The Last Juror: A Novel

by John Grisham

Hardcover, 2004



In 1970, one of Mississippi's more colorful weekly newspapers 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 the paper 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 he was found guilty. 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.… (more)


½ (1360 ratings; 3.6)

User reviews

LibraryThing member sammii507
Ugh, this book was awful. I am trying to expand my reading into genres other than my romance and sci-fi/fantasy world, and this certainly didn't help. The plot (what there was of one) was interrupted by 200-300 pages of absolutely nothing of interest, and when they finally got back to the
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interesting part of the story, it was incredibly stupid and anticlimactic. Everything about this book was entirely predictable and honestly, boring. I won't give up on the genre yet, but it's going to take an awful lot to get me to try anything else by the author.
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LibraryThing member davevanl
I have read probably a half dozen Grisham novels over the years. This one struck me as much more people-centered: less about the law and more about the people. It was a pleasant read, not to say a pleasant story. (No story about murder can be called pleasant).
LibraryThing member swl
JG's best. The character development, esp. of the narrator, was deeper and far more interesting than any before. (One quibble: he is still at it with the ending being rooted in running away, rich, to a desert island, figuratively this time rather than literally - I found that incredibly annoying.
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Surely more than one editor has suggested he branch out?)
I felt like he took a page from Greg Iles' more literary books, or possibly even the Pat Conroy south. Not that his characters aren't stereotypes (the young and avid journalist, the kind and wise old black lady) but within type, they were developed sufficiently that I found myself interested. Also, the flock of lesser characters were wonderful. Others might find them hackneyed, but the gaggle of drunk old lawyers were priceless. As per usual, there were enough characters, especially on the various law enforcement and legal teams, that I lost track, but that's just me. On the plot side, things were weaker; the revelation at the bad guy at the end seemed flat and unmotivated. But I am a reader who cares much more about the characters' stories and journeys than about pure plot, so I didn't much mind.
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LibraryThing member kd9
At once not a typical Grisham story and a protoypical Grisham novel. Although there are several murders and a trial, the book is more about the comforts and constraints of living in a small Southern town, than it is about notions of good and evil or justice.

This is a minor tale in a subdued voice
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about a young man who, having nothing better to do, buys a small newspaper and grows rich on a local murder and local corruption. Grisham has a lot to say about small town living and how limited the options are. But he also points out the webs of family and friendship that can grow in such a confined space. In the end, the murderer from a corrupt family is conveniently killed and the man leaves for broader horizons.
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LibraryThing member mramos
I was able to read this book in two sittings. Mr. Grisham writing style has improved quite a bit. And I have always liked it. This book takes place in the south in the seventies. A young man just out of college without graduating and moves to a small town where he takes a job on a county paper. The
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county is in Mississippi, Grisham's old stomping grounds.

This young man, Willie Traynor, ends up being the narrator of our story that takes us through almost a decade of life and turmoil in this town. He ends up owning the paper and interacting with a lot of interesting characters. He makes good friends with the Ruffin family who is God fearing and raised eight children. Seven of which earned PhD's. And runs afoul of the most nefarious family in the county.

We watch Willie grow up before our eyes; there is some courtroom drama and suspense. The plot is definitely character driven. And Gresham tries to put in a twist, but I found it a little to easy to figure out long before I reached the end. (I will not tell you where I figured it out, for that will ruin the ending for you. But the clues are there.)

The Ruffin family is endearing, but the Mississippi in the early seventies was still pretty much segregated. I would love to have known the Miss Callie Ruffin character. This book is definitely worth reading.
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LibraryThing member nderdog
Great book!

Although the story is wrapped around crime and courtroom drama, it's really about people and a community. The legal aspect is just a framework. I really enjoyed it.
LibraryThing member franoscar
I guess this is a "literary thriller". There isn't any suspense & it doesn't make much sense. It is mostly a mood piece about a young man who runs a small-town paper; there is an ugly murder, and integration, and jurors killed later when the murderer gets out of prison. But the murders don't really
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make sense & seem way beyond the abilities of the murderer. I think Grisham just wanted to paint a picture and pay (sentimental) homage to heroic Black womanhood/motherhood.
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LibraryThing member PointedPundit
Grisham’s Greatest

Using a small Mississippi town during the 1970s as a backdrop, John Grisham renders, what I believe, is his finest novel.

