The first book in the Theodore Boone series has deservedly attracted much praise. Brilliantly written both books have compelling plots and great characterisation. Taking crime fiction in a new direction, possibly even introducing a new literary genre - the legal thriller for teenagers. It is however the moral ambiguity in John Grisham’s writing which, for me, makes the stories refreshingly different from my own childhood reading material of great young sleuths like Nancy Drew and The Secret Seven.
In Theodore Boone’s self-titled debut novel for example, the perfect murder seems to have been committed in Strattenburg and a guilty man could go free. Theodore has to wrestle with his conscience, torn between keeping his promise to an illegal immigrant and ensuring justice for a murdered wife. Whereas in The Abduction, the latest novel, Theodore’s best friend April is kidnapped supposedly by a notorious criminal just escaped from prison. Theodore must find a compromise. Does he telling the police and his parents the truth in order to save April?
The moral ambiguity in the story is exemplified by Theodore’s uncle Ike. Ike had been a practising lawyer in the Boone family firm before committing a crime for which he served a prison sentence over several years. No-one will explain, to Theodore, why. Disbarred Ike makes a living as a tax accountant but likes to use his friends to keep himself in contact with the law, friends he describes as “closer to the street”. Characterised as an aging hippie, living alone and needing a caffeine fix every morning Ike is an unlikely, but fallen hero. He also seems to represent the slippery slope that Theodore himself could easily fall down: someone prepared to justify the means to satisfy the end.
Theodore Boone is a great new series, presenting young adults with a more complex and subtle understanding of the law. It is a game with rules, not necessarily to follow, but to be played.
Theodore Boone is out now, published by Hodder. Grab yourself a copy and be prepared for a thrilling read.