Early Fiction

This is part of a handful of wrap-up posts I’m writing to cover books that I read after I started noting down my rating for books, but before I started making note of when I’d read them, and write full reviews of them. This is a post to cover various fiction.

The Last JurorThe Last Juror by John Grisham
Publisher: Doubleday
Released: February 3, 2004
Pages: 278
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In 1970, one of Mississippi s more colorful weekly newspapers, The Ford County Times, went bankrupt. To the surprise and dismay of many, ownership was assumed by a 23-year-old college dropout, named Willie Traynor. The future of the paper looked grim until a young mother was brutally raped and murdered by a member of the notorious Padgitt family. Willie Traynor reported all the gruesome details, and his newspaper began to prosper.

The murderer, Danny Padgitt, was tried before a packed courthouse in Clanton, Mississippi. The trial came to a startling and dramatic end when the defendant threatened revenge against the jurors if they convicted him. Nevertheless, they found him guilty, and he was sentenced to life in prison.

But in Mississippi in 1970, life didn't necessarily mean life, and nine years later Danny Padgitt managed to get himself paroled. He returned to Ford County, and the retribution began.

The Last Juror was a book that was lying around at the cottage, and thus became a cottage read. It was probably not the best first impression by Grisham. It seemed a bit generic, and I didn’t like the setting very much.

Around the World in Eighty DaysAround the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
Series: Extraordinary Voyages #11
Publisher: Pierre-Jules Hetzel
Released: January 30, 1873
Pages: 252
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"To go around the world...in such a short time and with the means of transport currently available, was not only impossible, it was madness"

One ill-fated evening at the Reform Club, Phileas Fogg rashly bets his companions £20,000 that he can travel around the entire globe in just eighty days - and he is determined not to lose. Breaking the well-establised routine of his daily life, the reserved Englishman immediately sets off for Dover, accompanied by his hot-blooded French manservant Passepartout. Travelling by train, steamship, sailing boat, sledge and even elephant, they must overcome storms, kidnappings, natural disasters, Sioux attacks and the dogged Inspector Fix of Scotland Yard - who believes that Fogg has robbed the Bank of England - to win the extraordinary wager. Around the World in Eighty Days gripped audiences on its publication and remains hugely popular, combining exploration, adventure and a thrilling race against time.

Michael Glencross's lively translation is accompanied by an introduction by Brian Aldiss, which places Jules Verne's work in its literary and historical context. There is also a detailed chronology, notes and further reading.

Around the world in 80 days was another opportunity-read, lying around somewhere. I did enjoy it – there was something very pleasing about the adventure in this book, and I appreciated it in the same way as one would appreciate a light fairy-tale.

The Hound of the BaskervillesThe Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
Series: Sherlock Holmes #5
Publisher: George Newnes
Released: April 1, 1902
Pages: 256
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We owe The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) to Arthur Conan Doyle's good friend Fletcher "Bobbles" Robinson, who took him to visit some scary English moors and prehistoric ruins, and told him marvelous local legends about escaped prisoners and a 17th-century aristocrat who fell afoul of the family dog. Doyle transmogrified the legend: generations ago, a hound of hell tore out the throat of devilish Hugo Baskerville on the moonlit moor. Poor, accursed Baskerville Hall now has another mysterious death: that of Sir Charles Baskerville. Could the culprit somehow be mixed up with secretive servant Barrymore, history-obsessed Dr. Frankland, butterfly-chasing Stapleton, or Selden, the Notting Hill murderer at large? Someone's been signaling with candles from the mansion's windows. Nor can supernatural forces be ruled out. Can Dr. Watson--left alone by Sherlock Holmes to sleuth in fear for much of the novel--save the next Baskerville, Sir Henry, from the hound's fangs?

Many Holmes fans prefer Doyle's complete short stories, but their clockwork logic doesn't match the author's boast about this novel: it's "a real Creeper!" What distinguishes this particular Hound is its fulfillment of Doyle's great debt to Edgar Allan Poe--it's full of ancient woe, low moans, a Grimpen Mire that sucks ponies to Dostoyevskian deaths, and locals digging up Neolithic skulls without next-of-kins' consent. "The longer one stays here the more does the spirit of the moor sink into one's soul," Watson realizes. "Rank reeds and lush, slimy water-plants sent an odour of decay ... while a false step plunged us more than once thigh-deep into the dark, quivering mire, which shook for yards in soft undulations around our feet ... it was as if some malignant hand was tugging us down into those obscene depths." Read on--but, reader, watch your step!

I think The Hound of the Baskervilles was a Christmas Present, and it was a good one. I’ve re-read it a few times since first reading it, and I just really like the story. It’s well-paced, entertaining, and the mystery, and the resolution are both very pleasing to me.

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