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on 10 November 2012
I still remember browsing a bookshop in Florida many, many years ago and coming across a locally published edition of a book called "A Time to Kill" by an unknown author called John Grisham

That book remains one of the finest thrillers that I have read. I remained loyal to Grisham over the years until I just felt that the sparkle and innovation had gone out of his writing and I began to give him a miss.

The Racketeer is the first of his books that I have tried for several years and you know what - it was a good read.

The story was enticing and credible, the characters well drawn and interesting and the plot drew me in and I read the entire book , if not breathless, but certainly well engaged, over a couple of days.

I won't bother going into the story as others have already done it but without damning it with faint praise, it is a well written pot-boiler that gently simmers all the way through and was well worth reading.

if not Grisham at his overall best, The Racketeer is a prime example of a master story teller back on form.
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on 12 December 2012
As usual, John Grisham has devised another great story, but his ability to spin a yarn seems to be on the wane.

The Racketeer is a book of three parts. It opens in classic Grisham fashion; a slow burn with (attempted) misdirection. Part two is a super crime caper that keeps everyone (except the reader) guessing and the finale ties everything up (a little too) neatly. The problem is that none of these discrete parts seem to join up properly and the transition between them serve only to disrupt the narrative. The end comes so suddenly and feels so rushed that it seems that Grisham simply lost interest at around page 300 and killed the story as quickly as he could! This truncated ending put me in mind of Grisham's last book, The Litigators which I also found disappointing.

In fairness, The Racketeer is an easy if unchallenging read; great as a holiday read but it fails to prick the conscience as so much of Grisham's early work managed (or even as recent work such as The Confession does) and there is little of the social comment that marks Grisham's early work as classic fiction.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 February 2013
Malcolm Bannister is halfway through a ten year prison sentence for money laundering, a crime he only technically and innocently committed. When a federal judge is murdered, he senses an opportunity to obtain his freedom, because he knows who committed the crime and why. Rules 35 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure allows for a prisoner to be pardoned or have their sentence reduced if they can solve another crime. His first challenge is getting the attention of the FBI, but eventually he is successful in negotiating his release from prison if the man that he accuses of the murder is indicted. What appears to be a reasonably straightforward and only moderately interesting story becomes a lot more interesting when it becomes apparent that Malcolm has an entirely new agenda of his own and that his release from prison is only the first step of the plan.

This had the potential to be a very interesting story but it is let down by the absence of characters that we care about and by the padding that stretches it out significantly longer than the storyline warrants. There is a low level of suspense throughout, but not enough to maintain your interest as we follow Malcolm's everyday activities. Malcolm himself - the narrator for the majority of the book - is never anyone who came to life for me. The early chapters establish his back story and arouse our sympathy for him, but after that he just becomes a bit of a cipher who narrates everything with a sense of detachment. His love interest (who emerges in the second half of the book) is equally bland - long legged, big breasted and good at running errands.

The book held my interest, but only just. Started very well but then got bogged down too deep for too long.
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on 16 June 2013
This is by all means a good book, but my expectatons of John Grisham are based on the excellent books he has written in the past, and are therefore much higher.
The story is nice, but not particularly captivating. Grisham's books typically keep me awake all night reading, Sadly, this one does not fall into that category.
Perhaps, as many people say, the sun has indeed set on this great author. Nothing he has written in the last few years compares to his first few books.
My one word summary would be "disappointing". If the authors name for this book had been John Doe, I would definitely not look for any of his other books to buy.
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on 25 November 2012
The "big twist" was completely spottable very early on - so reading this was more about guessing how it gets revealed rather than what happens. As usual, Grisham is let down by his inability to write characters well - I've no idea whether I like the main guy or not (I feel rather "meh" about him) and the love interest lady was very poorly sketched out - although I'm left with the impression that Mr Grisham is a fan of large boobs and long legs, because that's all he really said about her. I did get the feeling that The Shawshank Redemption was more than a little influential - I think the idea was "innocent man breaks the law to get justice", just not as well done. Having said all that, I quite enjoyed it - but I doubt I'll remember a thing about it a year from now.
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on 13 March 2013
I've been loyal to JG through a handful of weak books but I won't be so eager to pick up his next one after this disappointing, thin and boring effort.

Some of the positive reviews have mystified me, particularly the ones referring to the author being back on form. I must have missed those 300-odd pages!

That said, the first 120 or so promised much and at that point I was looking forward to some fast paced twists and turns and a wonderful ending. The most disappointing thing was how he pads out the Nathan Cooley business, the general travel arrangements and the final gold movements. Talk about turning a novella into a full sized book! And I thoroughly agree that the love interest lacked credibility, both in her link to the story and her actions in support of the main character. Where are these women when you're looking for them?

