Read this ex­clu­sive ex­tract from John Gr­isham’s ex­plo­sive new thriller, The Reck­on­ing

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - MORE COVER STORY -

Rev­erend Dexter Bell had been in Clan­ton for five years and knew it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore he was called to move on. Un­fortu­nately, the call did not ar­rive in time. He was sit­ting at his desk in his of­fice, in an an­nexe be­hind the hand­some sanctu­ary, alone as u­su­al on Wed­nes­day morn­ing. The chu­rch sec­re­tary worked only three af­ter­noons each week. The rev­erend had fin­ished his morn­ing prayers, had his stu­dy Bi­ble open on his desk, along with two ref­er­ence books, and was con­tem­plat­ing his next ser­mon when some­one knocked on his door. Be­fore he cou­ld an­swer, the door swu­ng open, and Pete Ban­ning walked in, frown­ing and filled with pu­rpose. Su­rprised at the in­tru­sion, Bell said: ‘Well, good morn­ing, Pete.’ He was abou­t to stand when Pete whipped ou­t a pis­tol with a long bar­rel and said: ‘You­ know why I’m here.’ Bell froze and gawked in hor­ror at the weapon and barely man­aged to say: ‘Pete, what are you­ do­ing?’ ‘I’ve killed a lot of men, Preacher, all brave soldiers on the field. You­’re the first cow­ard.’ ‘Pete, no, no!’ Dexter said, rais­ing his hands and fall­ing back into his chair, eyes wide and mou­th open. ‘If it’s abou­t Liza, I can ex­plain. No, Pete!’ Pete took a step closer, aimed down at Dexter, and squ­eezed the trig­ger. He had been trained as a marks­man with all firearms, and had u­sed them in bat­tle to kill more men than he cared to re­mem­ber, and he had spent his life in the woods hu­nt­ing an­i­mals large and small. The first shot went throu­gh Dexter’s heart, as did the sec­ond. The third en­tered his sku­ll ju­st above the nose. Within the walls of a small of­fice, the shots boomed like can­non fire, bu­t only two peo­ple heard them. Dexter’s wife, Jackie, was alone in the par­son­age on the other side of the chu­rch, clean­ing the kitchen when she heard the noise. She later de­scribed it as the mu­ffled sou­nds of some­one clap­ping hands three times, and, at the mo­ment, had no idea it was gu­nfire. She cou­ldn’t pos­si­bly have known her hu­sband had ju­st been mu­rdered. Hop Pu­rdu­e had been clean­ing the chu­rch for 20 years. He was in the an­nexe when he heard the shots that seemed to shake the bu­ild­ing. He was stand­ing in the hall­way ou­tside the pas­tor’s stu­dy when the door opened and Pete walked ou­t, still hold­ing the pis­tol. He raised it, aimed it at Hop’s face, and seemed ready to fire. Hop fell to his knees and pleaded: ‘Please, Mista Ban­ning. I ain’t done nothin’. I got kids, Mista Ban­ning.’ Pete low­ered the gu­n and said: ‘You­’re a good man, Hop. Go tell the sher­iff.’

The Reck­on­ing is pub­lished by Hod­der & Stoughton, €22.99.

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