Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Racketeer

The Racketeer
© 2012 John Grisham
340 pages

Malcolm Bannister is a largely unsuccessful lawyer who was imprisoned by an overly aggressive government prosecutor when he accidentally turned  his law firm into a shell company for a shady crook who needed to launder a lot of money.  Two years in a minimum-security prison camp are sufficient to turn him from a struggling bungler into a mastermind, and the tangled web of deception he weaves begins when Bannister approaches the FBI with information that can help them solve the execution-style murder of a federal judge. Although at first the plot seems straightforward -- Bannister turns state's evidence and is then ostensibly pursued by the man whom he helpd indict's friends -- by novel's midpoint Bannister reveals himself to be an unreliable narrator, whose machinations and ultimate motive are as confusing to the reader as they are to his victims. It's as if upon pulling the first rabbit out of his hat, Bannister was so impressed with himself that he kept doing it -- "And another! And another! And another!"  The resulting frenzy and self-congratulatory antics quickly grew tiresome. The Racketeer is somewhat reminiscent of The Partner, in that the main character is in the middle of an extensive and extremely complicated con that will make him very rich, but unlike him in that instead of wanting to be left alone,  Bannister goes out of his way to entrap people and  cackle at his brilliance. I hoped earnestly that things would go awry, but every part of his plan falls into place in this light-action 'thriller'  loaded with unsympathetic characters, leading to a smug conclusion that made me wonder if I could get the receipt for this book and return it.

I'll let the author's note speak for itself..

"Almost nothing in the previous 340-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."

The Racketeer has earned the distinction of being my least-favorite Grisham novel among all of his adult fiction.  It has the merit of an interesting cover, though. I do like hats.

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