Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sycamore Row by John Grishman

When Seth Hubbard commits suicide, few people in Ford County, Mississippi, knew or even really cared.  Hubbard was a bit of a recluse, an elderly man who made his living in the timber business, buying timber mills, land, and furniture factories.  He lives alone out in the country in a remote house and few outside of his employees even see him from week to week.  Hubbard had cancer and the doctors had given him very little time.

But Hubbard has surprises in store for the area.  The day after his death, local attorney Jack Brignance receives a handwritten will in the mail.  In it, Hubbard renounces all his other wills, specifically disowns his children and family, and leaves all his money to his housekeeper, a black lady named Lettie Lang.  She has worked for him and cared for him when he was sick, but has only worked for him for around three years.  Why would Hubbard leave such a bequest?

Jake is known in the town for his work several years earlier where he took on the local prejudice and got justice for a black man, putting his own life and property at risk.  Jake's house was burned down and he is still renting another, his wife and daughter still uneasy at the danger his practice brings to the family.  This will promises to bring more strife. 

Soon lawyers start to circle around.  Each of the children hires a lawyer to fight the will and claim something was amiss, that Lang exerted undue influence on Hubbard.  Lettie Lang's husband hires his own lawyer to make sure she is represented.  The lawyers who drew up the prior wills are in the mix and even retired lawyers make sure they come around hoping to get the inside story.  Jake works toward the trial date, sending investigators to try to discover Seth's brother and to discover what made Seth write such a will at the end of his life.

John Grishman has written more than thirty novels.  His best known are those set in his native Mississippi and focused on the law and the justice that it is meant to bring to all.  The intricacies of his plotting and his spotlight on his native South are what has made him one of the preeminent novelist in the legal drama field.  This book is recommended for mystery readers.

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