The Reckoning

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Oct 2018

Member Reviews

I'm not a huge Grisham fan, but this book has turned me into a fan girl. I couldn't put this book down. Some of it was a little too violent for me, but I loved the storyline. I was sad when it ended, and wanted a little bit more from the ending. But man, was this a phenomenal book.
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This southern family drama is also a gripping courtroom drama. Differing from many of his more contemporary books, Grisham takes us back to the south following WWII, and shows us the worst of segregation and how family secrets can tear the lives of all apart.
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If you're looking for a taut legal thriller, you won't find it in John Grisham's The Reckoning (Doubleday, digital galley). There is some courtroom drama, but this is one of Grisham's slice-of-life Southern sagas set in Clanton, Miss., place-centered and character-driven. In 1946, war hero and family man Pete Banning walks into a church and shoots the pastor dead. "I have nothing to say,'' Banning tells the sheriff, and he stubbornly refuses any explanation to family, friends, judge and jury. It takes years -- and flashbacks to World War II and the town's history -- before Grisham allows a reckoning with the truth.

from On a Clear Day I Can Read Forever
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Peter Banning is a highly regarded member of the community and a World War II hero.  The whole town is shocked when he walks into Methodist pastor Dexter Bell's office and kills him with three well placed gun shots.  His only comment - I have nothing to say.

When I first started this story, there was a small bit of humor to be found in Peter Banning's demeanor.  It made me think this might be different from other Grisham novels I've read.  And while it was different, it was not because there was much humor.  Things rapidly go downhill not only for Peter, but for his wife and two children.  And while this included the typical court room scenes, there was a lot of focus on Peter's history of becoming a war here and the impact his action had on his family.

In many ways, this was a page turner.  Not so much for the legal suspense, but more so because I needed to have a better understanding of who Peter Banning was and how his family would survive.  When I turned the last page, all I could say was - Wow.


My thanks to Doubleday Books and Netgalley.
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The Reckoning is somewhat of a departure for John Grisham, widely known for his legal thrillers.  This book dives deeply into the horrors of the Bataan Death March in  World War II , as well as the  more familiar territory of the Deep South.  The plot development is strong and the reader is drawn into the  emotional lives of  the characters.  Not Grisham's typical courtroom drama,  this book shows the breadth of Grisham's skill as a fine writer.
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At least 1/3 of the book getting a history lesson on Gen MacArthur and Japan's takeover of the Philippines then you may enjoy the book. I skipped over the large majority of this section. The book also drug on and on in other parts. I wanted to enjoy a thriller like the authors earlier books, not a sad, tedious and boring book like this one. Maybe it's more that I was hoping for something different, and I'll not give up on Grisham yet.
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unfortunately I couldn't get into this book. I've read pretty much all of John Grisham's work yet this didn't appeal to me. seemed rather racist and offensive and I couldn't continue reading.
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I had not read a John Grisham book in a while and thought maybe it was time to dip back in. Partly due to my lack of interest in courtroom dramas is why I had stopped reading him. This book is very different than the previous I have read. Very little of it takes place in a courtroom. Also, spoiler alert, much of the book details the WWII  conflict taking place in the Philippines , especially given in detail is the Bataan Death March. My elderly father used to love Grisham but he can't handle those kinds of scenes anymore. I am not saying this to be critical of the book but as fair warning. This book captured my interest and I am eagerly awaiting his next book. I received an advanced reader copy through Netgalley but receive no compensation for giving a fair review.
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Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an eARC of this book. 
2.5 stars. 
I have read many Grisham books and I have mostly really liked them. This book is a departure from his usual fare. Some have found it brilliant. I found it too disjointed and disheartening. Graphic descriptions of death in the electric chair and of the suffering on the Bataan Death March and in POW camps perhaps served the story line but they were not something I enjoyed reading. 
Interesting plot twist at the end but in truth I could not find what purpose the whole novel served.
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The Reckoning by John Grisham is yet another masterpiece of a legal thriller with some history woven in masterfully as well.  The setting is mainly in the late 1940s in Ford County, Mississippi.  Pete Banning commits a cold-blooded murder, admits to his guilt, and won't reveal his motive to anyone.  His family is left to deal with the consequences of his actions and struggle to understand what has happened.  The book is split into three parts and the second part is the most heartbreaking to read as you learn about Pete's experiences during World War II and the torture he endured as a prisoner of war.  Riveting and saddening at the same time.  Read and enjoy!
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I am not a huge John Grisham fan but more a Stephen King fan still I love a good mystery book.. Since I requested and received this book, I started reading it and could not put it down. I want to say it was the tale of being a P.O.W. or just the suspense of why did he kill the preacher? I don't know but it captivated me until the end. I highly recommend this book to the usual fans of Mr. Grisham especially at the Library, plus my mother. He is her favorite also.  Thank you for allowing me to tell everyone it's a good book and well worth reading.
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This book is something a little different for John Grisham, and there are some really interesting things he does with this book. He did a good job creating a story that was full of suspense as readers are going to be desperate to figure out the reasons why events happened, and the section in which readers learn what Pete Banning experienced in WWII is wildly descriptive and, though often terrible, fascinating. However, I felt that the payoff in the end wasn't quite what I had hoped for. It's not going to take much beyond Grisham's name to get his fans to pick up this book, but this might be a good recommendation for those who felt burned out on his previous legal thrillers.
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The Reckoning 
By
John Grisham


What it's all about...

