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The Last Juror Mass Market Paperback – December 14, 2004

3.9 out of 5 stars 1,032 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

In 1970, small town newspaper The Clanton Times went 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 long-haired idealist into another of the town's colorful characters--renovating an old house, sporting a bowtie, beloved on both sides of the color line, and the only person to have attended each of the town's 88 churches at least once. The Last Juror returns Grisham to the courtroom where he made his name, but those who enjoyed the warm sentiment of his recent novels (Bleachers, A Painted House) will still find much to love here. --Benjamin Reese --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Grisham has spent the last few years stretching his creative muscles through a number of genres: his usual legal thrillers (The Summons, The King of Torts, etc.), a literary novel (The Painted House), a Christmas book (Skipping Christmas) and a high school football elegy (Bleachers). This experimentation seems to have imbued his writing with a new strength, giving exuberant life to this compassionate, compulsively readable story of a young man's growth from callowness to something approaching wisdom. Willie Traynor, 23 and a college dropout, is working as a reporter on a small-town newspaper, the Ford County Times, in Clanton, Miss. When the paper goes bankrupt, Willie turns to his wealthy grandmother, who loans him $50,000 to buy it. Backed by a stalwart staff, Willie labors to bring the newspaper back to health. A month after his first issue, he gets the story of a lifetime, the murder of beautiful young widow Rhoda Kasselaw. After being raped and knifed, the nude Rhoda staggered next door and whispered to her neighbor as she was dying, "Danny Padgitt. It was Danny Padgitt." The killer belongs to an infamous clan of crooked highway contractors, killers and drug smugglers who live on impregnable Padgitt Island. Willie splashes the murder all over the Times, making him both an instant success and a marked man. The town is up in arms, demanding Danny's head. After a near miss (the Padgitts are known for buying themselves out of trouble), Danny is convicted and sentenced to life in prison. As he's dragged out of the courtroom, he vows revenge on the jurors. Willie finds, to his consternation, that in Mississippi life doesn't necessarily mean life, so in nine years Danny is back outâ€"and jurors begin to die. Around and through this plot Grisham tells the sad, heroic, moving stories of the eccentric inhabitants of Clanton, a small town balanced between the pleasures and perils of the old and the new South. The novel is heartfelt, wise, suspenseful and funny, one of the best Grishams ever.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Dell; Reprint edition (December 14, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 044024157X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0440241577
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.1 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,032 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #627,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jason C. Garza on February 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
After the travesty that was "King of Torts," John Grisham returns with a novel that appears, on the cover, to be another legal thriller but is, in fact, something else entirely. This is not about courtroom theatrics or terrible murders or greedy, corrupt lawyers seeking justice that will benefit their pocketbooks. No, "The Last Juror" is much, much different than your typical Grisham fare.
It is a story of humanity. John Grisham has entered a new field while treading on familiar territory. He has written something that touches the pulse of the 1970's in Ford County. This is the story of Willie Traynor, newspaper editor, and his friendship with Callie Ruffin, a black woman and mother of eight, and a fledgling newspaper founded on obituaries. Danny Padgitt's actions are known fairly early on, and there truly is no question as to his guilt.
There are some courtroom theatrics here, but they are secondary to the relationship between Willie and Miss Callie; indeed, the courtroom scenes are secondary to the character development and onset of desegregation that the denizens of Ford County are faced with. If anything, "The Last Juror" is the sort of novel one would expect to read in a 20th Century literature class. There is a fair amount of suspense, and there is some criticism of the legal system (70's and current) and of course a bit of preaching, but it all works.
Grisham has crafted one of his best novels and given us a slew of memorable characters; the Ruffin family will stay with you long after completing the novel. As will Willie and the eclectic bunch of "old folks" who dominate the town. Social criticism is also a bit heavy, with the arrival of Bargain City and the Padgitt clan's unsavory vocations.
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By A Customer on February 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
There are so many riviting aspects to this latest Grisham novel that it's hard to know where to begin. First, there is the old vs. the new with regards to the south--how it has changed, is changing, and will change. That in itself is enough for a book and reminds me of other writers who have tackled that slippery slope: McCrae in his Bark of the Dogwood and Conroy in Prince of Tides. But the most intriguing aspect of this Grisham book is his characters. Then again, that's always the most intriguing aspect of his work. In any other writer's hands, the character of Danny Padgitt (how's that for a white trash name?) would be a cardboard cut-out. But in Grisham's he's flesh-and-blood. And Danny literally "gives" the newspaper in the town new life when he commits a murder. As with all media, they love sensationalism, and the Ford County Times--the paper that Willie Traynor now owns--is no exception. Seizing the opportunity, Traynor splashes the gory details all over "the Times" and the result is that he an instant celebrity and also a marked man. Padgitt finally gets his, but not full-out. His life sentence is evidently not quite as "lifelong" as everyone thought, and as soon as he's released, the killing starts. This, all because of his statement to the jury on his way out that he will have his revenge on the jurors. Lovely. Especially if you're one of them. All through this excellent plot, Grisham weaves the lives (or lackthereof) of the colorful characters in the town--yet another aspect of southern writing (again, McCrae or Conroy), and it's really these people that create the landscape and backdrop for this book. The entire novel reads like a well-done combination of Grisham's legal thrillers, his homage to Mississippi (A Painted House), and his foray into small town Southern America. Without a doubt this is his best effort to date.
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Format: Audio CD
Last week I finished listening to John Grisham's The Last Juror during my daily commute. I was very impressed. The first notable thing about this story is that while there is some courtroom time, it is NOT about a court case or a lawyer, etc, like many of Grisham's books. Grisham is a fine writer, but in this story about a small southern town and it's very young, very green newspaper editor/writer, he outdid himself. I'll warn that it doesn't have quite as much "excitement" and "suspense" as you occasionally find in his courtroom thrillers. It's more laidback than those, although there is some suspense and a touch of blood and gore. This story is about people. It's about a town that changes over time and the townsfolk who change with it - some with relish and some kicking and screaming. It's about Willie Trainer, the newspaper owner who comes to town, an outsider, buys the newspaper, and over time gains the respect, loyalty and love of the town he serves. The true beauty of this book, though, is the incredible way that Mr. Grisham introduces you to the characters and the townspeople. Each character in this book is a story finely woven. You're not reading/hearing that Joe Blow eats eggs for breakfast and is wearing black pants and a blue shirt. You learn about these people: their past, their present, and you look forward to their future. The writing is masterful in the creation of characters that we care about, are interested in and who shape this story. When I finished the story, I actually left the radio off for the rest of my ride home just so I could think about what a wonderful story it was and how much I enjoyed it.

Following Grisham's other non-courtroom drama's, specifically A Painted House, I see his talent is truly in character development.
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