For a sterling example of brand trumping quality, look no further than this novel, which currently rests at the top of the hardcover bestseller lists. It is, essentially, an old-school deep- South shaggy dog story, a corn-cob-pipe smokers’ cracker barrel yarn about a “thing” that happened in a Mississippi hamlet just after V-J Day. Just after returning home from battle, town favorite son and war hero Pete Banning walks into his family’s church and shoots the pastor. Arrested, he refuses to say why he committed the crime. His silence is annoying, but necessary since the only reason for anyone to keep reading is to find out his motive. The characters—including the recalcitrant Pete, his wavering but not despairing lawyer, his loyal, all-knowing housekeeper, and even his sad, maybe-not-so-addled wife whom he has placed in one of those genteel Southern asylums—are as thin as faintly-recalled gossip from long ago. Reader Beck’s smooth Southern accent (second only to the one Will Patton uses when rendering the novels of James Lee Burke) adds a crucial layer of authenticity to the proceedings, but there’s not much he or any reader could do with this unrewarding material in which the answer to the Big Why becomes obvious halfway in. Grisham does add a final twist, but, depending on one’s tolerance level, it may seem either cheesy or downright desperate.