Advantages A slight return to form
Disadvantages Not as groundbreaking as his earlier work.
|Would you read it again?|
|How does it compare to similar books?|
|How does it compare to other works by the same author?|
I am an avid fan of John Grisham, and have read most of his books. Unfortunately I was let down by the dreadful Bleachers, which proved a big mistake for Grisham (in my eyes at least), as he moved away from a genre which had made his name, and made him a whole host of fans.Luckily enough, The Last Juror, has gone some way into allowing him to redeem himself. It’s not the best that he has written, but is very good. However, he still fails to capture the passion and suspense which was apparent in The Pelican Brief and The Firm.
The Last Juror is set in Ford County, Mississippi in the early 70’s, and is the first of his novels to do so since A Time to Kill. The lead character is Willie Traynor, a young and naïve journalist from Memphis. He gets a job as a reporter on a small newspaper; The Ford County Times, in Clanton.The editor is Wilson Caudle, a World War One veteran in his seventies, who loves writing obituaries. Not long after joining the paper, Caudle and his newspaper becomes bankrupt. Spotting a good little money earner, Willie borrows money from his rich grandmother, and buys the paper at a low price.
Overnight he becomes the editor and owner of this ailing weekly. Willie’s worry that he will not make a go of the business is rapidly put aside as a young mother is murdered and the incident makes front-page news.Rhoda Kassellaw is a young widow, bringing up two children on her own. One night she is brutally raped and murdered by a local man called Danny Padgitt. She runs, bleeding and bruised to her neighbour’s house, screaming her accusers name before dying on her neighbours swing.
There is no doubt that the killer is Danny Padgitt and he is swiftly arrested by the local Sheriff. However, the Padgitt family have a name in Ford County, they run an illegal moonshine and a marijuana business and are virtually untouchable. The Padgitt clan live on an island in the middle of nowhere, and have enough money to bribe local officials and residents.Willie Traynor reports on the murder and includes a photograph of Danny Padgitt entering the jail, covered in blood. The town is shocked by these photos and the graphic details of the murder. They no longer feel safe in their Southern homes, and demand justice.
Meanwhile Willie befriends Callie Ruffin, a local black resident, who has a large family of college professors. Willie decides to write an article on Callie’s extraordinary family, and so a life long friendship begins.Willie enjoys lunch with Miss Callie every Thursday, and we are introduced to her world and family. Their lunches are described in glorious detail, and makes the reader salivate in envy! You can almost smell the aromas seeping from her kitchen!
The story follows the trial and Padgitt’s sentencing to life imprisonment (this isn't a plot spoiler, it's on the jacket blurb). He reacts by shouting at the jurors, and stating that he will ‘get everyone of them’. Unfortunately for Willie, Miss Callie is a member of the jury, and in those times, life did not always mean life!Willie’s newspaper goes from strength to strength after the reporting of the murder and subsequent trial. Willie takes the reins from Caudle and begins to write long and lengthy obituaries. The newspaper begins to become a success and Willie’s life in Clanton is sealed.
The story is told from Willie’s viewpoint, and this proves to be a success in my opinion. Grisham’s usual courtroom dramas are told from the perspective of the lawyer, and this is a welcome change from norm. There is no shortage of shady lawyers however, and you are unsure which lawyers the Padgitt family have corrupted.Grisham tells the story of the newspaper; it’s staff and the families from the County leading up to, and after the grisly murder of Rhoda Kasselaw. There are good times, and bad times, all explained in delicious detail by the writer. His style allows the reader to emphasise with the characters and their lives.
Grisham handles the racial prejudice of the time very well, and the reader feels frustrated and angry at the way the races are divided so cruelly. However, it is a time of change, and the characters in the story come across desegregation with eventual acceptance and understanding.I really enjoyed this book, and felt that Grisham has returned to form - to a degree. His writing always intrigues me, and holds my interest from the very first page. But this story fails to excite me as much as his earlier work, which was groundbreaking at the time, but now seem to be almost generic.
There is one minor quibble though, and that is the misleading title. The blurb on the book states that when Danny Padgitt is paroled and returned early to his hometown “the retribution begins…” This happens quite late in the story, and this is when I questioned the significance of the title.I still rate Grisham as a top class author and a leader of his field and would recommend this book to his fans, but I feel that he has lost the plot a little along the way – think The Testament and The Partner, which I didn’t enjoy at all. This book redeems my faith in his classic courtroom dramas. I realise that we all benefit from change, but in this respect I believe that if it ‘ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’.
Here is what others have said about The Last Juror:John Dugdale, from The Sunday Times writes:
The Last Juror by John Grisham is published by Century and can be bought at Amazon for £12.59 hardback.ISBN 1844131599
Thanks for reading.
Attention, this is the first review from this author
Instead of giving a negative rating, consider:
Help this member by giving your advice
Report fraud (for example plagiarism) or other issue with the review to the Ciao support team
Add your comment
Audio CD, BBC Audiobooks Ltd
Availability: Usually dispatched within 1 to 3 weeks
Edition: Abridged, Audio CD, Random House Audio Assets
amazon marketplace books
Availability: Usually dispatched within 1-2 business days