Over the years, I have read several of John Grisham's thrillers, and I have always enjoyed the way many of them are about lawyers who are challenged to solve problems in unique ways. I was therefore intrigued when I saw that John Grisham had written a mystery book for younger readers.
Unlike the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy books, which I loved when I was a kid, this story does not contain a lot of action and drama. This does not mean that there isn't any tension in the tale though, as you will see when you read the book for yourself.
For ages 8 to 12
Penguin, 2010, 978-0-14-241722-5
Both of Theodore Boone’s parents are lawyers, and one would think having two lawyers in the family (plus Uncle Ike, who is also a lawyer) would make Theo fed up with everything that has to do with the law. For some reason this is not the case. In fact, Theo is fascinated by every aspect of the law. When his eighth grade classmates are playing baseball and hanging out, Theo is at his parent’s office soaking up information about the law, or hobnobbing with judges and clerks at the courthouse. As far as Theo is concerned, becoming a lawyer is the only goal worth having.
When the trial of a man accused of murdering his wife begins, Theo is eager to observe what it going on. His instincts tell him that the man, Mr. Duffy, is guilty, but even he has to admit that the evidence is thin and circumstantial. Theo cannot see how the prosecution can prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Mr. Duffy did indeed kill his wife. He certainly seemed to have a motive (a million dollars in life insurance money), and he could be said to have opportunity, but no one saw him at his home (the scene of the crime) at the right time, and there is no evidence that he was there when his wife was killed.
Then a boy from San Salvador who Theo knows from school asks to speak to Theo. Everyone knows that Theo is a wiz when it comes to the law, and Julio wants Theo’s advice. Apparently Julio’s cousin, who is an illegal, saw Mr. Duffy going into his house at the time of the murder. He saw Mr. Duffy put on some gloves, which he later threw away in a garbage can. In short, it would appear that there was a witness who can place Mr. Duffy at his home when his wife was killed. The problem is that the witness does not want to come forward because he doesn’t want to be deported. Julio swears Theo to secrecy, but Theo knows that the secret is one he cannot keep. Somehow he has to convince the witness to come forward on his own, otherwise a guilty man could walk free.
John Grisham is famous for writing very successful adult thrillers, and now he has created a thoroughly enjoyable novel for younger readers. Children who have a fondness for mysteries will find this book intriguing. The story is not fast paced with a lot of action and drama, but it is gripping all the same. There is a suggestion of danger that lies just beneath the surface, and readers will be eager to find out how Theo solves the problem that he is presented with.
This is the first in what promises to be an excellent series for young mystery buffs.