The novel opens with Pete Banning going over to the Methodist Church he and his family attended and shooting and killing his friend the Reverend Dexter Bell. We immediately know what happened and basically what Grisham’s novel revolves around; it says so on the book’s flap as well as on any description written about it.
The why becomes a fascinating study in human relations and what factors can cause one man to kill another. The book is centered in a small town in the state of Mississippi just shortly after the end of World War II. Pete Banning has returned home a decorated hero, wanting only to resume his life with his beautiful wife and two children. His is important enough to the story for Grisham to detail the facts behind his bravery.
This is a well researched look at the events unfolding in the Philippinesat the time of the Bataan death march. A portrait of the horrid conditions in the internment camp in which Pete is held coupled with his heroic actions later in fighting the Japanese upon his escape is extremely well done. His character is molded by this phase of his life and may supply clues to his motivation in committing murder.
Pete’s children, his wife and his sister are effected by his actions. They are completely surprised at his lack of interest in defending himself at the trial convened to try him for murder.
The novel is John Grisham at his peak exercising a literary talent second to none. When is the next book coming out is the only question remaining for the reader and I second that opinion.
10/18 Paul Lane
THE RECKONING by John Grisham. Doubleday (October 23, 2018). ISBN 978-0385544153. 432p.