Author: John Grisham
Publisher: Random House (Bantam Dell)
Summary: The Racketeer by John Grisham is a story in which we meet Malcolm Bannister, former attorney and current inmate, at a federal prison camp near Frostburg, Maryland. Malcolm knows why federal judge, Raymond Fawcett, was murdered and who carried out the deed. This information is his “golden ticket” and the means by which he gains the attention of the FBI. However, what is Bannister’s end game…freedom, revenge or some other objective? Trust me, you have to read the entire book to find out.
My Thoughts: Before getting into my thoughts on the story line, I want to briefly discuss the narrator and main character, Malcolm Bannister (former lawyer-turned convict). The first sentence of the book reads: “I am a lawyer, and I am in prison.” The repetition of the words (“I am” verses “I’m”) made me wonder: “Is he attempting to draw attention to this identity? and “How does he want the reader to view him?”. Maybe this is looking too deeply into the words but in this case these words matter. Bannister’s public image is completely tarnished in the story line. So, I think an integral part of understanding his perspective is recognizing his need to reestablish his identity on his own terms.
Other than the narrator’s concerns about how he is identified, I found him interesting enough to want to learn more about his story. I have stopped reading many stories because the narrator put me to sleep. Fortunately, Bannister intrigued me and I wanted to learn more about how he ended up in prison. More importantly, I was curious about the ride Grisham was going to take me on to get those answers.
Now, let’s get into the story line. I appreciate that we learn about how this lawyer ended up in prison (with sufficient detail) fairly early in the story. However, when Bannister reveals to the FBI that he has information that could lead to the arrest of the murderer of Judge Raymond Fawcett, one may start to think that this is a simple “barter for freedom story”. In true Grisham style the plot line is not quite that simple. There are some surprises, deceptions and double-dealing in this story which add to its appeal. As Bannister tells the story, we see that he has some revenge in mind when he agrees to assist the government (the same body that is responsible for his predicament), in apprehending the guilty party. He has a scheme to right some wrongs and as these plans unfold Grisham picks up his writing speed. He begins to weave together plans and actors that assist the main character on his quest for retribution/justice (it’s a matter of perspective). So, it’s important to slow down and pay attention or you might miss some much needed details.
I must admit that given my legal background, I may look at legal plot lines more critically than I should. Honestly, at points during this novel I rolled my eyes or thought “Umm…yeah right”. With that said, I kept reading and had an overall enjoyable experience. The story line kept me engaged and pleasantly preoccupied with anticipating the next turn of events. This novel is a great read for a relaxed weekend and I would advise you read it with that frame of mind. Though it has loosely interpreted elements of the law and the appeal of a wronged man getting his due, it does not rise to the level of a “legal thriller” which you might expect from Grisham. With clear expectations in mind, I say that this one is still worth the effort.
*Disclaimer: This book review solely represents my thoughts and opinions. I did not receive any compensation in any form for this review. This post contains affiliate links. The photo above is the property of http://www.jgrisham.com.
Thanks for reading!