Thursday, 5 May 2011

The Last Juror by John Grisham

I may be a little late to the game but this is the first Grisham I have read and I'm in two minds about it. On the one hand, for me personally it just isn't dramatic enough. I like my thrillers to be action packed, gripping and thrilling rides that leave you exhausted when you're done. And this isn't that. It is, however, a brilliantly written account of what happens when a horrific murder happens in a small town.

The young Willy Traynor ends up getting more than he bargained for when he buys a county newspaper not long before the brutal rape and murder of one of its citizens. His job as editor/reporter then takes on a whole new level of involvement as he dares to report the crime in all its horrifying detail. And this is no ordinary murder - as the culprit is part of an untouchable family who have owned government and police officials for generations. So in a time where nobody will stand against the family, Traynor must. And when the jury find him guilty, he threatens in open court to get each of them.

So when years later he manages to get paroled and is back on the streets, the jury members start to fear for their lives... and with just cause.

Grisham writes brilliantly, there is no denying it. His style is so polished and eloquent that it feels as though each word is cleverly placed within each sentence. The characters are all flawed and interesting in their own way and the way he uses legalities and race/culture clashes to spice up the relationships is done with simple elegance. He doesn't need to be in your face because his approach is much more subtle than that.

The inclusion of Miss Callie and her entire family is a stroke of genius that gives the book, and its protagonist, the depth that it needed. The white Traynor decides to do an in depth piece on Miss Callie and her entire family of PHD children - a rarety as Miss Callie and her children are black and this book is set in 1970s America where black children were not allowed to go to the better schools.  As his relationship with her and her family deepens over the years, you see the way each grows by knowing the other and it's endearing while being very brave and crossing colour lines when nobody else did so.

Personally, I prefer a bit more action than this in my thriller books - there are just too many lulls for my taste. Though when he does write them, they blew me away (and some of the characters too!) The way Americans just walk around with a gun is still unsettling for this Brit but obviously standard to them. This is not lost in translation as our main character is an out-of-towner with no experience with a firearm (something which his new friends find bizarre and feel the need to remedy).

All in all, Grisham is a talented writer and I can clearly see why he has published so many books, and why so many (The Firm, The Pelican Brief) have been made into films.  They are the perfect combination of character, drama and small town America to keep the reader interested all the way to the end - which in this case went in a direction I had not seen coming!

3 out of 5 FOBLES


LE xxx


  1. Must be an enjoyable read The Last Juror by John Grisham. loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and orignal, this book is going in by "to read" list.

  2. I don't understand comments by reviewers that have said that there is not enough action and thrills in this book. How about a naked lawyer shooting at will from the top of the courthouse? Or the gruesome rape and murder that occurs at the start of the book? Or the method of murder later on in the book? I thought this was one of Grisham's best novels - I loved how he, as they say, developed each character and all of the characters came together for a very interesting conclusion that I did not predict (as some folks have said.) Having lived in a small town in my early childhood and teens, these kinds of events/interactions are so common to small southern towns and communities. Grisham has hit the nail on the head with this book. I loved it!

  3. This is the one John Grisham book that I truly wish they had made into a film. I could see Matt Damon playing Willie Traynor, and I longed to see the characters on screen. Hopefully one day they still will. I love the character development in this book, where you truly care for people. To see it on film, would have been like meeting old friends.