Pete Banning walks into his minister’s study, takes out a gun and shoots him.  No one knows why and Pete refuses to talk about it.  There is a trial and Pete is found guilty.  

Why I wanted to read it...

I have not read a John Grisham book in ages but this hefty book caught my attention.  It takes place in the rural south just after WWII...Pete Banning was a war prisoner who was presumed dead.  The middle section of this book speaks graphically about what it was like to be captured by the Japanese during this time.  It is amazing that Pete survived.  

What made me truly enjoy this book...

The last part of this book finally speaks of the why...why this happened.  It’s sad...very sad and riveting.  

Why you should read it, too...

Readers who love this author should find this book deeply moving.  I know I did.  It also brings up the racial issues of that time.  This book was totally fascinating.  

I received  an advance reader’s copy of this  book from the publisher through NetGalley and Amazon.  It was my choice to read it and review it.
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BookFilter review: Oh dear. I had the impression author John Grisham was garnering stronger and stronger reviews over the years and thought this one-off period piece might be a good chance to reappraise him. Set before, during and after WW II, it's a risible piece of Southern gothic that is dull, leaden and has absolutely no clue how paternalistically racist it reads. Our hero is Pete Banning, a man's man, a war hero and a person of few words and fewer emotions (natch). He is home from the war and calmly and clearly preparing to kill someone. We won't find out why until the final chapter but by then we won't care and the answer (which most readers will probably guess to one degree or another) make us dislike Banning and what he did even more. Grisham thinks he's written a tragedy but it's more of a travesty, right down to the black characters who shake their heads over the crazy ways of white folk and refer to Mista Banning even in scenes where they're not being quoted, just so we don't ever think for a second that any black character might even think the correct pronunciation of "Mister." We see Banning kill another man in cold blood, we sit through an awfully dull trial where Banning inexplicably refuses to explain why he did what he did and actively keeps his lawyer from mounting any defense. Then we flashback to Banning's heroic behavior during WW II, where he takes part in the Bataan Death March and then heads into the jungle as a guerrilla fighter. And then we plod along to the finale where secrets are finally revealed. I think one could quote almost any line of a book out of context and make the work as a whole seem turgid or clunky. But here the writing is so banal it's almost shocking, with information presented in a manner so cut and dried I at first imagined it was parodic and Grisham was going to undermine the Gary Cooper-esque persona he'd imagined for his central protagonist. No suck luck. This will, I assume, disappoint even his die-hard fans. -- Michael Giltz
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This book was a bit different than his usual "legal thrillers."  I enjoyed the story, but felt that I was supposed to feel sorry or empathize Pete Banning for what he did.  By the time I got to the end and learned the "real story" of what happened, both his version and Liza's, I felt more like Pete Banning got what he deserved.  

I did like the war story parts of the book.  Well, as much as one can truly "like" a tale so awful.  It was interesting to see a WWII story told from the Pacific perspective instead of the European side, which you see much of lately.  

I would recommend this story, as it was well-written and very interesting.  I just don't know if I can truly like Pete's character after all is said and done.
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I really enjoy John Grisham's books, and I did enjoy The Reckoning. It just wasn't one of my favorites of his. Grisham is a great writer, and so the way the story was told helped keep my interest.

The first part of the book is about Pete Banning, who is a cotton farmer in Mississippi in the late 1940s after WWII.  He is a decorated war hero, who was presumed dead for two years, before returning home injured after escaping the Japanese and working with some guerilla warriors in the Philipines. After having a final breakfast with his sister, Florry, at her house adjoining his farm, Pete goes to the Methodist preacher's office and shoots him in cold blood. Pete turns himself in and refuses to mount a defense as to why he gunned down this pillar of the community. He will not explain his actions to anyone. We go through the trial and sentencing. Pete's wife is in a mental institution.  His children are away at college and haven't seen their mother since she was committed two years ago. Pete doesn't want them anywhere near his trial.

The second part of the book goes back and describes Pete's early life and how he met and fell in love with his wife. Then we hear in great detail, the ordeal Pete went through during his time in the war.

