I’ve not read a great number of John Grisham’s books but The Last Juror is one that I really enjoyed because it was pretty much in the style of Grisham but also different enough that I didn’t feel like I was reading a legal thriller. And, in truth, it’s not really a legal thriller in the courtroom-drama vein. We follow Willie Traynor and a cast of characters as they are thrown into the middle of one of the biggest scandals/crimes in Clanton, Mississippi. The Padgitt family, a notorious group that is known for being a reclusive criminal family, has one of their own brought up on rape and murder charges.
Willie finds himself covering this circus due to purchasing a newspaper in Clanton and it brings a certain amount of fame (and infamy) to Willie as he treads dangerous waters while harshly criticizing the Padgitt family and corruption in the county. This leads to a lot of success in his paper but also leads him into the spotlight of people who would rather the whole situation with the Padgitts disappear.
Before covering the trial, and shortly after his heavy criticism of the Padgitts, Willie runs a piece on Callie Ruffin, who is an avid reader of his paper. She is a black woman in Clanton that is renowned for being the mother of seven children, all of whom earned doctorates. Willie strikes up a friendship with her and they begin to have a weekly meal together, growing close over time. However, Callie is called to serve on the trial of the Padgitt man accused of murder and this, obviously, complicates things.
After the trial, with the Padgitt man being found guilty, things calm some but years later he is suddenly released. Not long after, two of the jurors are killed and it’s thought the Padgitt family are coming for the people on the jury that sent him to prison.
While I don’t want to give away too many details, this book is such an exciting read and it’s also one where you start to care about the characters. There are moments of action but what holds your attention are the colorful folks in the town and the drama surrounding Danny Padgitt and his outlaw family. While, again, I can’t claim to be an expert in John Grisham, this is a favorite of mine and I’d recommend it to any reader, be they a Grisham fan or not.