The many fans of John Grisham are surely excited with the October release of his latest novel. Since his breakout novel “The Firm,” this Mississippian has produced many popular books and been a fixture on national bestseller lists — not to mention the movie versions of his books that have helped make him a household name.
A lawyer by profession, Grisham’s books involve legal issues, and “The Racketeer,” his 30th book, is no exception. This newest work opens with the lines of racketeer Malcolm Bannister telling us, “I am a lawyer, and I am in prison. It’s a long story.” At 343 pages, it is indeed a long story. As the story begins, Bannister is midway through a 10-year prison sentence for money laundering, though his real crime is simply “picking the wrong client.”
Bannister was a small town lawyer with a modest practice who saw his life come apart when he agreed to handle a real estate transaction for a white-collar crook, Barry Rafko. Ignorant of his client’s history and reputation, Bannister was swept up in a tide of indictments when Rafko was arrested on multiple counts of conspiracy and financial malfeasance. In the trial Bannister received an exorbitant sentence, one that stripped him of his family, freedom and career, leaving him embittered and eager for revenge.
Not giving the plot away, but a corrupt federal judge is murdered and there’s an absence of forensic evidence. Bannister, a jailhouse lawyer with access to a great many criminal secrets, steps in to help the FBI solve the crime. Bannister emerges with a new name and identity, and that’s when the real story of revenge begins.
Writing in The New York Times, Janet Maslin says “The Racketeer” is an unusual book for Grisham. “Unlike many of his others, it has no soapbox to stand on and is not out to teach lessons about justice,” she writes. “This book is much more duplicitous than that. In its early stages it does follow the familiar Grisham template, in which a lawyer finds himself unexpectedly in legal trouble. But then it breaks out into the exhilarating tale of how Mal, a disbarred attorney, now a savvy, self-taught legal scholar, leads his pursuers on a long, winding chase.”
“The Racketeer” by John Grisham is published by Doubleday ($28.95, hardcover)