I've seen this with other authors and put it down to a contractual obligation to produce books at certain intervals rather than to a quality standard. A good example is Patricia Cornwell, who ran out of steam with the Scarpetta series at about the time she started writing her very, very poor Andy Brazil series. Without the author's fame, books like The Racketeer wouldn't get beyond a publisher's slush pile.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 12 November 2012
John Grisham's latest legal thriller is fast-paced, engaging, and slaps the unwary reader with a few surprises. We've come to expect this. Among Grisham's other works, this story most resembles The Partner. That's at the general level of tone and feel. The plot twists of The Partner won't give anything away about this book. Don't bother checking.

Malcolm Bannister is an ex-attorney and a current involuntary resident of a minimum security prison camp just outside of Frostburg, Maryland. Halfway through a ten-year sentence, Malcolm has made his peace with his divorce and with the fact that his son's letters have stopped coming. He works in the prison library, gives legal advice to other inmates, and has stopped telling people that he was innocent of the money-laundering charges that put him inside. Malcolm is a model prisoner.

One day he makes an appointment with the warden and claims he can solve the brutal murder of a Federal judge. The warden, the FBI, and the Federal prosecutors are slow to believe yet another prisoner looking for a deal. But his information about the killer checks out. The murderer is identified, apprehended, and indicted. Malcolm is released, collects a substantial reward, and begins a new life in the Federal Witness Protection Program. Where it gradually becomes clear that Malcom--now Max--has his own agenda.

Grisham spins a good yarn, showing the same contempt for Federal agents and other attorneys that figures so prominently in The Firm. It isn't at all clear that the good guys will win or even who the good guys are. Or that there are any. But it is worth the time to watch the mysteries reveal themselves. This book is highly recommended for both Grisham fans and first-timers.
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A welcome return to form from Grisham after the sheer self-indulgent tedium of his last outing, Calico Joe. Here we're back to his old territory of crime and the law but with a twist. This time we're following the story from the perspective of Malcolm Bannister, jailed lawyer, who claims to know who murdered hard-line Judge Raymond Fawcett. The plot has plenty of twists and turns and takes us on a trip from Virginia to Miami to the Caribbean. Although it becomes apparent fairly early on that all is not as it first seems, Grisham keeps the twists coming so that there are still some surprises in store at the end.

While very readable, I found the book slow in places, especially near the beginning. Also none of the characters were particularly likeable, not even the good guys, which left me a little indifferent as to the outcome. But the complex plot was very well worked out and as always Grisham makes up for any weaknesses in his characterisation by his detailed descriptions of the way the legal system in the US works. My personal preference is for when Grisham takes a more humorous light-hearted approach, such as The Litigators, but this is an enjoyable stand-alone novel - recommended.
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on 7 September 2013
Talk about resting on your laurels? There's a ton of squashed foliage under JG after this attempt at a legal thriller. I can picture it now: the author sitting on an inflatable armchair in the middle of his pool, sipping on something with an umbrella in it, when along comes the butler with a telephone on a silver tray. "It's your publishers, Mr Grisham. They're wondering if you could perhaps knock out a quick bestseller and your diary is free tomorrow afternoon." JG has always been good at stretching a storyline, but this one has more padding than the penthouse suite in the local nut-house. Apparently, there are 73 characters. That's a lot and if there has been any effort put into this story it has been expended in making each one of them more dull than the next. Even the protagonist is a wally. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. You got the jail because you laundered money. Have you never heard of an anti-moneylaundering risk assessment matrix? Your supposed to be a lawyer. Seriously, this is yawns-ville Arizona. Come on. Much more is expected. JG should either retire and count his money or buckle down and write a story where something actually happens.
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on 30 December 2013
I'd fallen out of love with Mr Grisham. After the initial splurge of creativity with his early books, it seemed as though the drudgery of the commercial treadmill had robbed him of imagination. It was with a little reluctance that I picked this up.
[Trying not to put spoilers in]
It started well, the first person narrative was refreshing and seemingly honest toil. However as the plot deepened I felt as though I was reading a clone of 'The Firm' in the plot conclusion - in the way that the main character's plan unfolded with a 'surprise' ending.

What really narked me was right at the end [in an appendix] that there was an admission that almost no research had gone into the book and it was all just thrown onto paper.

Mr Grisham. Do you think so little of us, the people who pay your income that you can't be bothered to put some effort in other than to throw words onto the screen? Would you have prepared a case with so little effort when you were a lawyer? I think not and one of your plot judges would have thrown you out of court on your ear!

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