The Guardians By John Grisham



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“The Guardians” is Grisham’s 40th novel; he’s now 64 and has been writing suspense novels pretty much nonstop since “A Time to Kill” was published in 1989. Most of his novels are legal thrillers, but Grisham has also branched out into stories about rare books, sports and medicine. (His 2015 e-book, “The Tumor,” is about an experimental cancer treatment called focused ultrasound technology that Grisham champions.) Grisham has even written a YA legal series featuring a 13-year-old amateur legal eagle named “Theodore Boone.”

Such creative longevity is not that unusual in the suspense genre, but what is rare is Grisham’s feat of keeping up the pace of producing, on average, a novel a year (in 2017 he published two) without a notable diminishment of ingenuity or literary quality. Dame Agatha Christie, who barely paused between books to sharpen pencils during her near-50-year marathon mystery career, is another such marvel.

Which brings us to “The Guardians,” Grisham’s latest terrific novel. Grisham’s main character here is a so-called “innocence lawyer,” a workaholic attorney-and-Episcopal-priest named Cullen Post. Post has trimmed his life down to the barest of essentials, living in spartan quarters above the nonprofit Guardian Ministries, his workplace in Savannah, Ga. The book focuses on Post’s investigation into the wrongful conviction of a black man named Quincy Miller who was set up to take the fall for the murder of a white lawyer in a small Florida town some 22 years before the opening of this story. (In his life away from his writing desk, Grisham serves on the board of directors of The Innocence Project.)

Post’s efforts to ferret out exculpatory evidence in this cold case put him in grave danger because, for one thing, the shadowy drug cartel responsible for the murder has been known to hold grisly parties in isolated jungle locales south of the border. In the dead center of this novel, Post hears a cautionary tale from a traumatized survivor of one of these gatherings. This account calls upon Grisham to summon up his heretofore unrealized inner Caligula.

In an affecting backstory, Post recalls his early career as a public defender; but the grotesque contradictions of that job — particularly Post’s final assignment to defend a depraved teenage rapist and murderer — brought on a nervous breakdown. After a sincere “come-to-Jesus” moment during his recovery, Post was ordained and began serving with a prison ministry, which led him to innocence work and eventually Guardian Ministries. A trim four-person operation, Guardian Ministries consists of Post; an underpaid litigator who’s a single mother of boys; an exoneree named Frankie who’s turned private investigator; and the nonprofit’s founder, a former business executive who, similar to Post, had a conversion experience and dedicated her life to writing wrongs of the criminal justice system.

That said, “The Guardians” is nuanced in its moral vision: Post acknowledges that most of the prisoners who contact him alleging wrongful convictions are, in fact, guilty; but it’s the thousands of others who have become his vocation. “It’s fairly easy to convict an innocent man and virtually impossible to exonerate one,” Post reminds a potential client. So far, the team has exonerated eight prisoners.


In the small north Florida town of Seabrook, a young lawyer named Keith Russo was shot dead at his desk as he worked late one night. The killer left no clues behind. There were no witnesses, no real suspects, no one with a motive. The police soon settled on Quincy Miller, a young black man who was once a client of Russo’s.

Quincy was framed, convicted, and sent to prison for life. For twenty-two years he languished in prison with no lawyer, no advocate on the outside. Then he wrote a letter to Guardian Ministries, a small innocence group founded by a lawyer/minister named Cullen Post.

Guardian handles only a few innocence cases at a time, and Post is its only investigator. He travels the South fighting wrongful convictions and taking cases no one else will touch. With Quincy Miller, though, he gets far more than he bargained for. Powerful, ruthless people murdered Keith Russo, and they do not want Quincy exonerated.

They killed one lawyer twenty-two years ago, and they will kill another one without a second thought.



"Long before his name became synonymous with the modern legal thriller, he was working 60-70 hours a week at a small Southaven, Mississippi law practice, squeezing in time before going to the office and during courtroom recesses to work on his hobby—writing his first novel.

Born on February 8, 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to a construction worker and a homemaker, John Grisham as a child dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Realizing he didn't have the right stuff for a pro career, he shifted gears and majored in accounting at Mississippi State University. After graduating from law school at Ole Miss in 1981, he went on to practice law for nearly a decade in Southaven, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. In 1983, he was elected to the state House of Representatives and served until 1990.

One day at the DeSoto County courthouse, Grisham overheard the harrowing testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim and was inspired to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl's father had murdered her assailants. Getting up at 5 a.m. every day to get in several hours of writing time before heading off to work, Grisham spent three years on A Time to Kill and finished it in 1987. Initially rejected by many publishers, it was eventually bought by Wynwood Press, who gave it a modest 5,000 copy printing and published it in June 1988.

