Characteristics: 420 pages ; 25 cm
Subjects: World War 1939-1945 -- Fiction.
Clergy -- Fiction.
Criminal intent -- Fiction.
Murder -- Investigation -- Fiction.
Mississippi -- Fiction.
Thrillers (Fiction)
Legal fiction (Literature)
Historical fiction.

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b
bongodi
Jun 30, 2019

I agreed with CZ75 . . . only interesting part was about the Bataan march. Grisham gets too involved with the boring legal proceedings (as in all his novels). Much skimming was required in order to get through this. Disappointing ending as well.

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CZ75
May 06, 2019

I always have high expectations when I pick up a new book by John Grisham. I was quite disappointed with The Reckoning. I feel like I wasted a lot of my time following the mundane lives of the characters in this book as they dealt with the aftermath of a murder committed by their father/brother/boss. The second part of the book was interesting, i.e. the events surrounding Bataan Death March, but the rest was so-so. The motives for the killing are revealed in the very last pages, and the ending was mostly a letdown.

r
richmole
Apr 29, 2019

John Grisham gets self-indulgent.

Well, after publishing close to 3 dozen adult novels (as separate from his YA kid-lawyer series), Mr. Grisham can do whatever he wants, it seems.

Grisham's not the first novelist to play fast-and-loose with either (1) good writing, (2) plot structure or (3) length. He's got lots of company, including Ken Follett. Prime evidence: A Column of Fire, a meandering, crudely written mega-book--900+ pages--that boasts over 3,000 Amazon "reviews." It's a sad come-down for those who really appreciated Follett's first novels (Eye of the Needle, The Man From St. Petersburg, Lie Down With Lions and even the more recent Pillars of the Earth and World Without End.) He USED to be so good...

Grisham's major fault here: right slam-bang in the middle of this mystery, we get a 10-chapter, 100-page flashback digression (or, as publishers put it, "back story") that has absolutely NOTHING to do with the plot. Not one single thread ties a main protagonist's past to the present-day of this southern small-town murder mystery. None whatsoever.

Not that the long "aside" isn't interesting. It is; I now know more about WW II in the Philippines than I ever did before, and certainly thought ever I'd learn in a book about the point-blank shooting of a Methodist minister, in 1946.

Bizarre.

And the ending? Well, it's...shall we say, anti-climactic. Ho-hum. And life goes on...

Well-written? Absolutely. Well researched? Yes: Grisham makes sure we know where he got his wartime detail. Also where he got the idea for the book's (main) story. I don't really fault Grisham here as much as I fault his editor, who should have dropped the manuscript, picked up the phone and shouted down the line, "John, I just finished the book. That's IT?? It's time to rewrite, my friend!"

But when the "friend" is a literary giant...hmm, maybe not.

Nobody, it seems, is telling Follett how to improve his overblown books these days, either. 3,000 Amazon reviewers? That's nothing. This book: over 4,600! Instead, when Grisham picks up, the Editor gushes: "LOVE it, John, and thanks for the opportunity to publish!" (And make oodles of bucks...)

But, dear reader, if you want a mystery to leave you wide-eyed and and going "Wow!" This ain't the one.

m
MikeHanafin
Apr 28, 2019

Sad to say, likely my last John Grisham book. I have loved most of his previous books--up until 4 books ago, they were usually fantastic, and hard to put down. But it's probably over for me, and most of the reviews I read were also not positive, and wondering if it's the end of the line (after 40 books, that's still amazing).
This one started out great--a typical Grisham law and courtroom-dominated tale. But then Grisham goes off on a tangent that goes on far, far too long--and the ending is thoroughly unsatisfying, with a "twist" that I suspected about 300 pages before.

n
NedSu
Apr 26, 2019

Not much to add here with all the other comments. For me, it was a good read. Grisham's works alternate between good triumphing over evil, and the pervasiveness of evil triumphing. This work falls in the middle of that spectrum. Nothing is done right by the characters, and life is full of disappointments. I admired the all too brief story about the Bataan Death March, where evil did not prevail. While I would rather read a rollicking courtroom drama with a triumph over evil, The Reckoning suffices for me.

f
flygt
Apr 25, 2019

I think this is definitely a departure for Grisham, reads more like historical fiction than legal thriller. I thought the Bataan Death March part was heart wrenching and I found the ending sort of anticlimactic.

