In its early stages [The Racketeer] does follow the familiar Grisham template, in which a lawyer finds himself unexpectedly in legal trouble. But then it breaks out into the exhilarating tale of how Mal, a disbarred attorney, now a savvy, self-taught legal scholar, leads his pursuers on a long, winding chase…this is not a story about a triumph or a miscarriage of courtroom justice. It's the more devious, surprising story of a smart man who gets even smarter once he spends five years honing his skills as a jailhouse lawyerand then expertly concocts an ingenious revenge scheme…Mr. Grisham writes with rekindled vigor here. Perhaps that's because he hasn't mired this book in excessive research…He has simply…gone back to what he does best, storytelling rather than crusading.
The Racketeer…offers a thorough display of [Grisham's] characteristic virtues: imaginative plotting; a fluent, deceptively effortless prose style; and an insider's view of our complex, often fatally flawed legal system…ingenious, surprising and suspenseful. At times, the convoluted scheme that gradually unfolds seems almost too elaborate, too dependent on crucial but problematic events…But like his protagonist, Grisham makes it work, holding the pieces together with a headlong narrative energy that rarely, if ever, flags. The result is a satisfying, deeply engrossing thriller in which different forms of justice are ultimately served…[The Racketeer] is engaging and illuminating in equal measure.
Bestseller Grisham (The Litigators) is back in top form with this twisty, precisely plotted legal thriller that eschews the civics lessons of some of his more recent work. The masterful opening introduces disgraced Virginia lawyer Malcolm Bannister, who has served half of a 10-year prison sentence for money laundering after getting caught up in a federal net aimed at a sleazy influence peddler. Bannister's conviction has, naturally, destroyed his life, but he thinks he can use the murder of federal judge Raymond Fawcett to his advantage. Fawcett, who presided over a landmark mining rights case, and his attractive secretary, with whom he was having an affair, were both found shot in the head in his cabin in southwest Virginia. Near the bodies was an empty open safe. When the high-profile investigation stalls, Bannister tells the feds that he can identify the killer for them in exchange for a release from jail and the means to start a new life. The surprises all work, and the action builds to a satisfying resolution. Agent: David Gernert, the Gernert Company. (Oct.)
Critical Acclaim for the Undisputed Master of the Legal Thriller
“With every new book I appreciate John Grisham a little more, for his feisty critiques of the legal system, his compassion for the underdog, and his willingness to strike out in new directions.”—Entertainment Weekly
“John Grisham is exceptionally good at what he does—indeed, right now in this country, nobody does it better . . . Grisham’s books are also smart, imaginative, and funny, populated by complex interesting people, written by a man who is driven not merely by the desire to entertain but also by genuine (if understated) outrage at human cupidity and venality.”—Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
“The secrets of Grisham’s success are no secret at all. There are two of them: his pacing, which ranges from fast to breakneck, and his theme—little guy takes on big conspiracy with the little guy getting the win in the end. —Time
“The law, by its nature, creates drama, and a new Grisham promises us an inside look at the dirty machineries of process and power, with plenty of an entertainment.” – Los Angeles Times
“John Grisham is about as good a storyteller as we’ve got in the United States these days.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Grisham is a marvelous storyteller who works readers the way a good trial lawyer works a jury.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
“John Grisham owns the legal thriller.”—The Denver Post
“John Grisham is not just popular, he is one of the most popular novelists of our time. He is a craftsman and he writes good stories, engaging characters, and clever plots.”—The Seattle Times
“A mighty narrative talent and an unerring eye for hot-button issues.”—Chicago Sun-Times
“A legal literary legend.”—USA Today
Evidently, only four active federal judges have been murdered in this country; Grisham imagines a fifth victim, Judge Raymond Fogletree, found dead with his secretary in a lakeside cabin. As the narrator says, "I did not know Judge Fogletree, but I know who killed him, and why. I am a lawyer, and I am in prison. It's a long story."
Evenly paced, smart legal thriller--trademark Grisham (The Litigators, 2011, etc.), in other words. "Secrets are extremely hard to keep in prison, especially when outsiders appear and start asking questions." So writes Grisham in the voice of one Malcolm Bannister, a one-time attorney who has gotten himself in trouble and is now "halfway through a ten-year sentence handed down by a weak and sanctimonious federal judge in Washington, D.C." Grisham locates his story on the familiar ground of the racial divide: Bannister, 43 years old, is black, the only black ex-attorney at the Maryland prison camp to which he has been committed--not a bad place, a "resort" in fact as compared to most pens. And, of course, he's innocent, or so he protests. Bannister also has come by some inside knowledge of events surrounding the death of another federal judge, which links to witness protection, drugs, Jamaicans and some heavy bad guys--and therein lies Grisham's longish, complex tale of cat and mouse. Every character in the book is believable, and though some of the plot turns seem just a touch improbable, the reader never quite knows whether things are going to work out for Bannister before the heaviest of the heavies quiets him down for good. "I have a plan," Bannister says, "but so much of it is beyond my control." That's not so of Grisham's plot, which is carefully mapped out without seeming pat, leading to a most satisfying conclusion. In fact, there are plenty of surprises along the way. As ever, a solid, unflashy performance by Grisham.