The Chamber

John Grisham, Author
John Grisham, Author Doubleday $29.95 (496p) ISBN 978-0-385-42472-1
Reviewed on: 05/23/1994
Release date: 05/01/1994
The chamber in question is the gas chamber at the Mississippi State Penitentiary--and for 69-year-old Sam Crayhall, the road thence has been many years long. Sam was twice tried and twice acquitted for murder after a 1967 Ku Klux Klan scare bombing accidentally killed the twin sons of the intended target; 14 years later he was tried a third time, convicted and sentenced to death. Now, in 1990, a young Chicago lawyer, employed by the firm that represented Sam but which he has just unceremoniously dumped, wants Sam as a client. Adam Hall, the 26-year-old rookie, is Sam Crayhall's grandson. Adam's efforts to save this splendid curmudgeon from death form the center of Grisham's quietly compelling novel, a hub from which the far-reaching spokes of personal dramas extend. The despair of prison life has rarely been so grippingly evoked--no riots or dazzling escapes here, just a drab, pervasive dailiness. And the gradually revealed dysfunctions of the Crayhalls prove both surprising and affecting. This ranks as top-notch Grisham and reveals new dimensions to his talent: the focus on character, the credible emotion and the simple moments of human connection bear comparison to Grisham's work in A Time to Kill . The prose, too, has more subtlety and texture than Grisham has previously exhibited. Though the countdown to an execution is a well-worn plot device, it has seldom been as effective, especially in the novel's last 100 pages. Readers can almost hear the cogs of justice turning ever faster--or is that the sound of Grisham's fans stampeding the bookstores for this riveting read? 2.5 million first printing; Literary Guild main selection; audio rights to BBD audio; major ad/promo. (June)
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