The Racketeer by John Grisham

By Ekta R. Garg

November 7, 2012

Rated: Bookmark it!

A black lawyer stuck in prison comes up with a scheme to get himself out: he offers investigators key information about the murder of a judge.  But when the lawyer gets out of jail, the murder investigation doesn’t exactly proceed as planned.  When the investigators try to track the lawyer down to find out just what is going on, they realize they may have been duped.  John Grisham offers readers one of his finest books in his breezy novel The Racketeer.

Malcolm Bannister has landed in a federal prison camp due to one key reason: his own stupidity.  As a young eager lawyer he executes a deal that creates a curious set of circumstances, sending him to prison for a ten-year sentence.  After five years Malcolm has decided he has had enough.  He’s sick of prison life, he wants out, and he has key information tied to the murder of a federal judge that can function as his “get out of jail free” card.

Prison officials and the investigators who have landed the unfortunate job of having to figure out who killed the judge all think Malcolm just wants to play the game, but Malcolm insists he knows who killed the judge.  Because the judge was found dead in a compromising position—with a young female assistant and in front of an empty safe in his hideaway cabin in the mountains—investigators decide to give Malcolm a chance to roll the dice.  And suddenly Malcolm finds himself with a shot of winning his way out.

Malcolm strikes a deal with the government that pardons him for his “crime” and lets him enter the witness protection program.  The investigators proceed with tracking down the person Malcolm has named, and Malcolm takes full advantage of his new life.  But he’s not playing by the rules the government set, and when Malcolm’s position in his new life becomes compromised the FBI swoops in to try to figure out what Malcolm’s next move should be.  Except that Malcolm doesn’t want to play by the government’s rules anymore and flips the entire game on its head by a move no one expects.

By choosing a black protagonist for his latest novel, Grisham provides readers with a different viewpoint.  But black or white, Grisham knows his legal matters and (by extension) the legal thriller.  This book easily solidifies Grisham as an expert in the latter.  Some readers may complain that Grisham’s novels follow a familiar pattern: the underdog fights and eventually wins against a variety of villains.  In The Racketeer the villain comes in the form of the federal government.

Grisham’s detailing makes him stand head and shoulders above so many others who attempt this genre.  He never fails to throw in details in a seemingly casual manner, only to make those very details the focal point of the plot late in the book.  The Racketeer follows this same formula, but it’s a formula that works and will indeed keep readers up late at night.

I highly recommend The Racketeer and sincerely feel it’s one of Grisham’s best books.  Grisham fans will enjoy it from Page 1 to The End, and anyone wanting to try one of his books for the first time would do well by choosing this as one of their first Grisham experiences.


What the ratings mean:

Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection.  It’s definitely worth it!

Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.

Bypass it–Free time is precious.  Don’t spend it on this book!

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