Caroline Leavitt, JONATHAN DURBIN, and FRANCINE PROSE
October 23, 2006 12:00 PM

By John Grisham

REVIEWED BY CAROLINE LEAVITT

CRITIC’S CHOICE

NONFICTION

True crime gets the Grisham treatment in this saga about botched justice in a small town. In his first nonfiction book, the thrill-meister resurrects the story of a sensational murder with a cast of painfully ordinary characters. In 1982, a cocktail waitress named Debra Sue Carter was brutally raped and then killed in her apartment in Ada, Okla., and the town went crazy with fear. Evidence was scanty, and for five long years, cops couldn’t find a decent suspect. Not until a local arrested on drunk-driving charges suggested a scapegoat: Ron Williamson—a native son who’d had a shot at the Oakland A’s before he was sidelined by boozing and mental illness. He declared his innocence, but the police felt that they had their man. His trial, as Grisham makes clear, was straight from Kafka. Grisham’s pared-down prose and matter-of-fact voice make for tense reading, and he reminds us all how easily, and often, one act of violent injustice can lead to another.

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