Top positive review
Life and death in a small town.
on February 14, 2004
John Grisham's new novel, "The Last Juror," is set in Clanton, Mississippi in the 1970's. Joyner William Traynor is a twenty-three-year-old college dropout with a background in journalism. His wealthy grandmother lends Traynor the money to buy "The Ford County Times," a bankrupt weekly newspaper. The young man, dubbed "Willie" by the folks in Clanton, is determined to turn the newspaper into a profitable enterprise.
When a young widow named Rhoda Kassellaw is raped and murdered in Clanton, Willie reports the crime and the subsequent trial in lurid detail. "The Ford County Times" gains a host of new readers and Willie becomes a fixture in Clanton. He also makes himself the target of some dangerous people. Danny Padgitt is accused of the Kassellaw murder, and his family is well known for bribing public officials and killing people who cross them. The Padgitts are not at all happy with Willie Traynor's coverage of the Kassellaw murder. Danny even has the temerity to tell the jurors that if they convict him, he will get them sooner or later.
With "The Last Juror," Grisham is in top form. He beautifully depicts the assorted characters in Clanton, including the corrupt politicians, the drunken reporters, the gun-toting citizenry, and the good Christians who have a personal relationship with the Lord. One of most memorable characters is Miss Callie Ruffin, a black woman who has raised eight children, seven of whom went on to earn PhD's. Willie writes a lengthy and complimentary feature in his newspaper on Miss Callie and her family. He also becomes Callie's dear friend and a frequent guest at her bountiful table. Miss Callie is the first black woman voter as well as the first black juror in Clanton, having been picked to serve on the Padgitt jury.
"The Last Juror" has suspense, excitement, warmth, and gentle humor. Without preaching, Grisham perfectly captures the racial tension and the social upheaval of rural Mississippi in the seventies. He tells his story through Willie Traynor with effortless simplicity and with great affection. "The Last Juror" is a pleasure to read, and it is one of Grisham's finest novels.