The Last Juror
Doubleday, February, 2004.
Hardcover, 355 pages.
Willie Traynor, a college dropout, talks his wealthy grandmother into loaning him the money to purchase a bankrupt Mississippi small town newspaper. Traynor isn't having much luck with the newspaper until a young mother is brutally raped and murdered by a a disturbed young member of the Padgitt family. The Padgitt family has been known for years to be criminals, thugs and bandits. They isolate themselves on a small patch of land just outside of town and are rumored to regularly pay off local government officials and police. When Traynor provides detailed and accurate coverage of the murder his newspaper sales explode. Traynor's coverage of the trial infuriated the Padgitt family and he soon finds himself and his newspaper business threatened both by the Padgitts' lawyers and by their hired killers. The killer is finally convicted, but when he gets out of jail, the jurors from his trial start dying one by one.
This latest book from Grisham is a fresh, entertaining tale, despite the fact that the main character is a journalist/newspaper owner (not a lawyer) and the enemy is not a giant corporation but a homegrown family that specializes in crime, thievery and murder in a small town in Mississippi. This is Grisham's first return to Mississippi as a setting since his novel, A Time to Kill. The Last Juror focuses on small-town politics and how one corrupt family can control and bully its residents. Grisham captures the interesting nuances of life in Clanton, Mississippi and fully develops Traynor's character. Traynor is likeable, but he's not the heroic, altruistic lawyer typical of most Grisham novels. Some Grisham fans may be disappointed that the author has moved away from corporate politics and large, complicated legal proceedings, but this story of revenge, suspense and justice in a small town makes for compelling reading.
The Last Juror is available for purchase on Amazon.com
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This review was published in the March-April, 2004 of The Internet Writing Journal.
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