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The Racketeer: A Novel
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on February 10, 2015
Calico Joe is a bit of a departure for John Grisham. The deals with a man who is facing the death of his estranged father from a terminal disease. The uniqueness of this situation comes from the background of the father and the titular character, Calico Joe. The father was a major league pitcher for the New York Mets. Calico Joe was a prodigious rookie having the season of a lifetime when his career is ended by the pitcher. As the man faces death, the protagonist tries to convince him to face what he did and apologize to the now disabled man.

The story is very touching and, amazingly, does not deal with the law or lawyers in any way. Grisham does a great job hopping back and forth between the present and the past where the protagonist relives the tumultuous childhood that he experienced with this abusive professional athlete.

Grisham weaves in real and fictional major league players and, by default, reveals his love for the American pastime. It was an enjoyable read.
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on April 29, 2017
I've read this book before, years ago, but as I do with most of his books, I read them quickly and then later I take the time to really savor them. I enjoy reading them the second time through probably more than the first time because I pick up more of the small interesting details. Grisham is about the best at details and yet, he doesn't get bogged down in them. He doesn't go on and on about what the character is wearing,for instance, unless it has to do with something necessary at that moment. Even then he covers only brief items. I like that. I skip over those parts in other books. Grisham does do a fantastic job of developing the characters of his books. Our feel like you know them personally. His story lines are always good and like this story full of twists and turns. Fantastic book!
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on March 19, 2016
This is my favorite John Gresham book! After working in the judicial system for many years, I have always enjoyed his courtroom drama & it is fun to read his descriptions of the various aspects of courthouse business. The first book of his that I read mentioned the big red & gold docket books & I knew then that he was familiar with the system. This book doesn't have much of that & at first it took me a while to really get into it, although it was a good story. Then, it about half way through it got very good. The characters were development was excellent & the action was exciting. I read some of the negative reviews & suppose that those people were expecting the courtroom drama that Mr. Grisham is best known for. As the author said in his "Author's Note", he didn't need much research for this one because none of it is true. I think he probably had a lot of fun writing this book & it shows.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon August 30, 2014
I loved this novel, just as I've loved all of John Grisham's stories because his characters have such heart. I feel as though I know Paul Tracey now, I know what it's like to love baseball and to want a parent to be your hero, and have your admiration always shut down. I feel like I can watch baseball now and know enough to enjoy it because of Grisham's story, and that is exactly why I read. To be immersed in another world to the point where I feel as if I've actually visited that world.

Calico Joe is a story about a young boy, Paul and his love for both this father, and for baseball. Unfortunately for Paul, his father, who's a pitcher the New York Mets, is not worthy of his son's admiration. A narcissist bordering on sociopath, Warren Tracey is the kind of guy who shifts his responsibilities onto everyone else so his ego can stay falsely inflated. The story takes us from 1973 to 2003 in flashbacks centering on a moment in baseball history that changed Paul's life, his father's, and a promising rookie named Joe Castle.

John Grisham entertains us with an important life lesson, wrapping it in his love for baseball that gives the story its extra-special dimension. The lesson is about how we have to claim responsibility for what we do in order to be a good person, and while forgiveness is possible, it can't change the messes we make in our lives. Forgiving doesn't mean forgetting, it means moving forward and getting on with life the best we can under new circumstances. Joe displays grace in the face of horrific circumstances that could have been avoided, while Warren shows how blaming others can leave a trail of regrets.

This is a story that will stick with me for a long time. Sure the good guys and the bad guys were very black and white, but that's not to say that there aren't people out there that display such a contrast of light and dark. Grisham is a writer at the top of his game, and always a pleasure to read. He's one of my favorite writers of all time, and I hope he doesn't stop writing in my lifetime.
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on November 22, 2017
Second of the Grisham sports novels I've read. Like in "Bleachers" before it, there is misconduct by athlete or coach; estrangement between family and/or friends; and forgiveness and possible renewal. Can't help but be glad of the defining moment between the two rival athletes, which I will not spoil for any who haven't read it. Quite a break from the legal thrillers Grisham is known for. And not as long-winded either. And the mixture of fictional players with real players and managers. What can I say? Way to do that homework, John!
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on March 8, 2013
Quite frankly, I was stunned at the 1,900+ five-star reviews, hailing this book as a "page-turner". I wondered if maybe I missed out on the "Page-Turner Special Edition" and instead accidentally picked up the "Slow, Plodding, Wish You Could Get Your Money Back Edition".

But what exactly makes a page-turner?

For me, I need someone to root for. I have to have some sort of emotional investment in the character and his or her fate. I have read nearly all of Grisham's novels, and I've always had this connection with his protagonists - even those who were terribly, deeply flawed.

My relationship with Malcolm Bannister started off just fine. In the early pages, Malcolm is reminiscent of Stephen King's Andy Dufresne from "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" - professional, unfairly convicted, plying his former trade in the jailhouse to pass the time.

But Malcolm began to lose me when two murders set into motion a sequence of events that he has clearly been anticipating for some time.

The second murder was particularly horrific. As I continued reading, I found it hard to stomach that Malcolm was willing to leverage this tragedy for his own personal gain. And the less interest that I had in Malcolm's well-being, the less interest I had in turning pages.