v
Vincent2017
Apr 06, 2019

I think this is the best book that he has ever written. Those of us who were familiar with the Bataan March will come away with a new appreciation regarding how much our military suffered. I was kept in suspense until the very end. Those of you who are not familiar with the Bataan March should read this. It had to be the lowest point of the US military and those who should were responsible. Also, he had references he used.

b
brigpa1
Apr 05, 2019

JG really hit bottom with this one. It was a struggle to finish it. It was incredibly boring. I just plowed through it to find out the reason for the killing. In his recent books, JG is obsessed with presenting his political views. Not only does he insist on bringing up racism in the South in the 40s (We all know it existed) but he emphasizes his anti death penalty views by describing in gruesome detail the bodily reactions to being electrocuted. This will probably be my last JG novel.

g
gingham66
Apr 04, 2019

If you are on the waiting list for this book, I would get off of it. It could be cut in half and still be too long. I didn't read the second part of the book (cherry picked a couple parts so I could keep up with the family at home.) Finally got the third par and the ending was terrible. Don't waste your time, find another book to read instead of this one.

r
Ray_Otstott
Mar 11, 2019

Although I enjoyed the book - even the quite graphic 2nd part about Pete Banning's trials during the war in the Philippines (where I grew up) - it dragged on a bit. The ending, albeit with an interesting twist, was predictable and anticlimactic, and it took a long time to get there. In fairness, there is a certain amount of suspense all the way to the conclusion, but, again, it took a long time to get there for too little satisfaction.

Pete, the primary protagonist in the first two parts, is not a likable person, although you want to like him, primarily because of his army service. His family is a shambles, a product of his misdeeds and inability/ unwillingness to communicate. His willingness to sacrifice his life and the happiness/ stability of his family is never really fully justified.

I can't justify a higher rating than 3 of 5, but I don't agree with the numerous 0- and 1-star ratings. It is well-written, but ultimately somewhat disappointing. If you're looking for a starting point for Grisham novels, I would suggest looking elsewhere.

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j
jimg2000
Mar 07, 2019

From Author’s Note:
I heard the story of two prominent men living in a small town in Mississippi in the 1930s. One killed the other for no discernible reason, and he never offered a clue as to his motive. Once convicted and facing death by hanging, he turned down an offer from the governor to have his death sentence commuted if only he would divulge a motive. He refused and was hanged the next day on the courthouse lawn while the governor, who’d never witnessed a hanging, watched from the front row.

j
jimg2000
Mar 07, 2019

From Author’s Note:
Dozens if not hundreds of books have been written about the Bataan Death March. The ones I found and read are all fascinating. The suffering and heroism of those soldiers is difficult to imagine, then or now, some seventy-five years later.
===
The Bannings were farmers and landowners, but they were workers, not gentrified planters with decadent lives made possible by the sweat of others.
===
To those who knew them, the Bannings were thought to be cold and distant, devoid of warmth and rarely emotional. This was true but not intentional; they had simply been raised that way.

j
jimg2000
Mar 07, 2019

He was forty-three, and, at least in her opinion, looked older. His thick dark hair was graying above his ears, and long wrinkles were forming across his forehead. The dashing young soldier who’d gone off to war was aging too fast.
===
He opened the door to his new 1946 Ford pickup, and Mack jumped onto the passenger’s side of the bench seat. Mack rarely missed a ride to town and today would be no different, at least for the dog.
===
“I’ve killed a lot of men, Preacher, all brave soldiers on the field. You’re the first coward.”
===
Normally, in the Methodist denomination, a minister lasted only two years in one church, sometimes three, before being reassigned. Reverend Bell had been in Clanton for five years and knew it was only a matter of time before he was called to move on.

j
jimg2000
Mar 07, 2019

A popular preacher murdered in cold blood by the town’s favorite son, a legendary war hero. There had to be a damned good reason for it, and it was only a matter of time before the truth spilled out.
===

In 1936, a couple of sharecroppers went to war over a strip of worthless farmland. The one with the better aim prevailed, claimed self - defense at trial, and walked home. Two years later, a black boy was lynched near the settlement of Box Hill, where he allegedly said something fresh to a white woman. In 1938, though, lynching was not considered murder or a crime of any sort anywhere in the South, especially Mississippi. However, a wrong word to a white woman could be punishable by death.

