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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Racketeer: A Novel

I am absolutely partial to stories of racketeers -- let's just say it's a family legacy. We are also familiar with my love of a good John Grisham book on vacation, so I packed The Racketeer for my recent trip abroad to Japan. This was a superb choice. I picked it up in hopes that it would be a departure from previous JG's, and I was rewarded for my gamble. This one was a far different feel than his usual legal thrillers while still being a quasi-legal thriller.

Malcolm Bannister was busted by the feds in a racketeering sting five years ago even though he wasn't aware that he was involved in such illegalities. Doesn't matter to the big dogs, though -- anyone they could get, they would nail. After five years in prison, and facing five more, Malcolm is given the biggest gift he could ask for -- he is about to get out on Rule 35. This federal code states that any inmate who can solve a federal crime can get out of jail free, and the murder of a federal judge does it for him. He is out, in witness protection, but you don't think a swindler would stop there, do you?

This was one of the novels I brought to Japan recently to do what I call "love it and leave it," where I leave behind trade paperbacks after I finish them. I love the feel of a book in my hands, especially on vacation, and I love being able to leave books behind in hopes that they will fall into the right (English reading) hands. This one I left at our hotel in Tokyo after an all-day marathon reading session on Tokyo's subways. It lent itself well to binge reading, as the deeper I got into the book, the more I wanted to finish it.

While I normally don't like it when my main main Grish (my new nickname for our buddy John) walks away from his classic storytelling style, this time he really hit the nail on the head. Not only was his protagonist a far cry from his usual "aw-shucks" white male lawyer who grew up poor and is working his way up the bootstrap ladder, but it's also a storytelling style he doesn't use often. Malcolm is a crook himself without necessarily being a crook, and he is not entirely a likeable character throughout the book. In fact, he is a swindler of swindlers, so it's not as though he is some sort of hero. Oh, sure, he is an antihero of sorts, but he isn't terribly likeable as a person.

I also felt that Grisham did a fantastic job of throwing in twists and turns I wasn't expecting. Malcolm's big swindle, for example, involved a plotline that you don't actually understand until 3/4 of the way in, and that kept me turning the pages as the hours went on. There are also connections between characters you won't see, although now that I've said something, you may very well be able to figure it out. I'm glad I just let myself be immersed, though, because it led to a very enjoyable reading experience and one that I would absolutely recommend for your own vacation.

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