BOOKS: A Time to Kill?

John Grisham writes a serious novel about the death penalty

John Grisham was heard to say the other day on National Public Radio that at one point he had been a strong advocate of the death penalty but that he is now troubled and undecided. He may have written himself into this state of uncertainty with his grim and impressive new novel, The Chamber (Doubleday; 486 pages; $24.95). That's the feel of the book; it's not a tract in fictional form but a work produced by painful writhing over a terrible paradox: vengeance may be justified, but killing is a shameful, demeaning response to evil.

The Chamber has the pace and...

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