A jury — a group of 12 men and women called together to cast judgement onto an individual. But what is the jury to do if that same individual threatens their lives if they convict? Enter the John Grisham novel, The Last Juror. Grisham takes us, the reader, into the town of Clanton in Ford County Mississippi to witness the story of Willie Traynor, the young and brash new editor of The Ford County Times. Traynor is quickly given the story of a lifetime when Danny Padgitt murders and rapes the mother of two children and then threatens the jury if they convict him. While this wouldn’t mean much in our day and age — it means a lot in 1970 in the deep south where Padgitt is given parole after only 9 years — and then the first juror is shot dead.
The premise for The Last Juror is quite engaging. The reader can’t help but continue flipping the pages to see what exactly happens with the Padgitt case. Perhaps the biggest problem; however, is this book’s lack of direction. Grisham almost bit off more than he could chew with this novel. While the main plotline is interesting and engaging, at times it feels more like a subplot amidst all the other news that Traynor, the narrator, covers in Clanton. Yet, the novel remains strong thanks to the characters and Grisham’s fantastic writing.
The characters that make up the city of Clanton are simply amazing. They leap off the pages and feel real. Traynor is a spectacular narrator and an interesting and entertaining character. The Padgitt family is handled perfectly by Grisham and the reader will get shivers up their spines whenever they’re around. The town of Clanton itself becomes a character and at some point in the story, the reader doesn’t really care that Grisham has lost the focus of the main story because the characters are so engaging.
Grisham is one of the greatest writers of our time and his style is nothing less than beautiful. Its a shame that Grisham’s works are often labeled as “junk novels” when his works are nothing short of literature. Even during the more dull parts of the narrative, the reader is still engaged by Grisham’s masterful handling of the English language.
Really, the only complaint there is to make about this novel is the lack of focus and the rather abrupt ending. Grisham just tackled too much with this book. Issues such as corruption, racism, and the war in Vietnam are all covered wonderfully but at times it seems a little much and takes away from the story that is supposed to be at the heart of the novel. In fact, the main story really feels little more than a minor event throughout most of the book. Overall though, The Last Juror is another great Grisham novel and should be read by all his fans as well as any other fans of thrillers, courtroom dramas, and good literature.
Content: R for mature thematic elements and some disturbing narrative including a brief scene involving rape