The Confession by John Grisham

Genesis 9:6 Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.

Grisham is an author I would have expected more out of, especially since this was past his tenth book. But let’s not open on bad terms, even if the ending did leave me underwhelmed.

The Confession is, put simply, a story about a man on death row who is innocent, a black man. (Because evidently the color of one’s skin is important.) But more importantly, this is a politician’s way of spreading his dislike of the death penalty. Strong words for a reviewer, I know, but that’s the blatant idea Grisham gave me. If the shoe fits, wear it.

On that same note, a lawyer, the defense lawyer, Robbie Flak, spouted off statistics about life in prison, giving the illusion that it is cheaper. It isn’t. Not by a long shot.

Just a minor observation, especially when it’s messing with Texas.

One point I was really fascinated with was the setting. The story takes place in Slone, Texas, a city in between Marshall and Longview. But see, there isn’t such a place. I should know. I leave nearly an hour away from the two. So that was pretty cool, Grisham referencing cities and towns I’ve been to. Unless you’re in LA or NY, you don’t usually get that experience from crime writers.

Another great thing Grisham has going for him is pacing. I don’t like to say pacing makes up for a book’s meh plot, but this one surprisingly does. There is just enough action, pointless maybe, but written in a way to engulf you, that you just can’t put it down. I would sit in my bed at midnight, flipping through “just one more chapter,” wondering what was about to happen next. But see, not a long happens that makes you truly surprised.  The twists come and go, me unaffected. I like intelligent twists, not emotional ones. Grisham wasn’t that.

But his prose was, to which I add another check to pacing. His writing is so simple I could speed read in a matter of minutes. It was so easy I really enjoyed it. Still, that doesn’t make up for the lack of a good plot.

The characters were exciting and different, something many writers try for and don’t always get. Take the defense lawyer, Robbie Flak. I hated the guy in the beginning, thought he was just an arrogant, pompous prick. But as time went by and we explored his POV more, the reader came to understand he truly cared for the defendant. It was beautiful.

My favorite part, though, was near the end when Robbie gave his speech to the cameras about lawsuits.

“I’m suing you, and you, and you, and you. Don’t take it personally; I’m suing everybody up in here.”

(Not a direct quote.)

Donte Drumm, the innocent man on death row, though, I hated. No, it wasn’t because of his skin color. The man was an idiot. The only evidence linking him to the murder was HIS SIGNED CONFESSION. See, if I was a man who had been told I was the cop’s primary suspect and knew I didn’t kill the person in question, repeatedly telling the officers they were lying about all of these fake witnesses, I know I wouldn’t sign a confession, thinking the victim (whose body they hadn’t found) would mysteriously show up and clear all this. Yeah, he’s an idiot. I’m not saying the kid should get killed, but should suffer for this mistake. Then all the blacks in town start to riot, disrupting class, throwing bricks, rocks, and glass at police officers, burning down churches, and torching abandoned buildings, all in the name of vengeance. But no arrests or consequences come of this. Because there were no killings. And they had a permit.

That’s a crazy man’s thinking. I digress…

But all this, even the question of if the innocent man was innocent, or the killer was truthful, didn’t help the horrible ending. My professor, who assigned me this book to read, said it would keep you guessing to the very end. Everything that you would expect to happen in a totally bland book happened. The ending was no surprise, more of a surprise that Grisham didn’t do anything different or exciting. A real let down.

Some people are claiming he’s the best storyteller in America. Well, he is just that. He keeps you at the edge of your seat, wondering what’s going to happen next. But he’s no comedian. The man has no punch-line at the end.

Rating: 5/10

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