Friday, April 12, 2013

The Racketeer

book review

Book: The Racketeer 
Author: John Grisham

He has had a successful writing career for over two decades, written more than 30 books, and sold over 250 million copies worldwide. John Grisham is one of the world’s most famous and successful authors, and his popularity is showing no signs of waning. Each of his new novels becomes an instant fixture on bestseller lists and shifts millions of units worldwide. So it is more than obvious that Grisham is doing something right, or at least is aware of his target audience and knows how to please them by spinning intriguing legal yarns that captivate his readers and keep them coming back for more.

Yet it would be hard to argue against the fact that his more recent work hasn’t been at par with his earlier releases, the ones that initially brought him to the world’s attention. That, however, doesn’t stop his tomes from being fun and entertaining reads. And his latest book, The Racketeer, is no different.

“I am a lawyer, and I am in prison. It’s a long story.” begins the novel, as we meet 43 year old Malcolm Bannister midway through a ten year prison sentence for a crime he “had no knowledge of committing”. Serving time at a Federal Prison Camp, the disbarred lawyer wiles away his time working as a librarian and helping his fellow inmates with their legal problems. He has lost his license, his freedom, his family, his reputation, but unknown to anyone, he has an ace up his sleeve and his life is about to change.

The plan is set into motion when Judge Raymond Fawcett is murdered in the basement of his lakeside cabin. With no witnesses, no clues, no evidence, no clear motives, and no leads, the bumbling authorities are at a loss and have no idea how to catch the killer.

It just so happens that Malcolm knows who the murderer is and why he killed the judge. “I have a plan,” he tells us, “one I have been plotting for years now. It is my only way out.” Pretty soon it is obvious that something is afoot, but we’re not quite sure what. As we go along, the author is very economical with the details; Grisham reveals as little as possible and keeps us guessing what Malcolm’s situation really is and what he has planned, and he purposefully leaves a vacuum in the storyline to keep the reader intrigued enough to not put the book down.

As you read on, there is no way to know or guess exactly what the real story is because there just isn’t enough information at your disposal, but it isn’t hard to figure out the general direction in which things are going. The plot takes a tangential swerve midway as we start getting a sense of what Malcolm’s plan might be. To say that the storyline doesn’t take a very plausible course would be an understatement; you definitely need to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy this yarn.

Some of Grisham’s trademark ‘small guy versus big power’ characteristics reappear in this book, and as with all his legal potboilers, there is enough intrigue to keep you reading. But overall, The Racketeer is neither a masterpiece, nor a complete bust. It’s a fun read and it will keep you turning its pages. You won’t miss much if you don’t read it, you won’t gain much if you do, but you will probably enjoy it as much as Grisham’s other recent legal thrillers.

- S.A.

Us Magazine, The News - 12th April, 2013

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