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The Broker
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The Broker [Kindle Edition]

John Grisham
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (984 customer reviews)

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Sold by: Random House LLC
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Book Description


In his final hours in office, the outgoing President grants a controversial last-minute pardon to Joel Backman, a notorious Washington power broker who has spent the last six years hidden away in a federal prison. What no one knows is that the President issues the pardon only after receiving enormous pressure from the CIA. It seems that Backman, in his heyday, may have obtained secrets that compromise the world’s most sophisticated satellite surveillance system.

Backman is quietly smuggled out of the country in a military cargo plane, given a new name, a new identity, and a new home in Italy. Eventually, after he has settled into his new life, the CIA will leak his whereabouts to the Israelis, the Russians, the Chinese, and the Saudis. Then the CIA will do what it does best: sit back and watch. The question is not whether Backman will survive—there is no chance of that. The question the CIA needs answered is, Who will kill him?

BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from John Grisham's The Litigators.

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Editorial Reviews Review

Before he was sent to federal prison for treason (among other things), Joel Backman was an extremely powerful man. Known as "the broker," Backman was a high roller--a lawyer making $10 million a year who could "open any door in Washington." That is, until he tried to broker a deal selling access to the world's most powerful satellite surveillance system to the highest bidder. When caught, Backman accepted prison as the one option that would keep him safe and alive, since the interested parties (the Israelis, the Saudis, the Russians, and the Chinese) were all itching to get their hands on his secrets at any cost. Little does he know that his own government has designs on accessing that information--or at least letting it die with him. Now, six years after his incarceration, the director of the CIA convinces a lame duck president to pardon Backman, and the broker becomes a free man--and an open target.

The Broker marries the best of John Grisham's many talents--his ability to immerse himself in the culture of small town life (in this case, Bologna, Italy), and his uncanny mastery of the chase. The first half of the book focuses on Backman's transformation from infamous power broker to helpless victim in his own game. Upon his release from prison, Backman is taken into "protective custody" and whisked off to Italy where he is assigned a new identity, and a tutor to help him blend in. Sure he is on the run, but some readers may feel that Backman's time spent in Bologna is a bit too leisurely--readers join him on an almost cinematic tour through the Italian town, complete with language and history lessons. Impatient readers will be happy to know that the final half of the novel is classic Grisham--a fast-paced, thrilling cat and mouse chase pitting Backman against the numerous agencies that want him dead--as the broker makes a move to take back his life. --Daphne Durham

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    From Publishers Weekly

    Readers will find an amiable travelogue to Italy and its charms in Grisham's latest. What they won't find are the suspense and inspired plotting that have made the author (The Last Juror, etc.) one of the world's bestselling writers. Yet Grisham remains a smooth storyteller, and few will fail to finish this oddball tale of what happens to ruined D.C. powerbroker Joel Blackman, 52, when he's suddenly released from federal prison after six years. Teddy Maynard, legendary CIA director, has engineered the release in order to put Joel into a variant of the witness protection program and then see who kills him. Many want him dead—the Saudis, the Israelis, especially the Chinese—because of his role in trying to sell a global satellite spy system that would alter the world's balance of power; that was what got Joel imprisoned, and the CIA hopes that whoever kills him will clue them in to who may have access to the satellites. Joel is relocated to Bologna, and much of the narrative consists of his touring that city, its historic sights and its many restaurants, and learning Italian ways from his male handler, Luigi, and his language tutor, Francesca—a middle-aged woman with whom he falls in love. A major subplot concerns Joel's secret dealings with his stateside son to prepare for escape from Bologna if necessary. Eventually, the CIA leaks Joel's whereabouts to his enemies, who dispatch killing teams. Can Joel broker his way to safety? There's some depth to the troubled relationship between Joel and his tutor, but otherwise the novel reads like a contented afterthought to a memorable Italian vacation, with little action or tension, plastic characters and plot turns that a tricycle could maneuver. Still, anyone wishing to learn how and why Bologna built its famed porticos, why to be wary of most Italian desserts and how to send an encrypted wireless message using a global cell phone will find that information cheerfully given here. (Jan. 11)
    Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    Product Details

    • File Size: 3862 KB
    • Print Length: 434 pages
    • Publisher: Dell; Reprint edition (March 9, 2010)
    • Publication Date: March 16, 2010
    • Sold by: Random House LLC
    • Language: English
    • ASIN: B003B02PF4
    • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
    • X-Ray:
    • Word Wise: Enabled
    • Lending: Not Enabled
    • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
    • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,877 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

    Customer Reviews

    Most Helpful Customer Reviews
    41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars Italian travelogue and coffee diary... July 12, 2005
    Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
    John Grisham's readers have come to expect fast-paced action, a riveting plot and decent characters in his works. Unfortunately, in The Broker, he fails on all three counts. Grisham's last six books or so have been hot and cold, and The Broker can best be described as tepid.

