December 12, 2015

The Last Juror by John Grisham

Title:  The Last Juror
Author:  John Grisham
Pages:  487
Genre:  Legal Thriller
Publisher:  Dell, 2004

Synopsis:  In 1970, one of Mississippi's more colorful weekly newspapers, The Ford County Times, went bankrupt. To the surprise and dismay of many, ownership was assumed by a 23 year-old college dropout, named Willie Traynor. The future of the paper looked grim until a young mother was brutally raped and murdered by a member of the notorious Padgitt family. Willie Traynor reported all the gruesome details, and his newspaper began to prosper.

The murderer, Danny Padgitt, was tried before a packed courthouse in Clanton, Mississippi. The trial came to a startling and dramatic end when the defendant threatened revenge against the jurors if they convicted him. Nevertheless, they found him guilty, and he was sentenced to life in prison.

But in Mississippi in 1970, "life" didn't necessarily mean "life," and nine years later Danny Padgitt managed to get himself paroled. He returned to Ford County, and the retribution began.

Review:  This book is sent in Clanton, Mississippi, the same town from A Time to Kill which is one of my favorite Grisham stories.  This story actually happens before that one, but I was still pleased to revisit several characters I recognized:  the arrogant District Attorney, Rufus Buckley; the mean, drunken lawyer, Julien Wilbanks; and the divorce lawyer, Harry Rex Vonner.  I also noticed that Clanton itself had changed very little between 1970 when this book began and 1979 when it ended.  But, small towns are like that.

The main character is actually the editor of the local newspaper.  But the main story line surrounds the arrest, conviction, prison sentence and eventual release of a rapist and murderer.  Towards the end, I knew the newly-released murderer was not the one shooting jurors.  And I knew who was doing it.  There were clues if you looked for them.  It didn't in the least detract from the book.

I couldn't put it down, especially not during the last half.

Rating:  9 / 10

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