Sunday, February 18, 2007

This is a review of the book "The Last Juror" by John Grisham. I bought this book to keep me company on my current visit to Mumbai for some discussions with some business prospects. I was glad that I had this book with me as there was lots of spare time and I had this good book to keep me company. This book features Grisham's usual style that captivates you and amazes you on the amount of knowledge he author has in his field. Through this book, the author takes us into what life was like in the days of segregation in rural Mississippi. The epilogue says that this book is Grisham's second book after "A time to kill" to be set in Ford county, MS. I have read the book and watched the movie as well of that one and find that this time the author has surpassed his earlier work.
The book is about the life of one Willie Traynor, an average student from syracuse who makes a mark on the lives of the people of Ford county. The bond that Willie establishes with a black family from lowtown ( a segregated area) is astonishing. He revives Ford county's local newspaper when it falls on bad times and increases the circulation. Willie comes to Ford county to work as an intern under Wilson caudle, the owner of the Times. He then goes on to take over the paper itself with a small loan from his well-to-do Grandma. From there on it's by Willie's hard work and his firm commitment to maintaining the high standards of reporting that gets him to the top. The slow, uneventful life of Ford county residents is disturbed by the rape and violent murder of a yound widow by a member of the county's padgitt clan. The Padgitts are feared and loathed by the Ford county residents for their involvement in various nefarious activities. The Padgitts are also a reclusive lot never leaving their home in the Padgitt island. They island is an impenetrable fortress and any attempt to penetrate the island has been met with force and people getting killed. The tentacles of the Padgitt's has spread far and wide and even the town's sheriff is under their payroll.The Sheriff's and the defense attorney's efforts to first gain bail for Daniel Padgitt (The accused) and then to prove him innocent goes in vain as the prosecution builds a strong case against him. They are only successful in saving their client from the noose. Danny does not help himself by threating to kill the jurors if they found him guilty. The Jurors go ahead and find him guilty anyways and surprisingly do not award the death sentence.
Meanwhile Willie goes about his business of covering the trial and at personal risk to his life and his newspaper brings to light the severity of the crime which plays a major part in making the Ford county residents becoming less tolerant of the Padgitt clans activities if not the result of the trial itself.
Willie's black friend is Ms.Callie who has raised seven children six of whom are Ph.Ds and working as Professor's across the U.S. No mean achievement since segregation was in effect. Willie pays scant heed to the color difference and makes friends with Callie. Callie also has italian blood as she is brought up by an Italian. The author needs to be congratulated for bringing this piece of history to us i.e if what he says is true. He goes further by becoming a member of their family and visits their home every thursday for lunch with Ms.Callie. He even invites them to his mansion and plays host to some 30+ Ruffins over a weekend. He helps protect Ms.Callie from Dannie's threat and also saves her last son Sam from another threat from another white man. Willie, being white himself, never sees a black as different from himself and takes on such issues as segregation in schools, churches and politics using his newspaper editorials. When a black gets killed in the Vietnam war, he actively takes up the cause of the young blood by calling for an end to the war. He dreams of buying fancy gifts for his friend Ms.Callie out of the wealth he earns by selling his newspaper. All this and a lot more takes the reader to the days of segregation itself.
True to Danny's threat, jurors start getting killed once he is out on Parole. First it is a helpless kid in a wheelchair and then a mechanic. The story revolves around the threat that exists to the remaining jurors and the unknown identity of the perpetrator of the shootings widely believed to be Danny Padgitt.
There's a few dry sections to the book as well. For example, the author's description of the laws and rules of 1970 Missippi and about the ways elections are held is rather boring. There's even an authors note at the end which says how he has misused the laws sometimes in the book.

All in all an enjoyable read.

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