The Juror

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Single mom Annie Laird manages well enough. Her twelve-year-old son Oliver seems happy. Her best friend, Dr. Juliet Applegate, entertains her with risque emergency room stories. The gallery that displays her sculptures has sold three “Grope Boxes,” netting her $12,000. She is wary at a summons to jury duty in the murder trial of Mafia kingpin Louie Boffano, but the judge assures her that no juror under his protection has ever suffered harassment, so she agrees to serve.

Then she meets Zach Lyde, the international art trader who purchased her Grope Boxes. After a dinner date, Lyde unnerves her with his apparent knowledge of her private conversations with Oliver. Lyde finally reveals in her garage studio that he is a Boffano employee known as The Teacher. He overhears her every move via bugging devices throughout her house. He has an ultimatum: Either she convinces the Boffano jury to return a “not guilty” verdict, or Oliver dies.

George Dawes Green employs unconventional methods, such as short, clipped action sequences featuring present-tense verbs, to convey remarkable characters in nerve-wracking situations. Green’s Teacher devoutly quotes Eastern philosopher Lao Tsu, and his “professional” skill is most extraordinary. When Annie tries to get excused from the jury, he convinces her to desist via a wildly careening car ride, during which he narrowly misses the unsuspecting Oliver, biking home from soccer practice. He nearly drives Annie to despair when, in the persona of burgeoning poet Ian Slate, he induces Juliet Applegate at gunpoint to ingest a fatal drug overdose.

Yet Green shows that Annie has learned from The Teacher. First, she flies Oliver to Guatemala for safekeeping in the hands of a former lover, a Peace Corps type named Turtle. Then, she surreptitiously records The Teacher’s less loyal statements and delivers the tape to the Boffano family. He eludes the Boffano’s murderous reply, resulting in a frantic race to Guatemala to see who will reach Oliver first.

THE JUROR is a furiously relentless experience. Green’s capable craftsmanship leaves breathless readers unaware that 420 pages have just passed.