That might have put an end to Grisham's hobby. However, he had already begun his next book, and it would quickly turn that hobby into a new full-time career—and spark one of publishing's greatest success stories. The day after Grisham completed A Time to Kill, he began work on another novel, the story of a hotshot young attorney lured to an apparently perfect law firm that was not what it appeared. When he sold the film rights to The Firm to Paramount Pictures for $600,000, Grisham suddenly became a hot property among publishers, and book rights were bought by Doubleday. Spending 47 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, The Firm became the bestselling novel of 1991.

The successes of The Pelican Brief, which hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and The Client, which debuted at number one, confirmed Grisham's reputation as the master of the legal thriller. Grisham's success even renewed interest in A Time to Kill, which was republished in hardcover by Doubleday and then in paperback by Dell. This time around, it was a bestseller.

Since first publishing A Time to Kill in 1988, Grisham has written one novel a year (his other books are The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, A Painted House, Skipping Christmas, The Summons, The King of Torts, Bleachers, The Last Juror, and The Broker) and all of them have become international bestsellers. There are currently over 225 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 29 languages. Nine of his novels have been turned into films (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, A Painted House, The Runaway Jury, and Skipping Christmas), as was an original screenplay, The Gingerbread Man. The Innocent Man (October 2006) marks his first foray into non-fiction.

Grisham lives with his wife Renee and their two children Ty and Shea. The family splits their time between their Victorian home on a farm in Mississippi and a plantation near Charlottesville, VA.

Grisham took time off from writing for several months in 1996 to return, after a five-year hiatus, to the courtroom. He was honoring a commitment made before he had retired from the law to become a full-time writer: representing the family of a railroad brakeman killed when he was pinned between two cars. Preparing his case with the same passion and dedication as his books' protagonists, Grisham successfully argued his clients' case, earning them a jur



#After a few recent novels that failed to live up to Grisham's usual, exacting standard I heard many people pondering whether his time as a master of the legal thriller was over. Well, in The Guardians he replies in a way which will shut the naysayers up pretty damn quickly; here he is back to his barnstorming best, and I will undoubtedly be adding this to my favourite reads of 2019. The plotting is superb, the characters engaging, and the twists and turns plentiful and truly shocking; this is definitely up there with his most accomplished in my opinion. From the first page, I was gripped and ended up devouring it in a mere afternoon. Grisham's storytelling when at its peak is some of the most proficient in the whole of the literary sphere. But this book doesn't just focus on providing us readers with thrills and spills, it also has an emotional aspect to it which was very refreshing.

It centres around a group of lawyers who have turned their hand to investigating miscarriages of justice and are actively working to exonerate those who've become victims of a broken legal/court system. The fact that we are told at the end that this is based on a real-life group made it all the better and temporarily restored my faith in humanity. The story is impeccably structured and extensively researched; the information on miscarriages of justice was spot on, which I appreciated, and our narrator Post's ability to see situations from all perspectives is fascinating. This translates into him being able to understand the sentiments of both the defence and prosecution in the cases featured. If you enjoy legal-based thrillers then you simply can't go wrong; this is Grisham back to his finest and most addictive. Highly recommended.

#Did not finish. Gave up about page 220. I have read and enjoyed most of John Grisham’s books. This was an informative fictional account of a non-profit organization that advocates for and exonerates prisoners who have been wrongly convicted of a crime they did not commit. In Canada, there is Innocence Canada which has helped exonerate 23 innocent people since 1993. In the United States, the Innocence Project has branches in many States. In 2018 alone, 9 innocent people were exonerated in the USA. These 9 wrongly convicted prisoners had spent a combined 215 years in prison and now have their freedom restored. We often see news releases about the prisoners at long last being released, but the hard work of the dedicated and heroic people of organizations such as the Innocence Projects is little known. The use of DNA evidence is a vital part of proving innocence.

This book tells the story of Cullen Post who founded Guardian Ministries. This is a small firm working to prove the innocence of the wrongly convicted. Post is the right man to advocate for his clients. His experience leading him to be selected to defend a very bad man whom he knew to be guilty of a violent, brutal attack caused him to have a nervous breakdown. He is now a minister, as well as a lawyer and works for Guardian Ministries. They only advocate for a small number of clients, working diligently to free the innocent.

Such an unfortunate man is Quincy Miller, a black man who has been languishing in prison for 22 years. He was accused and imprisoned for the shooting to death of a lawyer, Russo, and Quincy has had no advocate on the outside until now.

Post learns that Quincy was certainly framed through a series of lies, missing evidence, and incompetent expert witnesses. It seems Russo’s actual murder involved a powerful criminal gang. Post’s diligence in gathering affidavits from people who lied under pressure at Quincy’s trial, and the forensic testimony from highly skilled expert witnesses which contradicts previous sloppy evidence has put his life in danger. The ruthless criminals will not hesitate to kill Post to cover up past crimes, including their murder of Russo.

I found the book to be informative regarding the number of prisoners who may be innocent, and those working tirelessly to free them. I wanted to like the book and did admire its premise, but found that for me it became slow and tedious rather than a compelling read. I realize there are some highly positive reviews, and prospective readers should not be deterred by my misgivings

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The Guardians, John Grisham