Had Grisham left out the more gratuitous murder, I might have maintained a little more sympathy and respect for Malcolm. But as it turned out, I did finally find someone in this book to root for: The Feds.
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VINE VOICEon November 3, 2016
First Sentence: I am a lawyer, and I am in prison.

The opening line not only captures our attention, but is a great hook. How could one not read one from there?

One of the things that makes reading Grisham so interesting is not only his obvious knowledge of the law, but inclusion of factual people, events and cases. However, Grisham can also infuriate one, not by his writing, but by the facts he includes—“An audit last year revealed that the Bureau of prisons had purchased, for “administrative use,” four thousands chairs at $800 per chair. The same manufacturer sold the same chair at wholesale for $79.”

Reading Grisham provides an eye-opening look at our “justice” system, and it’s not pretty. One quickly realizes that is no “justice” in our justice system.

Malcolm is such a well-constructed character. He is bright, clever, and takes the reader on a very twisty ride. What is especially interesting is that he’s really neither a good- or bad-guy, and neither are those chasing him. Malcolm is someone who knows how the system worked and played it like a Stradivarius. However, he’s not a character one particularly likes even though, in essence, he hasn’t done anything wrong.

“The Racketeer” is very a cleverly written puzzle. One must pay attention to the details, particularly toward the end. It may not be Grisham’s best book, but it is one that keeps you reading.

THE RACKETEER (Legal Thriller-Malcolm Bannister-Contemp) – Okay
Grisham, John – Standalone
Doubleday – Oct 2012
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VINE VOICEon December 24, 2012
Normally I do not listen to audio books; however, they were useful while recovering from a minor surgical procedure that kept me from reading for about a week. I enjoyed those audio books and after reading a cyber friend's (K. Corn) exceptionally helpful amazon.com review, I ordered the abridged compact disk (CD) version of John Grisham's new novel "The Racketeer."

An abridged, as opposed to an unabridged is a condensed version that intends to shorten a story without changing the plot. In this case, veteran actor and superb audio book narrator, J. D. Jackson brought this 5 CD, 6.5 hours legal thriller to life. It was the perfect entertainment for my wife and me during our 474 mile round trip last weekend. The story was enjoyable and the drive seemed to pass quickly.

The protagonist, Malcolm Bannister, is "The Racketeer." A partner in a 3-man struggling law firm, this young lawyer's life changes dramatically after being charged with a white collar crime that landed him in Federal Prison near Frostburg, Maryland for a 10-year stint.

After reading a newspaper article reporting the seemingly unsolvable brutal murder of Federal Judge Fawcett and his secretary in his remote lakeside cabin, Malcolm is back in the driver's seat again once he convinces the FBI and Attorney General that he knows who killed the victims and why they were assassinated.

Malcolm barters for a new identity and relocation under the Federal Witness Protection Program, the reward money, immediate release from prison and his criminal record expunged in exchange for the indictment of his former jail house friend, a vindictive and ruthless leader of a family drug dealing cartel.

The drug lord quickly penetrates the witness protection program and Banisters location and identity. In an attempt to survive his ordeal, Malcolm uses his considerable skill to ditch the fed's and the long reach of his adversaries.

Listeners will find themselves engaged and spellbound as the antagonist and the author via a talented narrator takes them on a mysterious and suspenseful ride that will not be unraveled until the very satisfying end.

Enjoy!
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on July 23, 2015
DC area lawyer unknowingly plays a minor role in a money laundering scheme. He gets busted under RICO and is sent to federal prison. During his incarceration, he volunteers as a jailhouse lawyer, giving legal advice to fellow inmates. Halfway through his jail term, he gets the opportunity to assist the FBI with a case involving the murder of a federal judge. If handled correctly, his “inside information” (obtained during a jailhouse lawyer session) could solve the case and earn him an early release from prison.

The first half of this book is very interesting, as the main characters of the story are developed and the plot is laid out (at least what you THINK is the plot).

At about halfway through the book, the story gets a little wordy and bogged down with the mechanics of the federal witness protection program. But from there, the plot picks up again and keeps you glued to the pages (right to the end), trying to figure out where it’s heading and what’s going to happen next. The ending ties all the loose ends neatly together.

Overall a good lawyer mystery. 3 1/2 stars
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on October 15, 2013
If I had to guess I'd say this book was either written by someone other than John Grisham or that he had a contract to write a 350 page book and ended it abruptly when he got to 356 pages. The plot was moving along at a pretty good pace although clearly stretching reality at some points but when Max flew from San Juan to Atlanta I lost a lot of respect for the plot and John Grisham. First of all, Puerto Ricans are US citizens...they don't go through customs on flights to the US. It's the same as a flight from Baltimore to St. Louis. Secondly, I've been in the international arrival area in the Atlanta airport. Who's he kidding with suggesting that Max sought a specific "line" in which to clear passport control? That area is massive and there are big burly men "directing" you to a specific agent. To think one has the ability to shop around for one type of agent is ridiculous. There's probably no easier way to attract attention than to do a dumb stunt like that. But, since flights from San Juan land in the domestic arrivals area, this whole scenario was unnecessary anyhow. Will I read another Grisham novel? Hard to say...this one was a real letdown.
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