The Guardians, by John Grisham

Eight stars

In John Grisham’s latest novel, the reader is taken back to the Deep South and into another interesting realm of the legal world; post-conviction appeals. The novel explores the particulars of death row inmates who feel that their innocence has been ignored as the system chewed them up and spat them out. Enter Guardian Ministries, headed up by Cullen Post. A former public defender, Post burnt out from the workload and became an Episcopal priest, after which he used his two vocations in tandem. Post has a bare bones staff in Savannah, Georgia, and six active files that require his help. After standing with one of his clients and being mere hours from an execution, Post is revved up to fight the good fight for any of his clients who might need him. When Quincy Miller writes to Guardian Ministries, the team cannot help but want to help. Accused of the murder of his lawyer, Keith Russo, Miller has sat in jail without a lawyer or advocate for over two decades. A black man in a small Florida community of Seabrook, Miller could not expect justice to find him. Now, with the odds stacked against him, Cullen Post will do all he can. Revisiting witnesses who may have perjured themselves and a prosecutor who sought blood, Post finds new hope for a man who had all but given up. However, there is a killer out there, someone who is surely not keen on having the truth of the Keith Russo murder uncovered. Someone who will stop at nothing to silence Quincy Miller at any cost, even if they use the State of Florida to do it for them. A thought-provoking piece that shows the power of Grisham’s abilities. Recommended to those who love Grisham’s ‘little guy’ legal thrillers, as well as the reader who seeks a well-paced novel about the law and all its flaws.

I’ve seen many people land on both sides of the fence with this one, some loving the latest Grisham thriller, while others call it cliché and blame it on the author’s writing longevity. Both have their points, but I cannot help but seeing what I did and judging it accordingly. The story may not be anything new, but the players and the details are fresh and offer up an insightful look into the legal system and how the scales are not always balanced. Cullen Post serves the role of protagonist well, though he wants no praise for his work. Rather, he seeks answers for his clients, all of whom have reached the end of their proverbial ropes. Post knows the system and how many have been left to languish in prisons until a shiny needle is inserted in their arms, but his compassionate side will not stop him working hard. Able to squeeze his way in to see people with his priestly collar, Post does all he can the entire justice sees the light of day, or at least fight until the bitter end. His backstory is clearly defined in the early chapters and his growth throughout will surely make him a character with whom the reader will have no trouble connecting, given the chance. Others make their imprint on the story and will touch the reader’s heart—should they let it out as they read—with Grisham’s great ability to personalise those who appear on the page. The story creeps along but is also tangentially exciting with all those who play a role in the various plots. The piece itself is one of hope where little exists and exoneration where the game is already determined. Grisham pushes the ‘little guy’ throughout, revealing much about the legal system that does not make the news. Things will not change because of this book, but perhaps a few readers will better understand that which is left to be forgotten and think twice about the law’s ugly underbelly. With a mix of shorter and lengthy chapters, Grisham pulls the reader in from the outset and allows them to see what innocence looks like, even if it is not glamorous.

Kudos, Mr. Grisham, for another winning piece. Some may call it repetitive, but perhaps they are the people who wish to keep their heads in the clouds, or buried deep in the sand.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: