By John Grisham
As a long-time Grisham fan, I didn’t hesitate to read this book when it was recommended by a friend. It is never difficult to get engrossed in a Grisham novel, at least not his legal thrillers. I did not want to put this book down. I have not been this mesmerized by Grisham since The Client, my first Grisham novel.
The protagonist is Malcolm Bannister, a small-town Virginia lawyer imprisoned (wrongly) to a 10-year federal prison sentence for money laundering. We find him halfway through that term, when he has become disillusioned with just about everything. His wife divorced him two years previously and her new man is now father to Malcolm’s young son. He has realized the futility of trying to legally pursue evidence of his own innocence. Then a federal judge is murdered along with his secretary/lover in the judge’s very secluded mountain cabin and a large safe is open and empty. Malcolm tells his warden he knows who killed the judge and his lover and lays out his demands forimmediate release, new identity, reward money, etc. Thus the clever storytelling begins, with page after page of plot twists and some half-twists. This book is all fiction, not based on any real-life events nor is Grisham using a novel to expound on civic virtues as he has been wont to do in some prior writing. It is story driven and is just plain fun, fun, fun. Yes, it is a bit incredible how everything works out just the way Malcolm has planned, but the old Grisham pace, coupled with unexpected but believable new revelations keep the story moving and the reader engaged. Malcolm’s observations about life on the outside are humorous and thought provoking at the same time.
There are hints along the way about what Malcolm is really up to and by page 103, I thought I had it figured out. I did not. Perhaps you will. In the final two chapters, Grisham gives the reader “closure.” To tell you more would be to ruin the story for you.
If you read this book poolside or at the beach, be careful. Do not get so captivated that you forget to reapply your sunscreen!