The book is a valuable window into the oft neglected, male post-WWII upper-middle class mindset. (Right about now you're probably saying to yourself, 'Weren't all 1950s novels about the white, suburban experience?' and when you think more deeply on it, books from that time either completely got it wrong by not addressing what was really important and true, or they were inevitably a rejection of the status quo.) This is a man who believes in the American way, in the rule of law, but he inserted a self-imposed flaw into his otherwise picturesque life when he fudged the facts for the greater good, and now he has to face the consequences of his decision.
The main character of this book just wants things to go back to the way they were: happy kids, a nice house, a small boat, and a dog in the yard. Unfortunately, hardened, psychopathic criminal Max Cady has come to town.
Cady is both the devil and the star of this book. Every time he speaks, Cady's telling the main character that he himself brought all of this hillbilly wrath down on his genteel existence knowingly, voluntarily, and intentionally. The lawyer, for all of his clear-eyed reasonableness, knows in his heart that the uneducated convict is correct.
Then the gut-wrenching questions must begin. How far would you go to protect your family? Would you use your influence to manipulate the legal system? Would you violate his privacy? Would you pay to have the offender beaten? Would you pay to have him killed? And what if none of those worked? And even if your family survives, will they come away unscathed?
A good, but not great, novel. The main drag is the pseudo lighthearted teenspeak that is so artificial no teenager ever uttered such nonsense in all of history.