Thursday, April 01, 2004


A while back, I stated that I was going to do little capsule reviews of stuff I was watching, listening to or reading. Well, reading has been at the forefront of late, as I've been getting absorbed in Rick Warren's book "The Purpose Driven Church", which is very interesting. However, I just finished John Grisham's "The Last Juror" and I'm happy to say that Grisham's BACK!!!!!!

I have read every Grisham book except "Skipping Christmas". However, my interest in his books had really dropped off with the last run of stuff he wrote. While I loved "A Painted House" and thought "Bleachers" was OK, his last three "Grishams" ("The Brethren", "The King of Torts" and "The Summons") were, in my opinion, atrocious. John Grisham has the distinction of being the only author to make me cry while reading, which happened at the end of "The Chamber".

Well, it happened again.

Without going into a great deal of detail, "Juror" takes the reader back to the fictional small town of Clanton, Mississippi. Clanton is recognized by veteran Grishamites as the setting for Grisham's first and (what I consider) best book, "A Time To Kill". Many of the characters from that book appear here. The driving force of the story is the editor of the local newspaper, Willie Traynor, and the rather nasty trial of one Danny Padgitt. The book starts fast, setting up the trial in the first 50 pages, moves quickly through the trial and then spends the second half examining life in Clanton after the trial.

The book is an interesting juxtaposition for Grisham, as the first half reads like one of his earlier, fast-paced legal thrillers while the second half is a more laid-back, "Painted House" type of approach. However, the transition is smooth, something you wouldn't expect from a mass-market author like Grisham. Unlike his previous three novels, which I actively disliked, this one gives you three-dimensional characters that are very easy to invest in. Traynor, Callie Ruffin and her family and even the darker characters (the Padgitts, Hank Hooten and Lucien Wilbanks) are given a more complex structure than is typically seen in Grisham's world. I confess to being a bit weepy at the end (with good reason), and that comes from being able to really relate to the characters.

To be sure, Grisham, like any "mass-media" author, isn't deep reading and may not be your cup of espresso. But if you've read him before and gotten away, I suggest you try coming back. You'll likely find it worth your while.