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The Brethren (John Grisham) Audio, Cassette – Audiobook, February 1, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

John Grisham's novels have all been so systematically successful that it is easy to forget he is just one man toiling away silently with a pen, experimenting and improving with each book. While not as gifted a prose stylist as Scott Turow, Grisham is among the best plotters in the thriller business, and he infuses his books with a moral valence and creative vision that set them apart from their peers.

The Brethren is in many respects his most daring book yet. The novel grows from two separate subplots. In the first, three imprisoned ex-judges (the "brethren" in the title), frustrated by their loss of power and influence, concoct an elaborate blackmail scheme that preys on wealthy, closeted gay men. The second story traces the rise of presidential candidate Aaron Lake, a puppet essentially created by CIA director Teddy Maynard to fulfill Maynard's plans for restoring the power of his beleaguered agency.

Grisham's tight control of the two meandering threads leaves the reader guessing through most of the opening chapters how and when these two worlds will collide. Also impressive is Grisham's careful portraiture. Justice Hatlee Beech in particular is a fascinating, tragic anti-hero: a millionaire judge with an appointment for life who was rendered divorced, bankrupt, and friendless after his conviction for a drunk-driving homicide.

The book's cynical view of presidential politics and criminal justice casts a somewhat gloomy shadow over the tale. CIA director Teddy Maynard is an all-powerful demon with absolute knowledge and control of the public will and public funds. Even his candidate, Congressman Lake, is a pawn in Maynard's egomaniacal game of ad campaigns, illicit contributions, and international intrigue. In the end, The Brethren marks a transition in Grisham's career toward a more thoughtful narrative style with less interest in the big-payoff blockbuster ending. But that's not to say that the last 50 pages won't keep your reading light turned on late. --Patrick O'Kelley --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Only a few megaselling authors of popular fiction deviate dramatically from formula--most notably Stephen King but recently Grisham, too. He's serializing a literary novel, A Painted House, in the Oxford American; his last thriller (The Testament) emphasized spirituality as intensely as suspense; and his deeply absorbing new novel dispenses with a staple not only of his own work but of most commercial fiction: the hero. The novel does feature three antiheroes of a sort, the brethren of the title, judges serving time in a federal prison in Florida for white-collar offenses. They're a hard bunch to root for, though, as their main activity behind bars is running a blackmail scheme in which they bait, hook and squeeze wealthy, closeted gay men through a magazine ad supposedly placed by "Ricky," a young incarcerated gay looking for companionship. Then there's the two-bit alcoholic attorney who's abetting them by running their mail and depositing their dirty profits in an overseas bank. Scarcely more appealing is the big fish the trio snare, Congressman Anthony Lake, who meanwhile is busy selling his lifelong integrity when the director of the CIA offers to lever him into the White House in exchange for a doubling of federal defense spending upon Lake's inauguration. The expertly orchestrated and very complex plot follows these evildoers through their illicit enterprises, devoting considerable attention to the CIA's staging of Lake's presidential campaign and even more to that agency's potentially lethal pursuit of the brethren once it learns that the three are threatening to out candidate Lake. Every personage in this novel lies, cheats, steals and/or kills, and while Grisham's fans may miss the stalwart lawyer-heroes and David vs. Goliath slant of his earlier work, all will be captivated by this clever thriller that presents as crisp a cast as he's yet devised, and as grippingly sardonic yet bitingly moral a scenario as he's ever imagined. Agent, David Gernert. 2.8 million first printing. (Feb. 1)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: John Grisham
  • Audio Cassette: 7 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Audio; Unabridged edition (February 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553502417
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553502411
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 2.6 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,303 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,740,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