    Former powerbroker and hotshot DC attorney, Joel Backman, is serving a 20 year jail sentence for selling military secrets. He found himself in possession of a sophisticated satellite software program, and tried to sell it to various countries. As an inept and unpopular president gets ready to leave office, corrupt CIA director, Teddy Maynard, bribes the president to pardon Joel Backman (only 6 years into his jail term). He plans to plop Backman down into a foreign country under CIA watch, and then leak his whereabouts to those countries wishing Backman dead.

    It is here that The Broker becomes the Italian travelogue and coffee diary. Backman is relocated to Bologna. With the help of a private tutor, he starts learning the language. He learns nouns...he learns adjectives...he learns adverbs...he learns verbs...he learns verb tenses, etc. You get the picture. Then he goes out for sumptuous meals, which are described in great detail (all at government expense, of course). Then he starts seeing the sites. He tours churches, cathedrals, towers, etc. and we get the history and description of each. And finally, he stops for a cup of coffee, cappuccino or espresso at least 5-6 times a day. Without all this "stuffing," the book could have been 50% shorter.

    The climax to The Broker is very unsatisfying and the ending rather weak. Grisham leaves things a bit open-ended and we can only hope that it's not because we'll be seeing these characters again. There weren't many that were very likable. Hopefully Grisham will let them rest in peace.

    So read The Broker if you're a Grisham fan, but don't expect one of his better works.
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    193 of 217 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars A return to form for Grisham January 12, 2005
    As someone who hasn't enjoyed Grisham's writing since the late '90s, I really didn't have high expectations for this book. I don't think any of us read his novels looking for any kind of enlightment, but instead we only want an intelligent, fun ride. To that end, The Broker is a success.

    Unlike some of his more recent books, this one sticks to his old formula - a sympathetic character, intrigue, and a "chase" leading into a good ending. The only thing that drags the book down is that Backman's time in Italy reads at times like a pastoral novel. I'm all for character development, but we learn more at times about the country than about Backman.

    I still look back on early efforts like A Time to Kill and The Firm as being Grisham's best. This doesn't reach that level, but it's certainly a welcome improvement from recent material.
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    87 of 100 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars AN ITALIAN TRAVELOGUE! February 17, 2005
    So you've read this is Grisham's return to legal thrillers after inexplicable diversions like Bleachers. Hate to tell you - it's anything but.

    We shoot off the docks with grand Hollywood-style razzmatazz involving the CIA, the president of United States, and the dubious pardon of a certain high-stakes deal agent sent to Europe as a sitting duck for assassins to get him. Makes you buckle up for some breathless action.

    Then just a few dozen pages later this whole sensational setup goes thud as our protagonist (and Grisham) get smitten with Italiana. We take long languid walks through Bologna's porticoed sidewalks and piazzas. Read ornate descriptions of the city's basilicas, towers, frescoes, marble crypts. There's even time to learn the legend surrounding the naked bronze statue of the Roman god Neptune at the Fontana del Nettuno from the 1500s.

    Our little broker is savoring the food, the language, the history. Problem is, we're not because nothing's happening.

    As a storyteller Grisham is in full bloom, which would've been super if only he had a story to tell. Recommended for italophiles, rest of us should seek our thrills elsewhere.
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    16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
    2.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't deliver the expected intrigue and action April 17, 2007
    If you are looking for a suspenseful spy novel, this is not it. "The Broker" starts off intriguingly enough, with CIA pressure on a departing president to issue a full pardon for former lawyer and power broker Joel Backman. Backman, it seems, holds secrets to a mysterious and powerful satellite surveillance system whose origin is in question. He was hired by those who discovered the satellites (and who developed software to manipulate then) to sell their program to the highest bidder. When the government began investigating and others who were involved in the scheme turned up dead, Backman pled guilty to federal charges of possessing classified military information. Now, six years later (and fourteen years early), the CIA hopes that by releasing Backman and sitting back to watch who ultimately kills him, they will learn more about the source of the satellites, or at the very least, who Backman tried to sell his secrets to. Backman is released in the middle of the night and smuggled into Italy with a new identity, supposedly for his protection, though his whereabouts will eventually be leaked.

