The Last Juror.

11 Jan


I watch a film pretty much every day, often one or two films per day. This comes easy to me, I don’t have to ‘be in the mood’, I simply just pick one out of my collection and sit down to enjoy. Reading a book is different. I have to ‘be in the mood’ and I also know what I like. I stay completely away from fantasy books, romance novels and classic’s such as ‘Pride and Prejudice’, as I find it hard to connect emotionally with characters unless there is visual stimulation (ie. in a film), and instead I stick to horror, psychological thrillers/dramas, law, crime fiction/non-fiction, autobiographies and history books. The author who satisfies a lot of these interests is John Grisham.

For years now I have adored the style in which Grisham writes, his words washing over me like the tide, becoming fully submerged in the worlds and characters that he creates, ones full of intrigue, scandal and lawlessness. Thankfully Hollywood agrees with me and has transformed nine of his books into feature-length films including ‘The Rainmaker’, ‘The Firm’, ‘The Pelican Brief’ and one of my favourite stories and films of all time ‘A Time To Kill’. I implore you however to not take the easy option and watch the adaptions but instead pick up the paperbacks and turn the pages of these lives that he portrays. The latest one I have read is The Last Juror.

As with most Grisham books the setting is the deep south, the fictional town of Clanton, Mississippi, which was first introduced to us in the aforementioned ‘A Time To Kill’. Some of the beloved characters from that first Grisham novel also crop up including the gin-soaked tyrant lawyer Lucien Willbanks, played by Donald Sutherland in the on-screen version. However the character whose life we follow throughout the book is Willie Traynor, a 23-year-old college dropout who arrives in Clanton in 1970 hoping for an internship at the local newspaper. Instead, through the retirement of its owner, Wilson Caudle and the huge fortune of Traynors grandmother, he buys the paper and a new home in Clanton.

When a local mother of two Rhoda Kassellaw is brutally raped and murdered by Danny Padgitt, Willie uses all of the column inches available to him to ensure that justice is met. It works and with the help of ruthless lawyers and an emotionally charged jury, he is found guilty, right after he threatens to murder every juror who convicts him. After only 9 years in jail, he is released and one by one the jurors lives are being threatened.

Although The Last Juror is divided into three parts, the book is very much one of two halves. The pacing and the storytelling of the first two parts is near perfect. The brutality of the crime, the reaction of the town and the life that is pumped back into Clanton through its young and ballsy editor, and the journey we undertake with Traynor as he settles into a life in the racially divided south, are all stories well told. The third part of the story, where the town is meant to be ripped apart by murder and revenge, falls short of anything spectacular, and as a reader you feel somewhat cheated.

There are times when the ending to a film or a book can seem obvious, the horror genre usually winning this award, but if it is done right you can still be taken on an incredible journey so that the conclusion still feels like a surprise. However the habit seems to be rather than selling an idea through storytelling a twist will be thrown in for good measure. Or in this case bad measure. The twist and the real culprits motive, or lack of, is rushed and unconvincing which is not fitting with a book that is full of conviction and colourful explanation. Grisham grabs you at the start and keeps you guessing to the end, but The Last Jurors synopsis promises what the book does not deliver: Retribution.

Still a fantastic read but as a huge fan of Grisham and his stylings I did feel disappointed when I finally laid the book to rest.

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