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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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on 27 March 2016
Dreadful. I have no problem with reading a far-fetched yarn as long as it's well-written and constructed but this is poor and if it didn't have John Grisham's name attached, if it were offered to a publisher by a new writer, it would be universally trashed. In fact I found the author's note quite offensive: it is, effectively, an admission that this is a lazily-written, unreaserched, implausible 400 page con trick: look, I wrote it, my name's Grisham, I've written some good stuff, so this will be good, stick with it. If you haven't read it yet, don't bother and protect your view that a Grisham book can be good.
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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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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 23 September 2016
Back in the '90s when I landed my first job in London, I also got a lot of time commuting to and from work. This meant loads of extra time to read (hurrah!) except that you can't read anything too taxing on a packed London Underground train when you need to keep your wits about you so that you don't fall over or miss your stop. I found John Grisham's compelling courtroom dramas fitted the bill and I cheerfully ploughed through a dozen or so of them. Many of them are bland and eminently forgettable but two (A Time To Kill and A Painted House) still linger in my memory. And it was with these in mind that, some 20+ years on, I thought I'd give The Racketeer a go. This time I wasn't looking for an antidote to commuting, just the antithesis of the gruelling novel I had just finished.; I wanted a change in tune and an unchallenging escape, so why not try Grisham again?

After that long preamble I'm sorry to say that this isn't Grisham at his finest. I considered ditching it on a couple of occasions but the many 5* reviews made me believe it would suddenly pick up. That was not the case. The first part of the story was engaging enough, outlining the incarceration of lawyer Malcolm Bannister, but what followed was just too clumsy to be realistic and many of the characters, unbelievable. Hey, I love fantasy, so am perfectly happy to suspend reality if I'm engaged by the story any/or characters. Sadly neither were particularly captivating, reminding me not to rush out and by a book based on the fact that the first two Amazon reviews gave it 5*. Having subsequently looked at the reviews again, I note it was only the top ones that rated this book so highly and if I'd taken the time to look a bit further I would see that lots of people didn't think too much of this novel.

Please note though that this is just one novel in a vast oeuvre so don't be put off John Grisham's books by what I write; just look a little further than this particular one because in my opinion it doesn't do him justice.
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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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VINE VOICEon 15 October 2016
I have read, and enjoyed, several John Grisham novels, but was very disappointed in this one. It started off well enough on the author's home ground of prisons and law courts, but for me, the story reached a climax well before it was half-way through, and thereon, I found it very dull indeed; in fact, I almost gave up on it. In vain have I scoured other reviews to find anyone who found this novel confusing. Maybe it's just me (and I tend to do my reading in bed at night, so perhaps I was tired), but I found the plot hard to follow, and the the storyline convoluted. By the end, I was willing it to end. I didn't care about the characters or the plot, and just wanted to get the novel finished. Fans of Grisham my enjoy it, but if you haven't read any of his work before, try an earlier one (The Firm is excellent).
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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 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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