Unforgettable characters, traumatic events, unforeseen twists and a life-like conclusion combine to create this fast-paced read. Too many of Grisham’s
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books, in my opinion, conclude with forced endings. It is almost as if the author is worn-out by the plot and his characters so he forces the story into an unreal finish.

That is not the case with this book. Set in the south during desegregation, the end of the Viet Nam War and the beginning of suburban and rural sprawl, Grisham characters are believable. They reflect the times in which they live. They live; they die. They enjoy success; they struggle with life’s dilemmas.

This is not your typical Grisham novel. I, for one, am grateful for that. Novelists should grow with experience. With this book, Grisham leaps from the category of “popular novelist” to “great writer.”
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LibraryThing member Hamburgerclan
I finished this book and wondered if it was a bait and switch. I mean, there are jurors in the book and all that, but they often fade into the background. The main character is actually a reporter/editor of a small town newspaper and the story is arguably about his 10 year odyssey in the town. The
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book is a broad tapestry, with scenes of family, coming of age, politics, religion, urbanization and, oh yeah, a murder trial. If you're looking for a straightforward thriller, you might find this one lacking. But maybe you should check it out anyway. It's well written and entertaining.
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LibraryThing member mgaulding
This was a cut above Grisham's usually predictable novels.
LibraryThing member jaygheiser
Good read. College dropout becomes editor of rural southern newspaper and people die.
LibraryThing member polutropos
Disappointing. Thriller? Not at all. Suspense? No. Portrayal of the newspaper business in Mississippi in the 1970s, mildly interesting as that, but flying under false pretenses as a Grisham.
LibraryThing member beachnobo
It had been a while since I last picked up a John Grisham novel and "The Last Juror" was not at all what I expected it to be. Set in the 1970s in Clanton Mississippi, John Grisham tells the story of a college drop-out, who just took over the small county newspaper and ends up getting involved in a
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messy rape case.

At times the novel seemed more like a collection of anecdotes and episodes about life as a local newspaper publisher in rural Mississippi, but it remains interesting and engaging nonetheless. I would definitely recommend it!
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LibraryThing member bennyb
Quite a good story with a reasonable ending.
LibraryThing member alice443
It took me a little while to get into the story. The pace is slow for a reason, it fits the times and location -- Mississippi in the 70s.
LibraryThing member melydia
This is the first Grisham book I've ever read, and it is really not a court drama, despite the implications of the title. In 1970, 23-year-old Willie Traynor moves to the small city of Clanton, Mississippi, and buys the local newspaper, which has recently gone bankrupt. Soon after this, a local
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woman is raped and murdered by Danny Padgitt, son of the "redneck mafia" that is the Padgitt family. The story vaguely meanders around the trial and subsequent fallout over the next several years, but mostly it's about Willie's life in Clanton and the people he meets. There are a lot of scenes and even minor characters thrown in just for color. The ending was mostly predictable, with the only major "twist" feeling like it had been plucked from thin air. It wasn't a bad book - the characters were definitely believable and often entertaining - but from the very beginning I wondered how Grisham would manage to find enough plot to fill the 350 pages. Unfortunately, he really didn't. In the end, if you enjoy reading about smalltown Southern life, you'll like this. If you're looking for an action-packed legal thriller, you probably want to look elsewhere.
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LibraryThing member Blazingice0608
A good legal thriller, but not really up to par with Grishams best work. Wonderful job on creating a detailed atmosphere for the town it takes place in, as well as the characters that inhabit it, but there was more focus on that rather than the action and suspense that most Grisham novels have.
LibraryThing member adeej
I really enjoyed this book, which was my first ever John Grisham novel. The setting was enticing and the storyline kept me wanting to read until the end. I now plan to read more John Grisham novels.
LibraryThing member silenceiseverything
It's weird, but during this book I suffered through various feelings of like and dislike. When I started reading it, I actually liked it quite a lot, but then it sort of seemed to drag on.

The inside flap of The Last Juror states that it's about how Danny Padgitt murdered a woman and while he was
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on the stand, threatened to harm the jury if they convicted him. But really only about the first 50 pages and the last 100 pages actually dealt with the trial and Padgitt's threat. My main gripe with this is that it deviated so much from what it seemed the actual book was about. When I started reading this, I thought that it would be suspenseful with this sort of agonizing tension starting from the trial to Danny Padgitt's threat to the picking of the jurors one by one, but it wasn't like that.