j
jimg2000
Mar 07, 2019

Joel knew at a young age that his father’s suits and his mother’s dresses were a bit nicer than the average Methodist’s, and their cars and trucks were always newer, and they talked of finishing college and not just high school. He realized a lot as a child, but because he was a Banning he was also taught humility and the virtue of saying as little as possible.
===
Jackie was not in the mood to do much explaining, but she made it clear to her parents that she was struggling with her faith and needed time to reexamine her beliefs. Privately, she was asking the obvious question: Her husband, a devout servant and follower of Christ, was reading his Bible and preparing his sermon, at church, when he was murdered. Why couldn’t God protect him, of all people? Upon deeper reflection, this often led to the more troubling question, one she never asked aloud: Is there really a God?

j
jimg2000
Mar 07, 2019

Joel, at the age of twenty, could not remember a single instance when he had disobeyed his father. With age, he had learned to respectfully disagree with him, but he would never disobey him.
===
…Dexter Bell was a popular preacher with a large congregation, and there are eight other Methodist churches in this county. In numbers, it’s the second-largest denomination behind the Baptists, which present another problem. Baptists and Methodists are first cousins, Pete, and they often stick together on tough issues. Politics, whiskey, school boards. You can always count on those two clans to march to the same drum.”
===
Twelve white men. Four Baptists; two Methodists; two Pentecostals; one Presbyterian; one Church of Christ. And two who claimed no church membership and were likely headed straight to hell.

j
jimg2000
Mar 07, 2019

Between 1818 and 1940, the state hanged eight hundred people, 80 percent of whom were black. Those, of course, were the judicial hangings for rapists and murderers who had been processed through the courts. During that same period of time, approximately six hundred black men were lynched by mobs operating outside the legal system and thoroughly immune from any of its repercussions.
===
He smiled and seemed warm and thoroughly honored to be there doing what he was doing, defending a fine man who had defended our country. He lobbed a few questions at the panel as a whole, then he zeroed in on a couple of Methodists, but for the most part his comments were designed not to uncover some hidden bias, but rather to convey warmth, trust, and likability.

j
jimg2000
Mar 07, 2019

Social life was dictated by the church. In the case of the Bannings, of course, it was the Methodist church, the second largest in Clanton. Pete insisted that they attend faithfully, and Liza fell into the routine. She had been raised as a lukewarm Episcopalian, of which there were none—devout or otherwise—to be found in Clanton. At first, she was a bit turned off by the narrowness of Methodist teachings, but soon understood that things could be worse. The county was full of other, more strident strains of Christianity—Baptists, Pentecostals, and Churches of Christ—hard-core believers even more fundamental than the Methodists. Only the Presbyterians seemed slightly less dogged. If there was a solitary Catholic in town he kept it quiet. The nearest Jew was in Memphis.

j
jimg2000
Mar 07, 2019

But there was always another upcoming revival. The Methodists had two each year, the Baptists three, and the Pentecostals seemed to be in a constant state of frenzied renewal. At least twice a year some itinerant street preacher threw up a big top beside the feed store near the square and raged every night through his loudspeakers. It was not at all uncommon for one church to “visit” another church when a hotshot preacher was in town. Every denomination worshipped for at least two hours on Sunday morning. Others came back for more on Sunday evening. (These were the white churches; the black ones kept it going all day and into the night.) Wednesday night prayer meetings were common. Add in all the revivals, religious holiday services, vacation Bible schools in the summer, funerals, weddings, anniversaries, and baptisms, and at times Liza felt exhausted from her church work.

j
jimg2000
Mar 07, 2019

Rusconi testified that at least ten thousand U.S. and Philippine soldiers died during the march. They died from starvation, dehydration, exhaustion, sunstroke, and executions by bullets, beatings, bayonetings, and beheadings. Those who survived were packed into wretched death camps where survival was even more challenging than it had been on the death march. The officers attempted to organize various ways to record the names of the dead, and during the late spring and early summer of 1942 lists of casualties began to filter into Rusconi’s office in Manila. On May 19 the family of Pete Banning was officially notified that he had been captured, was missing, and was presumed dead.

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sa124960
Dec 01, 2018

sa124960 thinks this title is suitable for All Ages

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