When 23-year-old Willie Traynor, a former reporter from the north, purchases a bankrupt Mississippi weekly in 1970, he can't believe his dumb luck. Instead of trying to revive a nearly defunct paper, he immediately publicizes the grisly rape and murder of a young mother by a man she'd rejected, bringing renewed life to the Ford County Times. With the aid of his publicity, the killer, Danny Padgitt, is tried and sentenced to life in prison, but only after he threatens to kill off all the jurors. Nine years later, Danny is paroled, and returns to the idyllic town of Clanton to fulfill his promise.
Doubleday. 355 pages. $27.95.
"As he has done with increasing frequency, Mr. Grisham fuses an element of advocacy with his storytelling. ... Here, as in A Time to Kill, he is able to populate Clanton with flesh-and-blood characters and make readers care about them, which only heightens concern after a renegade Padgitt begins 'pickin'' off the jurors." Janet Maslin
Detroit Free Press
"The Last Juror is the best John Grisham novel yet. ... [But] is there anyone who hasn't figured out who the last juror is by page 100?" Marta Salij
"The story hums along, a slick touch here, a smooth insertion there, and before you know it, the author has taken a careworn recipe from the school of Faulkner, Capote and James Lee Burke and made of it something surprisingly tasty." Dennis Drabelle
"The book's a page-turner, all right, and what Grisham's legions of fans expect. ... The end of The Last Juror is unsatisfying, unsurprising, and unconvincing, but some of Grisham's readers may not mind because he's given them so much more along the way than they have learned to expect." Richard Dyer
Pittsburgh Post Gaz
"It's not the page-turner that many other Grisham books have been. ... We don't necessarily come to Grisham for a look at the life of a small-town newspaperman, nicely captured for someone not in the business, and his neighbors who double as subjects and readers." Barbara Vancheri
SJ Mercury News
"Small-town Southern life has been so brilliantly presented by great writers like William Faulkner and Eudora Welty that the only way to sustain our interest in it anymore is to camp it up like James Wilcox in Modern Baptists or to take the snarky approach of Donna Tartt in The Little Friend. But neither camp nor snark is in Grisham's repertoire, though for a while I thought it might be." Charles Matthews
"In the narrow space between 'awful' and 'gawd-awful,' John Grisham has slung his hammock ... and continues to rest on his laurels." Steve Duin
Is this latest thriller from Grisham up to snuff? Or, at least, to his usual level of, err, proficiency? Maybe yes, maybe no. Grisham revisits his old haunting ground, the Deep South of A Time to Kill, to depict the inner workings of a small, insular Southern town. He creates some good characters: an evil bootlegger family, a sleazy lawyer, an immature editor, and a tender black woman, Callie, whose relationship with Willie forms the best part of the novel. Some critics loved the legal suspense. Others cited slow scenes, sloppy dialogue, a clumsy ending, and an incomplete portrait of the racially segregated Clanton. Padgitt's trial is "painful to watch, more painful to read," notes the Oregonian. But maybe we've come to expect too much from the author of The Runaway Jury, so sit back and enjoy.