Witness to a Trial: A Short Story Prequel to The Whistler, by John Grisham

Seven stars

Grisham mixes his well-established background in crafting sensational legal thrillers with an ability to offer quirky approaches to writing in formulating this short story. It is that of the capital murder trial of Junior Mace, accused of slaying his wife and best friend in cold blood. All the evidence points to Mace returning home early from work, where he rages at the act of adultery, and shoots them both in the head. While Mace presents an alibi through his less than confident attorney, it does not seem solid and the State of Florida has more than enough to substantiate their claims with a stronger prosecutor ready to send him to death row. While the case unfolds, there is one man in the courtroom who knows what really happened; someone with a motive to see Mace out of the way. Alas, his reasons never make it onto the record, though the verdict could make all the difference in the world. A unique approach to the legal thriller and a story that sets up the soon to be released full-length novel that Grisham has for eager fans. While not an earth shattering piece, surely one the reader can enjoy during the waiting game. 

Grisham surely has something up his sleeve if this story is a prequel to The Whistler. Without reading too much into that upcoming novel, I can only imagine how it all pieces together with a cast of interesting characters that found their way into this piece. This story, a trial told in thirteen short chapters, offers something unique for the reader, while presenting all the needed information for the reader to remain intrigued. Rather than Grisham’s powerful courtroom saga, each chapter offers a brief summary of a witness’ testimony, almost on the verge of short paragraph summations, as well as a brief biography of someone having something to do with the larger case or investigation. While I found myself looking for testimony or some development (read: meatier narrative), I was happy to get a short synopsis and at least get the gist of what is going on, if there is a purpose to all this when The Whistler comes around. Grisham has done so well with spinning the law on its head that I can only hope he has something new to offer the reader. Save for the deeper glimpse offered of Junior Mace, all characters received quite minor roles, though some have enough offered that their return will surely create an interesting cross-mix and allow for the story to take many twists. If The Whistler delves deeper into this case, or at least something along these lines, I can see much excitement to be had when I get my hands on the novel.

Kudos, Mr. Grisham for this peek into your next novel. What will you do to keep the reader on their toes?