The Guardians, John Grisham, author; Michael Beck, narrator
Grisham knows how to write a book that holds the reader’s attention. Although it is simplistic at times, in its style, and although there is no real action to excite the reader, many of the problems in our justice system are exposed in this novel in a way that the public can digest easily. It illustrates the danger that often fasces those who stare down the injustices of society. Often it is horrifying, like when corrupt individuals and organizations like drug cartels take justice into their own hands, and often it is uplifting when justice prevails and the innocent go free. Always, it is appealing and will hold the reader’s interest. Several cases of unfairly sentenced victims are developed and the effort to set some free is described in detail.
In particular, however, the novel focuses on Quincy Miller, a man who has been behind bars for more than two decades for a murder he did not commit. Cullen Post and his compatriots work tirelessly for Guardian Ministries to free the wrongfully convicted. They expend this effort for very little personal, material compensation, but rather they work for the satisfaction of righting injustice. Cullen Post was once a public defender. In the past, he had a nervous breakdown when assigned to defend a violent, barbaric murderer, and he abandoned his law career. His marriage dissolved after months of psychiatric treatment, and he decided to enter the seminary and became an Episcopal minister. After that effort waned, and he needed to do more, he joined forces with a woman who opened a ministry that defended those that some might call the indefensible, the convicted felons on death row. Some had no money, but all insisted they were innocent. Some of the convicts that contacted them were eventually exposed as guilty, but most were not, and the effort to save them is always laudable.
The reader learns that there are many wrongfully convicted prisoners languishing in prison. The justice system does not make it easy to reverse course once it has ruled, even when new evidence is discovered. Are there jailhouse snitches, have some wives and husbands lied to convict their spouses, do witnesses lie, do some forensic scientists adjust their testimony to suit the person who hires them, do the real murderers feel no guilt when someone dies in their stead? Yes, apparently.
There are lots of moral questions arising from this straightforward tale about injustice and those that devote themselves to work to correct the failures of our justice system. It is inspiring to learn of that effort. At the end, the author’s note explains that this novel is based on a real case, and there is a real organization, like Guardian Ministries. It is the Centurion Ministry. It is a non-profit that works to free the wrongfully convicted. He also notes that they could use donations to further their efforts more effectively. If this book interests you and inspires you to learn more, I suggest you also read the non-fiction book by the author Grisham mentions, Bryan Stevenson. It is called “Just Mercy”.
The narrator of this book was spot on. He read with perfect tone and emphasis, never getting in the way of the book's message.