This is a very early example of the courtroom drama. Since the original publication of this book in 1958, the genre has blossomed. Reading this book was a lot like watching the old Perry Mason re-runs. It was not an easy read, nor was it a quick one, but it was rewarding to read through to the last page.
Travers takes on a case in which the accused murdered a barkeep in front of witnesses and immediately confessed to a deputy. Paul Biegler, one of two defense lawyers in small town Michigan accepts the case. The story then unfolds in two parts: the investigation and the trial.
The investigation helped establish our characters as real people. The trial helped to show the inner workings of the American judicial system of the time. As Paul and his partner talked to people involved in the case, the reader was able to decide who was liked and who was in the wrong. During the trial, the procedure was front and center. It may have been a little drudgery, but for the most part, it was intricately detailed and informative for those who have never (and likely never will) encounter this process.
One of the key parts of this case is a brutal rape. The 1950s handling of this situation was tame to a current day reader. Rape is never palatable, but the straightforward handling of the details was almost refreshing for it’s lack of shock factor.
This book was made into a movie starring Jimmy Stewart. I have never seen it, but may look into getting my eyes on it.