The Confession

Author: John Grisham
Type: Fiction
Genre: Thriller (Legal)
Published by: Arrow Books
First Published: 2010

Nine years ago Travis Boyette abducted, raped and strangled a popular cheerleader. He buried her body so that it could not be found and then watched in silence as an innocent man was arrested and convicted of this terrible crime.

Nine years ago Donte Drumm was a local football star with a bright future ahead of him. Now he sits on death row, awaiting his execution four days later for a crime he did not commit. 400 miles away Travis’ own fate is sealed due to an inoperable brain tumor and in the face of impending death he finally decides to confess. But will he be able to convince the authorities that they are about to execute an innocent man?

This John Grisham novel is as dark as it can get. It shows us the murky side of the law where confessions are coerced and racial discrimination rears its ugly head. It gives us a peep into the psyche of a rapist and murderer who creeps out even when he speaks of being sorry for his unfortunate victim. And most of all it presents the conflict and controversy surrounding the death penalty. That Grisham is wholly against the death penalty jumps out at you in this book and the only discordant note in this otherwise good novel is the way it portrays the pro death penalty faction as distinctly unsympathetic.

The story is told from the point of view of some of the main characters. A pastor from Kansas to whom Boyette confesses his heinous crime, the lawyer who has fought relentlessly for Donte over the last nine years, the mother of the unfortunate victim who has made it her life’s mission to see Donte executed and Donte’s mother who still hopes for a miraculous reprieve, all these people infuse life in the novel. Robbie, Donte’s lawyer, and Reeva, the victim’s mother are sometimes hard to identify with but the brilliance of the author lies in the characterizations of Boyette and Keith, the pastor.

The story is a sombre one and would, more often than not, leave the reader feeling emotionally disturbed. It raises a barrage of questions related to the machinations of the law and is apt to leave the reader debating with himself on the merits and demerits of the death penalty. It is a compelling read and highly recommended. Be warned though, this is one book that can never be classified under ‘light reading’.

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