After borrowing money from a relative, Willie bought his Mississippi town's local newpaper. Through good journalism, popular obitutaries, and increasing ad sales, Willie turned the bankrupt paper into a small fortune.
Willie ran a story about an African American family, where almost all the sons and daughter became Phds. He immediately befriended the mother of the family, and she invited Willie over to several mouth-watering dinners.
One of the other stories that made the paper popular was a story about the rape and death of a young woman in front of her children. The mother of the African American family served on the jury despite her rising blood pressure problems. Willie reported every milestone of the trail, and ultimately the accused Danny Padgitt was convicted -even after Padgitt had the nerve to threaten the entire jury. Everyone thought he was going to get off, though, because Danny Padgitt was part of an organized criminal family. However, instead of receiving the death penalty, Padgitt received life and was paroled. When the past jurors of his trial began being randomly killed, he must investigate.
This report prepared by Sarah V. Richard
Doubleday, Feb 2004, 27.95
By 1970 the Ford County Times went bankrupt sped up by local boycotts when the owning family began adding obits of Negroes to the newspaper. Former cub reporter Willie Traynor, who went north for college, drops out of school, takes over the troubled paper from the aging Caudle family to the dismay of most of the white populace of the Mississippi County.
Willie's paper gets a circulation boost when the police arrest Danny Padget for the vicious rape murder of Rhoda Kasellaw, a widow mother of two young children, who identified the culprit before she died. Being a spoiled member of a prominent family, Danny threatens the jurors if they convict him, which they surprisingly do as the evidence besides the deathbed statement of the victim is overwhelming. Less than a decade later, Danny is freed and the jurors are being killed off one by one. Willie, who admired the first black juror in the county's history, Miss Callie Ruffin, risks his life to keep her safe, but retribution is coming.
The insightful look at little things that add up to major social relationships in 1970s Mississippi during a time of revolutionary change is John Grisham at his best. Those minor items like an obituary for a deceased black person or the first black juror brings the era into stark reality. However, when the tale twists into a serial killer storyline, that subplot is very exciting, but also takes the focus away from the social lens of change and upheaval. Still John Grisham entertains his fans with a terse suspense tale that is quite as superb as A TIME TO KILL, thus pleasing his vast readership.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner