About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

#69: The Confession

The Confession, by John Grisham (New York: Doubleday, 2010).

"An innocent man is about to be executed.

"Only a guilty man can save him.

"For every innocent man sent to prison, there is a guilty one left on the outside. He doesn't understand how the police and prosecutors got the wrong man, and he certainly doesn't care. He just can't believe his good luck. Time passes and he realizes that the mistake will not be corrected: the authorities believe in their case and are determined to get a conviction. He may even watch the trial of the person wrongly accused of the crime. He is relieved when the verdict is guilty. He laughs when the police and prosecutors congratulate themselves. He is content to allow an innocent person to go to prison, to serve hard time, even to be executed.

"Travis Boyette is such a man. In 1998, in the small East Texas city of Slone, he abducted, raped, and strangled a popular high school cheerleader. He buried her body so that it would never be found, then watched in amazement as police and prosecutors arrested and convicted Donte Drumm, a local football star, and marched him off to death row.

"Now nine years have passed. Travis has just been paroled in Kansas for a different crime; Donte is four days away from his execution. Travis suffers from an inoperable brain tumor. For the first time in his miserable life, he decides to do what's right and confess.

"But how can a guilty man convince lawyers, judges, and politicians that they're about to execute an innocent man?"

Opening Line:
"The custodian at St. Mark's had just scraped three inches of snow off the sidewalks when the man with the cane appeared."

My Take:

Sometimes fiction parallels real life just a little too closely. Odd to be reading this book while the Troy Davis case has been at the forefront of the news.

John Grisham is John Grisham. You know what you're going to get -- solid legal thrillers with (usually) a Southern flair and a fairly high can't-put-it-down quotient -- and yep, you pretty much get more of the same here. Unfortunately, he and his characters can't help doing a bit too much grandstanding here, which tends to get in the way of the story line. Grisham's a big supporter of the Innocence Project, an organization devoted to exonerating those who've been wrongfully convicted. And hey -- more power to him; it's nice to see celebrities legitimately using their fame to do good for a cause they believe in. But if I want to learn about that cause, I'll look for books and articles about wrongful conviction -- not extended diatribes in what's supposed to be a fun/ junk novel. (Doesn't mean it wasn't still a fun/ junk novel, though.)

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