Sycamore Row by John Grisham is the author's only novel to deal largely with race relations in the South since his first published work, A Time To Kill.
That early novel recounted the racially-charged trial of a black man who killed two white men after they had raped his daughter. The story was tense with racial prejudice, a cross burning, and a murder plot by violent Klansmen.
The defense lawyer in A Time To Kill, Jake Brigance, returns in Sycamore Row. But this time he's trying to execute the last will of a rich white man who inexplicably left his fortune to his black female housekeeper.
The black-white conflict in this case is now over money, not murder, which represents progress of a sort in the New South. But as the civil court trial unfolds, new revelations show that the ugly,violent secrets of the Old South can still come back to haunt the present.
As William Faulkner once wrote: "The past is never really dead. It's not even past."
Sycamore Row is set in the town of Clanton in Ford County, Mississippi, the site of much of Grisham's fiction. The novel brings back colorful local characters from past Grisham works, in particular The Summons, The Last Juror, and Ford County.
In Sycamore Row, the author continues his usual sardonic depiction of the seamier antics of the legal profession, as well as his wry commentary on the culture of his native South.
Sycamore Row is one of the best novels John Grisham has written during his long career.