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on October 23, 2012
I'm writing this bc I haven't bought a Grisham book that wasn't deeply discounted or free in YEARS.
I bought this book after the NYT review-- I think it's the first decent review of a Grisham book in a long time (last I remember). I have been on and off again about Grisham's books, (mostly off for a long time) honestly nothing for me will be as good as A Time To Kill, or The Chamber, or as fun as The Firm-- but I have read most of what he's written-- and mostly been "eh" about Grisham for several years.

Ok having said that-- as the title of my review states, this is a book you absolutely have to suspend disbelief-- especially if you are even remotely associated with the legal profession and if you're a lawyer - (actually even if you aren't) you will roll your eyes at some points-- but you WILL CONTINUE reading, because, as preposterous as some of the plot turns are, you will want to see where he goes with this. The main character stays in kind of a 'foreshadowing" mode throughout the story- you kind of think and sometimes know where this is going but because the main character is also 'unreliable' - you are left unsure-- so as a reader you wonder if the narrator/main character plots against his 'foes' while simultaneously doing the same to the you (the reader) --- I did think that was pretty interesting on Grisham's part. I can't explain this anymore without spoilers.

FYI-- The NYT review was bizarre-- some parts of the review made no sense after i finished the book--and i re-read the review-- this line in particular referring to the main character-- "And Mal happens to be black. That fact seems to have nothing to do with the book until Mr. Grisham makes shrewd use of race later on. " --- what? i don't know what they meant by "shrewd" or "shrewd use" -- and after reading the book, it seems as though the NYT just read a synopsis and Grisham's afterword.

This is not a book that will stay with you long after you've read it, but you know what? Sometimes that's just fine. This is NOT a 'legal thriller' in the sense that we are used to. (Grisham admits as much in his afterword). It's not one of his great books, but it IS PRETTY GOOD-- that's why I gave it 3 stars.

IF this sounds like I didn't like the book please just take it as a disclaimer because:
This is FUN Grisham. It's a commercial break. It's a page-turning novel/thirller/mystery and it's ENTERTAINING- much like I'm sure the invevitable movie will be. I did enjoy this, I couldn't put it down. I do recommend the book with the following caveat: - wait for a lower price.
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VINE VOICEon October 23, 2012
John Grisham's work runs the gambit. Some serious, some funny, some nostalgic, and some sporty. But no matter what you know you're in for a good read. This one is no different. 'The Racketeer' falls somewhere between the seriousness of 'The Confession' and the fun of 'The Litigators'.

Our friend, Malcolm Bannister, is a lawyer who is in jail (I'll pause for your jokes here) for a crime he didn't commit. (Another pause). Fortunately for him the unfortunate demise of a Federal judge and his lady (hot, young, sexy, hot, you get the picture) friend is his key for early release. No clues, no witnesses, no leads, and no evidence. These frivolous minor details don't bother the FBI and they don't really bother Malcolm. He knows the truth and the Feds will pay dearly for it. Of course when dealing with the Feds and a jailed lawyer, "truth" is more of a mythological punchline than anything else.

While 'The Racketeer' is a fast read make yourself slow down, especially near the end. There are many pieces to this puzzle and you'll miss it if you read at the speed in which John writes. I mentioned earlier that our boy Malcolm goes through some pretty extraordinary lengths to get what he wants and that IS NOT an exaggeration. But then the question we must ask ourselves is; what is the price of freedom? What would you pay for or suffer through just for the chance to be free? You're about to find out. Oh... and what if that taste of freedom was seasoned with a bit of revenge?

Malcolm has people to pay back, but before he does that he must deal with this little issue of piecing together a plan with more moving parts than the space shuttle and a failure rate of my high school algebra class. Will it work? Well that depends on your working definition of "work". Either way it'll be fun. And it was fun. With every new Grisham book there are always the litany of superlatives that follow it. "King of the legal thriller", "America's greatest storyteller", "John Grisham is uber-popular", "John Grisham is Jason's best friend", "John is a magnificent storyteller". While I don't doubt these claims, I've never once bought a book based on a five word praise fest. I rely on other book lovers like myself. You don't know me, but I ask you to trust me on this; Grisham is the man and he's earned it. That's my eight word praise fest.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon October 23, 2012
What you'll get in this one: the snappy characterizations and plot twists that make Grisham's legal thrillers so irresistible to his loyal fans. I received my book in the wee hours of release day, and stayed up reading the entire novel. It was too good to put down.

Grisham wisely keeps readers guessing about how lawyer Malcolm Bannister may pull off a revenge scheme. I was hooked as soon as I grasped the basic plot.

But this doesn't mean The Racketeer is flawless.. It took awhile for me to become fully engaged with the book -- mainly because Grisham took his time revealing crucial details and spent awhile describing prison life. Some of that is interesting and adds depth. But parts of the novel lagged for me.

The Racketeer starts off with lawyer Malcolm Bannister describing his basic situation: he has been sent to prison for 10 years based on a sentence "handed down by a weak and sanctimonious federal judge in Washington, DC". I'm not giving away anything here because that info is revealed on the first page of my edition of this book (Kindle). Bannister has tried every appeal available. His wife, initially supportive, has left him. He misses his son.

In short, his life is grim and depressing. Bannister can't imagine being incarcerated for 10 years, and he is desperate to get out. The reason he is in jail constitutes "a long story." but he is convinced he has been convicted of a crime he had "no knowledge of committing" (he does, however, admit to naivite' and stupidity which helped lead to his downfall).

