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The Last Juror

A 2004 novel by John Grisham

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Much more than just a legal thriller - very fine writing!

  • Mar 29, 2011
Mississippi's Ford County local weekly newspaper hangs on the edge of bankruptcy and Willie Traynor, a rather shiftless ne'er do well college dropout, hears from a chum that a publication like the Ford County Times would be a veritable license to print money if it were properly run. With the help of a $50,000 loan from his doting grandmother, Willie assumes the ownership of the newspaper and begins the process of pulling the newspaper from its deep hole. Things are definitely looking up and readership is given an enormous boost with his lurid, sensational coverage of the trial of local bad boy, Danny Padgitt, for the brutal rape and murder of Rhoda Kasselaw, a reclusive young widow. With the assistance of a shocking in court threat of revenge against the members of the jury if he is convicted, Padgitt is sent to prison for life and Ford County resumes the role of a sleepy-eyed southern town living its languid 1970 life.

As I read the entire middle half of the book, I found it quite easy to forget that Grisham made his name as an author writing legal thrillers. Grisham treats us to an extended commentary on life in a typical southern community during the decade of the 70s. He deals with racial prejudice, hatred, fear and the legal issues of bussing and de-segregation in a calm, straight up and quite fearless almost documentary approach. His very human characters of Calia and Esau Ruffin, a black couple that live on the wrong side of the tracks, allow us to see and acknowledge the historical wrongs and injustices that were visited upon the black population in the Deep South without standing up on an annoying soap box and yelling about it. The stereotypical white old boy's network is represented by the notorious Padgitt family, Lucien Willbanks, their extraordinarily slimy lawyer and Mackey Don Coley, the sheriff who has made a career of ignoring the Padgitt family's wrongdoings. Nixon's politics, the struggles the US faced attempting to extricate itself from the Vietnam debacle, conscientious objectors and returning veterans all make an appearance. Clearly, this fine piece of writing was also a metaphor for the time that Padgitt was in prison. Padgitt and the brutal murder simply vanish from the collective psyche of Ford County. As we read this story, we are SUPPOSED to forget about him just as the community did until we are shocked to discover he has been released on parole after only nine years and the jurors who sent him to prison begin to die.

At the risk of sounding like a literary snob, I'd like to suggest that Grisham has moved up a very large notch. With The Last Juror, he has proven his ability to write compelling human drama that doesn't rely upon simple chills and thrills to make the reader turn the pages. I believe this is the finest effort from an author who already has a pretty commendable body of work to his credit!

Paul Weiss

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March 29, 2011
I enjoyed your review, and I don't think you could ever sound like a literary snob in your reviews. You have a well-balanced writing voice that examines the pros and cons of any read. I'm adding this title to my future reading list too. Thanks for the recommendation.
More The Last Juror reviews
Quick Tip by . March 29, 2011
Grisham has moved up a very large notch. With The Last Juror, he has proven his ability to write compelling human drama that doesn't rely upon simple chills and thrills to make the reader turn the pages.
review by . April 02, 2010
The year is 1970, and callow college dropout Will Traynor, with six months of journalism experience, buys the local newspaper in Clanton, Mississippi. The business is moribund until a woman is raped and murdered, handing Will the opportunity to triple its circulation overnight. What follows is the story of the trial and its aftermath ten years later, when murderer is paroled. Along the way, Will, who has morphed into "Willie", makes some good friends and some colorful ones, learns about and finds …
review by . May 10, 2006
The Last Juror by John Grisham is not his typical legal thriller, but is more a coming of age story of a young reporter, Willie Traynor and the southern town he comes to call his home. He comes to Clanton as a college dropout, working as a cub reporter on the town's small newspaper. Within a couple of months, the owner of the newspaper has died and Willie, through a helpful investment from a rich relative, finds himself the owner, publisher and editor of the paper. Soon after he assumes ownership, …
review by . March 01, 2005
The Last Juror is a very intriguing story and I was pleased to learn more about the southern town of Clanton, Mississippi where Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill, was also set.  Being a life-long journalist, former newspaper owner, and current author, I particularly related to the newspaper angle in this book.  Grisham is the master of the courtroom, so I'm glad he's back haunting the "halls of justice." It's a page-turner, as I find all of Grisham's work. His superb style …
review by . February 09, 2005
"The Last Juror" is a bit of anomaly. There are many times when I have read non-fiction and found it hard to believe that the story is TRUE. While reading "The Last Juror" I had to keep reminding myself that it was in fact fiction. Such is the charm of Grisham's novel... it is warm, chraming and, at times, thrilling.     The actual story is fairly predictable and at points, brutally slow. Another slight annoyance is Grisham's portrayal of northern Mississippi. I feel that he …
review by . June 23, 2004
Not exactly what I'm used to from a Grisham novel, but a decent story nonetheless. Tale is set in Clanton, Mississippi, where a young man with his rich aunt as a benefactor is able to purchase the town's only newspaper, the Times. Circulation is decent at best, until a spectactular murder occurs with a member of the town's most notorious crime family (the Padgitts) as the prime suspect. In a world where justice is for sale and judges are for hire, a jury of 12 of the suspect's peers find him guilty …
review by . March 29, 2004
Although I'm not to the point with Grisham as I am with Patricia Corwell's Kay Scarpetta series, I'm getting a little burned out on uneven writing. I finished The Last Juror, Grisham's latest novel, and I can't say I liked it as much as I thought I would. The jacket cover led me to believe this was an action novel focused on revenge. The novel takes place in the 70's in Mississippi, and a small town is forever altered when a brutal murder and rape takes place. The killer is the son is some powerful …
review by . March 06, 2004
Small town Mississippi a few decades back. A secretive gangster family, corrupt politicians and a young widow just trying to get on with her life - until it is rudely terminated in gruesome rape and murder. A young man buys the local newspaper and propels himself into the soul of this yahoo paradise.   The prosecution of the accused is told through the newspaper editor's eyes. Along the way he is befriended by an African-American woman of remarkable character, who becomes the first black …
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Paul Weiss ()
Ranked #15
   A modern day dilettante with widely varied eclectic interests. A dabbler in muchbut grandmaster of none - wilderness camping in all four seasons, hiking, canoeing, world travel,philately, … more
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In 1970, small town newspaperThe Clanton Timeswent belly up. With financial assistance from a rich relative, it's purchased by 23-year-old Willie Traynor, formerly the paper's cub reporter. Soon afterward, his new business receives the readership boost it needs thanks to his editorial efforts and coverage of a particularly brutal rape and murder committed by the scion of the town's reclusive bootlegger family. Rather than shy from reporting on the subsequent open-and-shut trial (those who oppose the Padgitt family tend to turn up dead in the area's swampland), Traynor launches a crusade to ensure the unrepentant murderer is brought to justice. When a guilty verdict is returned, the town is relieved to find the Padgitt family's grip on the town did not sway the jury, though Danny Padgitt is sentenced to life in prison rather than death. But, when Padgitt is released after serving less than a decade in jail and members of the jury are murdered, Clanton once again finds itself at the mercy of its renegade family.

When it comes, the dénouement is no surprise; The Last Juror is less a story of suspense than a study of the often idyllic southern town of Clanton, Mississippi (the setting for Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill). Throughout the nine years between Padgitt's trial and release, Traynor finds acceptance in Clanton, where the people "don't really trust you unless they trusted your grandfather." He grows from a ...

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ISBN-10: 044024157X
ISBN-13: 978-0440241577
Author: John Grisham
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
Publisher: Dell
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