Audiobook Review: The Racketeer

12 Mar

13573236In the history of the United States, only four active federal judges have been murdered. Judge Raymond Fawcett has just become number five. His body is found in his remote lakeside cabin. There is no sign of forced entry or struggle. Just two dead bodies: Judge Fawcett and his young secretary. And one large, state-of-the-art, extremely secure safe, opened and emptied.
One man, a former attorney, knows who killed Judge Fawcett, and why. But that man, Malcolm Bannister, is currently residing in the Federal Prison Camp near Frostburg, Maryland. Though serving time, Malcolm has an ace up his sleeve. He has information the FBI would love to know. Malcolm would love to tell them. But everything has a price—and the man known as the Racketeer wasn’t born yesterday.

721Long 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 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.

My Impressions:

The Racketeer is classic John Grisham. Featuring a main character who plans a long shot scheme while putting his thumb in the eye of the Federal government, it provides twists, turns and surprises galore. If you are a fan of John Grisham, you are going to love this one.

Malcolm Bannister is serving time in a federal camp for a crime he didn’t commit. A one time small town lawyer, he spends his time taking long walks, working in the camp’s library and dreaming of the day he will walk out a free man. One day he discovers the news of a murdered federal judge and his dreams start to come true. Freed under an agreement with the Attorney General, Malcolm, now Max Baldwin, begins a life in witness protection. Always looking over his shoulder, he plots and plans to truly become a free man.

The Racketeer is a puzzle. The main character, Malcolm Bannister, may or may not be a reliable narrator. There also seems to be plenty of shady characters all asserting their innocence, but in this novel there are few who can be characterized as not guilty. I listened to the audiobook version and am glad. There were so many surprises, I would have been tempted to skip to the end to find out just what was going on! The narration is also excellent, probably the best I have encountered so far in listening to audiobooks.

While there are instances of profanity and adult situations and a loose moral code (this is NOT a Christian book), I enjoyed The Racketeer. If you like legal suspense, puzzling mysteries or any John Grisham novel, I recommend The Racketeer.

(I purchased the audiobook version. All opinions are mine alone.)

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