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The Guardians


The Guardians

The millions of readers of John Grisham novels in America and around the world will not be disappointed in his latest legal thriller, THE GUARDIANS.

Unlike many of his fellow popular authors, Grisham does not rely on a continuing main character or a recurring plot line to drive his story. Each of his works is a tabula rasa, usually involving a struggle between the good and bad guys. Grisham generally adds one other ingredient to his winning formula, as his novels are often focused on a significant issue in American legal society. He has touched upon the crisis in legal education brought about by for-profit law schools, the growth of tort lawyers and class actions, the election of judges and the poisoning of those elections with massive campaign spending, and the one dearest to his heart, the wrongfully convicted in our nation’s legal system.

"Because this is a thriller and not real life, Grisham gives readers an interesting twist often not present in actual exoneration cases.... As always in a Grisham novel, that effort is a page-turning thriller."

Guardian Ministries is an organization that was founded to address this very problem --- a tiny group of understaffed and underfunded attorneys and investigators seeking justice for those who the legal system has failed. As Cullen Post, a Guardian attorney, tells one of his prospective incarcerated clients, “[I]t’s fairly easy to convict an innocent man and virtually impossible to exonerate one.” Grisham has used Centurion Ministries, which was founded in 1980 and has exonerated 63 men and women in those four decades, as the lodestar for THE GUARDIANS.

This is a subject for which Grisham has great passion. Before his writing career exploded, he was a practicing attorney. As a writer, he became aware of exoneration organizations and now supports their work in a variety of ways. THE GUARDIANS is almost like a legal textbook, offering explanations and strategies for how a successful exoneration can come about. I say “almost” because as in most legal thrillers, there do come moments when readers must suspend disbelief as the plot demands something other than the real-life slow grind of our legal system.

In addition to Post, whose primary exoneration work is undertaken outside the courtroom, THE GUARDIANS is the story of Quincy Miller, who is serving a life sentence for the murder of Keith Russo, a Florida attorney who represented him in an antagonistic divorce. Miller was convicted but spared execution when one juror would not vote for the death penalty. With the assistance of Post and the Guardian organization, Miller seems to be making progress towards establishing his innocence.

Grisham painstakingly provides readers with the difficulty of the process of exoneration. It takes time, money and passion. Witnesses must be located and questioned again, and evidence reexamined by competent experts. And reluctant prosecutors and judges must face the possibility that justice may not have resulted in obtaining the original conviction.

Because this is a thriller and not real life, Grisham gives readers an interesting twist often not present in actual exoneration cases. Miller was convicted in a knowing conspiracy to frame an innocent man. The real murderers are still around and need to protect themselves. Post must find evidence not only to clear Miller, but to prove the conspiracy to frame his client. As always in a Grisham novel, that effort is a page-turning thriller.

Grisham’s formula is fairly simple: “I start with a story, usually one I ‘borrow’ from the headlines…. When you live in this world, the material is endless.” But turning this formula into a wonderful novel is what makes Grisham a bestselling author. He shows no signs of slowing down, and why should he? Every day there are new stories available for him to share with his loyal readers.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on October 16, 2019

The Guardians
by John Grisham

  • Publication Date: June 16, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam
  • ISBN-10: 0593129989
  • ISBN-13: 9780593129982