Another thing that annoyed me was the actual ending. It seemed very anticlimatic and it seemed like it came out of left field. I found myself thinking "That's very, very implausible" and also "How would no one know?." The ending was also very abrupt.

I guess some of the book was interesting and I did care about some of the characters. It was also nice how he had characters from A Time To Kill appear briefly in The Last Juror. Although, I really didn't think Lucien Wilbanks was such a bastard in A Time to Kill, but I thoroughly disliked him in this one.

I've only read one other Grisham book and that was A Time To Kill. That one was fabulous. This one...not so much. I'm still planning on picking up some of his other books (especially since I own like six others) and am hoping the brilliance that was behind A Time to Kill, shines brighter on one of the others.
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LibraryThing member cbiggers77
I have read pretty much all of Grisham's works, and this one...I'd have to place somewhere in the middle. Whereas most of his other works are legal thrillers, with quite a pace to keep up with, this one seems to move a little slower. It's not necessarily a bad thing, just not what I come to expect
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from Grisham. Perhaps it's more analogous to life in a small country town, slow, but interesting. Still worth checking out for sure.
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LibraryThing member readingwithtea
So much better than The King of Torts. This is written by a young regional newspaper editor, an outsider in a small country community – so much of the subject matter is social observation, alongside the usual riveting legal case. We touch on segregation and de-segregation, mob families, huge
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families, the role of an editor in a small town, insanity, the Vietnam War, the popularisation of drugs, and the difficulties of being accepted into a closed community, in 500 short pages (I whipped through it and would have completed it easily in one sitting had I not been 5 days from getting married and thus spewing organisational information from the eyeballs).

Because Grisham doesn’t rely on the thrill of the money and the litigation, the pace is a little slower but much more pleasant. He also takes the time to develop some great characters (the Italian-speaking, 7 PhDs-raising chef extraordinaire Miss Callie has to be one of his best creations) and entertaining atmosphere – the brand new editor having war declared on him in a courtroom and delivered via a bomb, for example – which puts this several shelves ahead of King of Torts.
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LibraryThing member biltong
Not his usual standard, very slow with a mild twist at the end. Not gripping at all.
LibraryThing member blockbuster1994
A solid story from John Grisham with an easy, enjoyable pace. Although its billed as an action adventure--who's killing the jury?--this is more of a character study set in a small southern town circa 1970.

Young Willy Trainer becomes the owner of a newspaper that coverages everything from the obits
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to the garden club meetings to an infamous murder trial. Along the way, we meet all the local eccentrics, all whom Grisham creates to perfection. The main event is the murder trial of a young widow killed by a member of the local drug-dealing, bad-guy family. After conviction, there is a threat against the jurors who participated in the trial. 10 years later, some of those jurors start dying.

I am a Grisham fan. I like his gentle, predictable characters. The good guy always win, most often walking away into a tropical paradise with a boatload of money. In my mind, that is always a suitable ending.
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LibraryThing member ConnieJackson
A Small Town Story of truth and justice.

In my opinion, this story of the little Southern town with its small town newspaper owner and its citizens was just a super read. I enjoyed the world of Willie as he became more known by the folks of this Mississippi hamlet. Mr. Crisham did an excellent
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jobe of developing his character in such a way that I couldn't help but read page after page wondering what adventure he would stumble into.
Without hesitation I would recommend this book to all my friends.
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LibraryThing member FolkeB
In 1970, young William Traynor, recently flunked out of Syracuse University, decides to buy a small and recently bankrupt newspaper in Ford County, Mississippi. With a young and inexperienced owner now in charge the future looks bleak…. that is until young Rhoda Kassellaw was brutally murdered in
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front of her young children sending the entire county into a blood thirsty uproar, destined to send the killer to the gas chamber. The killer is found to be Danny Padgitt, a young member of the richest, most corrupt and feared family in all of Ford County. During the trial, Padgitt threatens the jury with their lives if they convict him and in a predictable turn he is convicted, but not given the death penalty, and would later be released from prison after a mere 9 years. The infamous murderer was back on the loose and in no time a blood trail formed leading from one of the former jurors to the next. This novel had a good plot and had enough movement in it to keep me interested, but in the end became way to predictable and had an ending leaving much to be desired. The court case was a good example of the book being too predicable; after the jury being threatened with their lives, there was never a doubt Danny Padgitt would be back on the streets in a small amount of time. The book was an average read, with a good storyline but an all too predictable plot twist and ending.
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Original publication date





0-385-51043-8 / 9780385510431


Original language

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