The rest of the details in the early half of The Racketeer mainly involved Bannister's carefully constructed plan to get out of prison, starting with info he knows about the murder of federal judge Raymond Fawcett. He says he knows who murdered the judge - and why. This is where I started to become intrigued, trying to figure out what if Bannister's plan will succeed- and anticipating the inevitable plot twists along the way. I also wanted to know how his conviction was connected to the murder of the judge. Bannister's exclusive information is what he plans to use as leverage.

That's when I became impatient for Grisham to cut to the chase. But because of his writing style, still above par for many legal thrillers, I couldn't put The Racketeer down. Grisham doesn't give everything away at once. Information is revealed chapter by chapter. I wanted to know more. And I'm betting other readers will feel the same. I am not going to reveal any more about The Racketeer because I think there is enough info here to either interest potential readers and help them decide whether the book is of interest or not. I don't want to add spoilers or plot twists.
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VINE VOICEon November 4, 2012
John Grisham's THE RACKETEER is a good novel, certainly not great, and definitely not like the classics that made him famous. If I had to boil it down to one reason why, it would be because this novel isn't a legal thriller, its just a story of one man's journey from desperation to revenge to happiness. There aren't any bad guys, so there's never any fear of Malcom Bannister's plan not working.

Malcom Bannister is a small time lawyer making a decent living supporting his wife and son. He agrees to broker a real estate deal for a Washington DC bigwig and soon gets swept up in a massive scandal. Malcom is sent to prison for money laundering. The minimum security prison gives Malcom the freedom to stay informed of life outside of jail, and he starts making plans for freedom. Finally, the time comes to execute his plan, and Malcom is given his freedom. Once on the outside, it looks like Malcom is just living day to day. But it soon becomes apparent that he has much bigger plans in mind.

Grisham is a good writer, and this is a good novel, but there are problems. For instance, a little over halfway through the book, Grisham goes into a huge scheme launched by Malcom. He pretends to be a documentary filmmaker and goes after one person named Nathan Cooley. I had no idea who Cooley was, even though he'd spent time with Malcom in prison. Had I missed him earlier in the novel? This section goes on way to long before it comes clear what is happening. It's like a whole separate story.

Another thing Grisham does that bothers me, and he's done it in a few novels before (I can't remember specifics). Malcom is thrown in jail and he has a wife and six year old child. The wife and child are kind of discarded as the novel goes on. I know as a parent, I would never just forget about my kids, regardless of circumstances.

Grisham has earned all the respect and accolades he has received. But this novel tells a great story, but it isn't a thriller.
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on November 8, 2012
I was majorly disappointed in this latest Grisham book. The story centers around a man, a lawyer, who is given 10 years in a federal prison for a crime he didn't commit - or wasn't aware of the crime he was commiting in a shoddy realestate money laundering scheme. He gets himself out of prison early by solving the killing of a federal judge - is given the reward money - and taken into the witness protection program - cosmetic surgery the whole works. But then the book got bogged down for me as this guy is all over the place - literally. I lost interest and raced through the book to get to the predictable end.
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on November 6, 2012
I have almost given up on Grisham after reading his most recent legal books. I am glad I did not and read this one. I loved the story, especially how it developed. I will not give away anything to say that the plot turns were wonderful. I am amazed at the differences of opinions of the reviewers. My vote is that this is a winner.
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on December 31, 2013
There is an author's note at the end of this book. It states: "This is indeed a work of fiction, and more so than usual. Almost nothing in the previous 380-odd pages is based on reality. Research, hardly a priority, was rarely called upon. Accuracy was not deemed crucial. Long paragraphs of fiction were used to avoid looking up facts. etc." That says it all.
I enjoyed the first half of this book and then the whole premise got so convoluted that it was difficult to even understand what was happening. For me, up until almost the ending, I wondered what was going on. I ended up wondering why I had even bothered to finish the book. I agree with the author's note and it should have been placed at the beginning of the book. Had I realized how off-the-wall this book was, I wouldn't have bothered with it.
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on October 29, 2012
I'd have given this disappointment a different title: THE FIZZLER. Here I'm refering to the plot, of course, and after you read this baby you might agree. You just have to wonder what makes a famous author think that with his well-established reputation and name, he can just
spin out any load of shtuff and people will gladly pay up for it. Considering the sheer, sleek beauty of novels like THE FIRM, THE CLIENT, THE PELICAN BRIEF, it's nigh impossible to believe that his newest is so poorly executed AND I came to believe that he knew it, as he suggests in his afterword that there was little to no research involved. Big surprise! The usual buildup to the missing climax is totally stifled by the blah ending. Honestly, you and I have read better comicbooks than this loser. So it's awfully hard to believe the other reviewers who sing such loud praise for a book that disappoints on all fronts.

Good grief, Charlie Brown!
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on November 22, 2012
The book was ridiculous...over the top unbelievable and Grisham's epilogue was a slap in the face to loyal fans everywhere. If he no longer wants to write he should just say a gracious thank you and good bye to all the fans who have enjoyed his amazing books over the years. How sad.
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on October 25, 2012
The Racketeer is an ok read if you like Grisham, but there are no real surprises here. I found a lot in the plot was reminiscent of The Firm.
I like Grisham, but would really like to see him step it up and surprise me after all these years. Wait for the paperback.
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