I first read this book in April of 2000; I read it again (via Overdrive on my tablet), because I will soon start reading Sycamore Row, which is the sequel to this book, for my Third Tuesday Book Club. I had forgotten most of the plot of the book since 2000, and I had also forgotten how good a book this was, and I very much enjoyed reading it.
Set in the mid-1980s (the book was written in 1989), Clanton, the county seat of Ford County, Mississippi. is barely twenty years from the Civil Rights Movement; the county has a black sheriff, but most of the other governmental and professional people in the county are black. Jake Brigance is an independent lawyer in this town, with a wife and a four year old daughter. He grew up in a nearby town, and knows Clanton and the people of his town. A ten-year-old African-American girl is savagely attacked by two white low-class rednecks in the county; the girl survives the attack and describes her attackers and their vehicle, and the miscreants are arrested. The town is shocked by the heinous crime, and the girl’s father carefully plans his next step; as the two miscreants are being moved from the courtroom down the stairs after a hearing, he shoots them with an M-16 and kills them, and also wounds a deputy (purely by accident). He retains Brigance as his lawyer, as Brigance had gotten a not guilty verdict for his little brother a few years back when his brother had been arrested for murder. With tensions high in the town and the county over the racial issues (a black girl attacked by white men, who are then killed by her black father), the book takes us all the way to the end of the capital trial.
I very much enjoyed reading this book, and look forward to reading Sycamore Row.