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4.2 out of 5 stars
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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 50 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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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 4 August 2014
Not exactly Grisham's best but when you're working in the narrow confines of the legal profession I guess you might start repeating yourself as your source material runs out. This had elements of "The Firm" in it and the protagonist breaks the mould by being a different colour but I'd categorise it as the book I'd grudgingly read if I couldn't find a new John Connolly thriller - it'll pass the time but it's not particularly clever or well thought out - the payoff is telegraphed a mile away and I just don't think Grisham worked hard enough on the subtleties required for this type of thriller with a twist.
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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!

DO BETTER.
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on 9 November 2012
I fear I have been hard on John Grisham recently. His Theodore Boone novels are seriously deficient. But, as I have pointed out at inordinate length elsewhere, that is almost certainly the fault of his publisher, not of him. It is the publisher, I suspect, who decided that American children are too dim to read any long words or to cope with a plot which is not mind-numbingly simple. Poor Mr Grisham was just following orders.

But we can now put those awful books away and rejoice in the fact that Grisham has gone back to doing what he does best.

It is particularly important in reviewing this book not to give the slightest hint as to what the ending might be. All I can properly say is that a black lawyer has been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for an offence of money laundering which he is adamant he never committed. He is popular with other prisoners because he advises them on their appeals. Half way through his sentence a federal judge and his mistress are murdered. Bannister, the black lawyer prisoner, tells the FBI he knows who did it. He will reveal what he knows if he is immediately released from prison and put into the witness protection programme. More, I dare not tell you.

Grisham's ability as a storyteller is simply astounding. The reader thinks all is pretty clear to begin with. But then, as the story unfolds, he or she becomes more and more baffled. What on earth is going on? What is Bannister up to? And the reader really can't put the book down. There must be a rational explanation. But who can fathom what it is?

Well, I shan't give you the answers. You must read to the end of the book to find them. You certainly won't be disappointed. Perhaps, like me, you will kick yourself as the truth is revealed. We are given all the evidence we should need, but it is done so cleverly that we don't guess that truth until very near the end.

This is Grisham at his best. You really must read it. Of course, the Kindle price is ludicrously high (publisher's fault again), but you will not regret the expense. Anyway, you can buy the cheaper hardback version if the Kindle looks beyond your means.

Let's just hope Mr Grisham has ended his dalliance with Theodore Boone.

Charles
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