Thursday, December 16, 2010

Book Review: The Last Juror

John Grisham's The Last Juror starts out with a grisly crime in 1970s Alabama and the subsequent trial of the man arrested. There is plenty of potential for suspense since the accused comes from a powerful family with a long history of organized crime. There are thinly-veiled threats against the prosecution, the jurors, and the narrator, a recent college graduate who just purchased the county newspaper from the ailing previous owner.

All too suddenly the trial is over and Part I of the novel ends. Part II in all honestly could've been cut from the novel almost completely and the book would've inevitably improved. Grisham wastes most of the next seventy pages [1] gasping for joy over the court-ordered desegregation of schools, lambasting the Vietnam War, rooting for the anti-war protesters, bemoaning the demise of the hippy movement, pooh-poohing parents (and civic leaders) who don't want their children smoking marijuana, criticizing a fictional retail chain obviously modeled after Wal-Mart, and admonishing Christians about their doctrines.[2]

Things finally start to pick up again as we proceed to Part III. But by then the pace of the novel has been killed. It barely has time to limp a few halting steps before the book is over. The ending was, I thought, a little too obvious. All of the characters acted appropriately surprised, but I saw it coming chapters before the reveal.

My verdict: The novel as a whole was plodding and spent too much time away from the real story. Grisham should've spent more time building suspense and less time making plugs for all of his favorite liberal viewpoints. If I were you, I'd look for something with a little more substance to it, and a little less soapbox.


[1] I read the hardcover.

[2] Specifically, he wants Christians to preach more about love, tolerance, and peace. We should leave alone 'useless' doctrines such as repentance, baptism, chastity, or the divinity of Jesus Christ.

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