111 of 119 people found the following review helpful By R. Watkins on January 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover
With the majority of mass market autors, you are guaranteed the same kind of read over and over. Not grisham. The Brethren focuses on a little clan of judges in a low security prison setting up a get rich quick scheme that will guarantee they are set up for good after jail. They lure the men in through placing ads in gay magazine and then track down the men who reply. This leads to the perfect extortion scheme because these men don't want to be found. They make a mistake with one of the men and it just gets better. if you like Grisham, you'll love the Brethren. Not his best, but great anyway, you won't be disappointed.
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109 of 119 people found the following review helpful By Durand Sinclair on February 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Firstly, this book is written by John Grisham, which means that you get the usual well-written book, so that once you start it, you don't put it down till you finish. (At least, that's what happened to me. I read it in a weekend.) What makes this one different is that there aren't really any good guys. It's the story of how some crooked judges are able to run a scam from inside a jail, paralleled with how a completely evil general tries to buy an election and start a war. The scam itself is really the hero of the story. I often caught myself thinking "Isn't that clever?". Also, Grisham shows his usual cynicism of lawyers with a funny character called Trevor. (Here's betting Steve Buscemi will play him in the movie!) Other reviewers have commented that the plot could have done with some more twists. But I didn't mind the way the plot developed. I found it more believable than The Firm, (whose main character seemed a bit too superhuman), but not quite as intriguing as The Runaway Jury (which is my favourite). All in all, it's a good solid Grisham book that will be well worth the price when it comes out in paperback.
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55 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Courtney_Carpenter@vfc.com on February 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I absolutely love John Grisham. However, after this book, I think he needs to take a little time off and think about his writing. His first 3 books were incredible. Then, they got a little less exciting. I thought he was going to have a resurgence with The Testament, a book not many liked, but I thought really extended him as a writer. Then, this one. I thought this book was very uneventful. I kept expecting the usual Grisham suspense, drama, murder, etc. It never came. There was no suspense at all. It could have been a biography of the 3 judges. That's was it read like. Very disappointing!
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Staci L. Wilson on June 20, 2000
Format: Audio Cassette
You might call this a legal brief - a bit less involved than most Grisham fare, but a fun way to pass the time nonetheless. Or *do* the time... The brethren consists of three imprisoned ex-judges in a white-collar institution who concoct an intricate blackmail scheme that preys on wealthy, closeted gay men. Posing as "Ricky," a young, lonely homosexual in rehab, the judges turn out not to be such great judges of character when they end up penpalling with the wrong man.
Then there's breezy Congressman Aaron Lake, a political puppet shucking and jiving to the tune of CIA Director, Teddy Maynard. Maynard is grooming Lake for the presidency - once housed at 1600 Pennsylvania, Lake will sit back and let Maynard's CIA run the country. Lake seems perfect: he is relatively young, handsome, well-spoken, is malleable and squeaky clean. Or is he?
You see where this is going... so did I, but it was a lot of fun listening to the seemingly unconnected plotlines, trying to guess when the two worlds would collide. This book is deliciously fraught with mud-slinging presidential campaign ads, international intrigue, dirty lawyers on the take, suicide and murder, false love letters, and money... lots and lots of money. Unlike some of Grisham's heavier, more message-laden books (A Time To Kill, or The Rainmaker) The Brethren is written just to entertain.
The reader, Frank Muller, does an excellent job. He expertly handles playing several characters without overdoing it; you can tell the difference between the speakers without being distracted by a showboating acting performance. Muller is the winner of several awards for his audio book performances, and it's easy to tell why with this reading.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Richard B. White on February 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Great premise and could have been an extraordinary story, but it appears that Grisham forgot to flesh it out past a Hollywood treatment. Reading the last few pages, I was on edge waiting for the EXPLOSIVE finale. Didn't happen. I think that he was already into his next big, blockbuster, chart-busting, top o'the list bestseller and just shoved this one to the side...
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Joe TOP 1000 REVIEWER on April 1, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
When I was a young lad in high school English Lit, I seem to recall being taught that one of the elements of any novel was a protagonist-antagonist conflict. You know, Square-Jawed Good Guy vs. Despicable Bad Guy - that sort of thing. Grisham's THE BRETHREN is the first novel I can remember reading in a very long time, if ever, that has no protagonist. Maybe he's now trying to write about real life where there're more gray areas.
Joe Roy Spicer, Hatlee Beech and FinnYarber are, respectively, a former Mississippi Justice of the Peace, a former Texas federal judge, and a former California Supreme Court Chief Justice. All three are in a minimum security Federal pen in Florida for various peccadilloes. And all three are using the US mail system to blackmail middle-aged homosexual men they've enticed out of the closet with a phony advert in a gay magazine. Helping them is their sleazy lawyer, Trevor Carson, who, for a cut of the take, acts as their link to the Postal Service.
On a seemingly unrelated track, Teddy Maynard is the unscrupulous, crippled Director of the CIA who has decided that the US needs a stronger military. To achieve this, he proposes to a relatively unknown Arizona Congressman, Aaron Lake, that he, Lake, enter the recently begun presidential primaries on a Double-the-Defense Budget platform. Aaron, a shameless political opportunist, is malleable and accepts, the task made easier by the tens of millions of dollars that Teddy manipulates into his campaign coffers. One of the main reasons that Maynard has selected Lake is the latter's apparent freedom from human foibles. Aaron apparently has no skeletons in his closet.
The reader knows all this thirty pages into the book, and unless he/she hasn't been paying attention, can predict where the plot is going.
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