    The problem begins in Italy. The story essentially stops; it's hardly action-packed. There are long walks, sightseeing, Italian tutoring sessions, visits to cafes, and long Italian meals. But one typically reads Grisham for suspense or drama, and it was missing here. I could have skipped entire chapters without losing any of the plot. There are subplots regarding Backman's communications with his son and a supposed romance with one of his Italian tutors, but I didn't buy either. In fact, I somehow missed the romance aspect altogether.
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    Most Recent Customer Reviews
    5.0 out of 5 stars Suspense with a side of Italian
    Not only is this a great suspenseful storyline, but you also get a taste of Italy and the Italian language. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
    Published 7 days ago by Lil T
    4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
    This is not his beest book, but it was entertaining.
    Published 9 days ago by KTGNancy
    5.0 out of 5 stars The story was different than I had expected. The ...
    The story was different than I had expected. The twist was a surprise in the middle of the story. The out come was stupendous, I thought he was going to die.
    Published 13 days ago by lilian barraza
    4.0 out of 5 stars very good so far
    1/2 finished, very good so far. I like Grisham's stories
    Published 21 days ago by kristine duncan
    4.0 out of 5 stars , kbmbhj,
    Published 21 days ago by Joe Serpa
    5.0 out of 5 stars The inimitable Bolognese
    Contrary to complaints of how slow the narrative becomes when newly released Joel Backman becomes Marco Lazzeri in Bologna, Italy and spends too long, according to some readers,... Read more
    Published 23 days ago by Lucille Bellucci
    4.0 out of 5 stars In reading this best seller, I became the broker and cheered an ...
    John Grisham can't be put in a box! The Broker involves lawyers but that's where the familiarity ends. Read more
    Published 25 days ago by Amazon Customer
    5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
    great book
    Published 27 days ago by John Biddle
    5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
    I really enjoyed this book. Typical John Grisham. Fast paced and well written.
    Published 27 days ago by j lund
    2.0 out of 5 stars So disappointed. But then I guess everyone has to write ...
    I was surprised at John Grisham...this book was awful. Who cares about the history of Italy...I wanted a suspense thriller and got a travelogue. So disappointed. Read more
    Published 28 days ago by callie
    Search Customer Reviews

    More About the Author

    Long before his name became synonymous with the modern legal thriller, John Grisham was working 60-70 hours a week at a small Southaven, Mississippi law practice, squeezing in time before going to the office and during courtroom recesses to work on his hobby--writing his first novel. Born on February 8, 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to a construction worker and a homemaker, John Grisham as a child dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Realizing he didn't have the right stuff for a pro career, he shifted gears and majored in accounting at Mississippi State University. After graduating from law school at Ole Miss in 1981, he went on to practice law for nearly a decade in Southaven, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation. One day at the DeSoto County courthouse, Grisham overheard the harrowing testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim and was inspired to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl's father had murdered her assailants. Getting up at 5 a.m. every day to get in several hours of writing time before heading off to work, Grisham spent three years on A Time to Kill and finished it in 1987. Initially rejected by many publishers, it was eventually bought by Wynwood Press, who gave it a modest 5,000 copy printing and published it in June 1988.That might have put an end to Grishams hobby. However, he had already begun his next book, and it would quickly turn that hobby into a new full-time career. When he sold the film rights to The Firm to Paramount Pictures for $600,000, Grisham suddenly became a hot property among publishers, and book rights were bought by Doubleday. Spending 47 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, The Firm became the bestselling novel of 1991.The successes of The Pelican Brief, which hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and The Client, which debuted at number one, confirmed Grisham's reputation as the master of the legal thriller. Grisham's success even renewed interest in A Time to Kill, which was republished in hardcover by Doubleday and then in paperback by Dell. This time around, it was a bestseller. Since first publishing A Time to Kill in 1988, Grisham has written one novel a year (his other books are The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, A Painted House, Skipping Christmas, The Summons, The King of Torts, Bleachers, The Last Juror, The Broker, Playing for Pizza, and The Appeal) and all of them have become international bestsellers. There are currently over 225 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 29 languages. Nine of his novels have been turned into films (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, A Painted House, The Runaway Jury, and Skipping Christmas), as was an original screenplay, The Gingerbread Man.

    Photo credit Maki Galimberti

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