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The Innocent Man Review

Why doesnít McDonaldís serve pizza anymore? Because itís not what they do best. If you have a winning formula why would you mess with it? That is what I have to ask John Grisham. The man who brought us such incredible legal stories like The Firm, The Partner and, my personal favourite, The Runaway Jury, has changed his winning formula in his past few offerings leaving a dwindling trail of what used to be.

Grisham had the knack of bringing out a new book either just before Christmas or just before my birthday so it was easy for my daughters to know what to get for me. We celebrate on Christmas Eve, which meant that Christmas morning while everyone else was sleeping late, I was up early with a fresh cup of coffee in hand and curled up on the couch with his latest novel. I was painfully aware that as much as I wanted to open that book and start to devour it that meant it would be over sooner too. It was an internal conflict that I struggled with each and every time.

I would often have it finished by Boxing Day as I could think of nothing else that warranted my attention than the real page-turner in front of me. I loved to get lost in the richness of the characters and the inevitable moral dilemma each would have to face somewhere along the way. The plot twists would often have me wondering how he could possibly bring it to a credible yet satisfying conclusion, but he always did and often it would be bittersweet. He had the perfect formula for the legal novel and it served him well for many years. I noticed about the time The Brethren came out that it wasnít as strong as the others but I was willing to overlook that being the avid fan I was. But when he started to write personal reflections like Bleachers and The Painted House I finally admitted my disappointment. Being loyal to the end though, I have bought each and every book that he produces hoping beyond making sense that it will be the one that will redeem him. So far none have.

His latest attempt comes in the form of The Innocent Man, which is the true story of Ron Williamson a man wrongly convicted of murder in 1987 and sent to death row. He was eventually cleared with DNA evidence but it took something like twenty years of his family crusading for his freedom to see it happen. I received this book for Christmas this year and as usual couldnít wait to get started reading even though I knew it was a further deviation from his winning way of writing. Could this be the book that set him back up on a pedestal for me? Unfortunately, no.

I have a friend who gives any book she is reading the 100-page test. If by that far into the book she is not finding anything redeeming about it she turfs it and moves on. My sense of loyalty (and the fact that I know my daughters who gave it to me will ask if Iíve finished it) compels me to continue even though I have suffered through 131 pages of agonizing details. He was so committed to get every fact right, that the story took a far second to the truth and the book is really just a transcript of events. I hate to sound so harsh as I know we are talking about a true injustice that Williamson suffered and I donít mean to take away from that but there is a place for books like this and it is not from the hand of John Grisham.

Submitted by:

Rhonda Hoffman

Rhonda Hoffman is a successful author and regular contributor to http://www.realpageturner.com




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