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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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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 5 December 2016
This book has had mixed reviews, the majority quite favourable, which is what encouraged me to read it. Having done so, I really cannot understand all the 5-star reviews, but I guess there's no accounting for taste. In my opinion this is definitely not of the calibre of some of Grisham's better known works, and I agree with several of the other reviewers who suggest this was rushed out to satisfy the publisher's request for another book. The story is very dull in places and the writing lacklustre. I found myself speed reading through most of it in order to get to the end. In effect, if I'd read a 2-3 page summary of the story I think I'd have got as much out of it as I did reading the whole book. With so many books out there waiting to be read and a limited time to read them, why waste time reading anything that is 'just OK'?
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on 1 September 2016
Malcolm Bannister is an African-American former lawyer, now in jail, having being implicated in criminal activity. When a prominent federal judge is murdered, he seizes the opportunity to play the system which he feels has victimised him by delivering the guilty party into the hands of the authorities; the price being his freedom. But then things get complicated...

I was familiar with John Grisham from the raft of Hollywood films which were made from his legally-oriented crime thriller fiction in the 1990s ("The Client", "The Pelican Brief", "A Time To Kill"), although I have seen relatively few; this was my first encounter with one of his novels.

"The Racketeer" plods along intriguingly enough before pulling the carpet from under the reader's feet, taking off in an unexpected direction. This is deftly done, to the extent that one ignores the myriad implausibilities and enjoys the ride.

The detail, focussing on the intricacies of the American legal system, is sometimes forbiddingly opaque, but one is carried along by the desire to find out how the resourceful Malcolm (who only seems to discover his cleverness once he has been incarcerated) is going to pull off his cunning plan.

Apparently a film adaptation is in the works; the adaptors will have to do a little work to ramp up the excitement levels, but a lucky actor will have fun playing with audience sympathies in the leading role.
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on 8 March 2016
This is the first time I have gone back to Grisham after a long period of desertion: & I rather enjoyed it. It is, of course, absolute hokum. But the legal content & the meanderings of the plot do hold the interest. There is not much attempt at moralising - the forces of law & order take a thrashing: & the hero comes out of it all at a considerable financial profit only by diverting the unlawful gains of a career criminal. The ending was unexpectedly flat, as if the author decided he had fulfilled his contacted quota of pages. I had expected the hero to get his come-uppance by the final page: & was frankly annoyed that he did not - smug wretch! The only time I got the impression that Grisham himself was much engaged is at a certain point in the narrative where he takes a swipe at what he regards as the wasteful effect the American federal penitentiary system is prone to have on lives which have the potential to give something back to society. And I shall find it difficult in future to think kindly of the Federal marshals who seem to have worked out a system of their very own for inflicting misery on the criminals given into their tender care
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on 3 August 2016
The writer consistently makes racist comments throughout the entire book which is written as though autobiographically by an African American.
There are also several allusions to the uselessness of women and there is one female character throughout the whole book.

In terms of the plot, it builds little and delivers even less.
The reveals are enacted with no sense of drama, and lazily dropped into play at seemingly random points - a good crime novel reads as a page turner, rather than a reluctant slog.

This is a terrible book and I'd suggest reading something else entirely.
Not even worth the 99p list price.
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on 5 August 2016
I have to go along with the other one star reviews here. But my reason is purely because of the implausibility (to say the least) of just about every event and action in this entire book. The expense to set it up must have been astronomical - yachts and all. And just how far does reward money go in the US? Private jets X 2. But not just the financial side of things - I found that the ridiculous amount of padding used in Max's alter ego as a film maker, was like treading water. Far fetched and lazy.
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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 2 November 2017
Somehow, I had low expectations of this given the baseball link, but I was hooked from the start. Grisham gives a simple explanation about baseball at the start and this turns out to be an excellent insight for the reader to refer to. Its a really believable book which at times reads like a biography but you get to know the characters. Grisham paints a really good picture around the story which draws and keep you in. Different from his legal thrillers but a worthy read.
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VINE VOICETOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 November 2012
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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