The third part of the book is about Pete's family, back after his trial, trying to pick up the pieces.  There are wrongful death lawsuits, and many other issues to be overcome.  But mostly everyone (including the reader) wants to know why Pete did what he did.

Yes, there is a surprise ending.  What you think the reason for Pete's murderous rampage was, is kind of correct, but not really. I just didn't think the twist at the end warranted all the pages and pages of the middle section.  Although I learned a great deal about the war in the Philipines, the Bataan death march, and how cruel the Japanese were.  Maybe that was Grisham's point.  He just wanted to write a WWII book, and this is how he did that.

I have no problem with it and enjoyed the read.  Just don't expect his typical courtroom drama.  And, really, it's been a while since he's written one of those, I think? A good writer can make any subject entertaining, and Grisham has succeeded.
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Pete Banning, was a near-mythical figure, wealthy landowner, war hero.
Survived three years of war, malaria, amoebic dysentery, and malnutrition.
Wife Liza, committed to state mental hospital 
Son Joel 
Daughter Stella
Sister Florry 

Dexter Bell, was popular and highly regarded, Methodist preacher and had been minister of the Clanton Methodist Church for five years.
Wife Jackie 

Murder 
Three bullets fired from a .45-caliber Colt pistol.
Inconceivable
General disbelief 
Motive?
Mysterious circumstances 
Secrets buried
Secrets unearthed 
Case for state of Mississippi 
Acquitted, the electric chair, or life without parole in Parchman prison.

Rural Mississippi 1940’s, white peoples killing their own instead of a black person just will no do it, or will they?
A narrative that has all the makings of a great tale.
The great trial of one peter banning commence forth, a white war hero murdered in cold blood a black Methodist preacher of a small community in Mississippi. 
Really there is no case, he admits doing it, but will not say why, should be open shut case.
These characters and setting revived straight from great author William Faulkner’s works, with racial tension, injustices, and postwar times. 
John Grisham couldn’t pick a better subject matter for this times a changing.

The solemn silence, the quickness to admit and not explain motive, the whole mystery enveloping and captivating the reader forward in search of answers.

Grisham is remembering his roots in this southern tale, and the masters like William Faulkner and paying some homage.
Loved to read William Faulkner come to life in this tale, he appears in a restaurant, and Joel, the murderers son, sees him in Town of Oxford Mississippi and again in a restaurant and asks for a signature. Everyone was at the time reading Faulkner. Go Down Moses gets a mention as Pete Banning reads it in a vehicle while being escorted by police. Joel struggled though Absalom, Absalom!, as did many, but a great story I have read more than once. Stella whilst on train was reading short stories of Eudora Welty, a great southern writer and highly recommended reading. Intruder in the Dust by William Faulkner had just been published in the timeline of this narrative. The Mansion, a restaurant, Joel is carrying Intruder in the Dust and his father’s As I Lay Dying, notices Faulkner seated eating, keen to have his books autographed.

Captivating, poignant and immersive reading.
A tale of three stories, love, war and murder, there will be tragedy in 1940’s rural small town Mississippi.
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You know the expression, "he could read the phone book and it would still be fascinating?" That's how I feel about this book. John Grisham is such a strong writer that he can write on just about anything and make it interesting and compelling. That's certainly the case with his latest book, The Reckoning. 

Don't get me wrong, I liked this book. But if I'm honest, there wasn't much plot. More of a beautiful recounting of one family's unending tragedy. As always with Grisham, the settings and characters are wonderfully rendered with just the right amount of detail. The major difference with this book is just that the whole story felt a little phoned in and the ending was very abrupt and a little unsatisfying. 

Three stars for this one instead of my usual 4 or 5.
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John Grisham is a powerful storyteller and he captivates the reader explaining why a man who has survived the brutalities of war, returns home to his loving family and one day walks in to a church and kills his pastor and declares I have nothing to say. During the murder trial he remains silent. and is sentenced to the electric chair.

It's about family secrets and lies and how they destroy lives.

A must read!
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John Grisham’s latest, the Reckoning, takes place in rural 1940s Mississippi. World War II veteran Pete Banning wakes up one day, goes about his business as usual and then proceeds to murder in cold blood the beloved preacher of the Methodist church. Pete refuses to tell anyone the reasons behind the killing and he and his family both suffer the consequences. The story also takes us back to Pete’s days as a war hero in the Philippines and also to the insane asylum inhabited by his wife.

I’ve read most of Grisham’s books and I have to say that this was one of my favorites. It is suspenseful right up to the very last page. There are elements of the legal world, typical to Grisham’s works, but there is also some fascinating, if brutal and bloody, history of the Philippines in World War II, something I knew little about. After reading so many Works War II books centered around Nazi Germany, I found this to be a refreshing take. Overall, a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable read recommended to all. 5 stars!

Many thanks to Netgalley, Doubleday books and John Grisham for my complimentary e-copy ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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