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.
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.
This is a minor tale in a subdued voice 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.
frenetic pace that the last couple have had, but a very good read
nonetheless. In this novel, Grisham goes back to Clanton, Mississippi for
his setting, the same small town that was the center of the action in "A
Time To Kill." This book spans about 10 years of time from the 1970s to the
1980s. It's told from the point of view of a man named Willie Traynor who
buys the local weekly newspaper and runs it. There's an family of outlaws
named Padgitt who own an island and run the shady side of life around
northern Mississippi with an iron fist. They own politicians and elected
law enforcement to the point where nothing ever happens to them. They run
their bootlegging and drug business and pretty much mind their own business
and are simply a fact of life for the folks in Clanton until one of them, a
young violent hooligan named Danny, comes off the island and brutally rapes
and murders a single mother in front of her small children. It's an
ironclad case and something has to be done about it, so it goes to trial.
The jury finds him guilty but spares his life and gives him two life
sentences. But, in Mississippi, life isn't really life, and he's paroled
after only 8 years. And shortly after his release, the threat he made to
the jury in the courtroom ("If you send me up, I'll kill every last one of
you!") appears to be carried out. The vast majority of this book moves
along at the leisurely pace of life in the Deep South, and it's a wonderful
study of small town life. When the plot sneaks up on you, it starts to move
along quite well.
I enjoyed this book a bunch. I'd give it a 4.
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.
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!
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.
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.
The inside flap of The Last Juror states that it's about how Danny Padgitt murdered a woman and while he was 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.
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 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.”
Young Willy Trainer becomes the owner of a newspaper that coverages everything from the obits 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.
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 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.