Audiobook Review: The Racketeer by John Grisham

15 11 2012

The Racketeer by John Grisham

Read by J. D. Jackson

Random House Audio

Length: 12 Hrs 45 Min

Genre: Legal Thriller/Crime Fiction

Quick Thoughts: The Racketeer is a highly complicated tale which is less of a legal thriller and more of a mix of confidence game and revenge thriller which pushes right up to the line of implausibility. I loved every minute of it.

Grade: A-

I have always had a bit of a strange relationship with John Grisham books. I remember oh so many years ago, when a friend of mine who never read gave me a copy of The Firm and told me I just had to read it. I did read it, and liked it. Then the movie came out, and the whole world loved it, but I kind of found the whole thing sort of a let down. It wasn’t until a few years later, after college, when one of my housemates had a copy of A Time to Kill that I gave Grisham another go. I loved A Time to Kill, and eventually began working my way through his books. For a while, it was great, and then I lost interest. There is a weird sort of experience with an author who has had so many of his books turned into movies. Outside of A Time to Kill, I don’t think I ever liked both the book and movie version of any of Grisham’s novels. I either loved the book, but hated the movie, like in The Runaway Jury, or found the book kind of "meh," like The Rainmaker, but then fell in love with the movie. Now, every year a Grisham novel comes out, and every year I find myself not caring. Yet, someone will say something, or I will read a review or article, or see John on an interview, and end up reading or listening to the novel. I was totally on the fence about Grisham’s latest, The Racketeer. I’ll be honest, the cover sort of made it look like an old time gangstery noir novel, which isn’t really Grisham’s bread and butter. What actually turned me around and decided to give this one a go was discovering it was narrated by a favorite narrator of mine. Sometime that’s all it takes.

Malcolm Bannister was a small town lawyer until he took on the wrong client. Now doing a 10 year stint in prison, swept into a RICO case he knew nothing about, Malcolm has lost everything. When a Federal Judge is murdered, Malcolm sees his chance for freedom. Armed with information that the FBI wants, Malcolm strikes a deal with the feds for his release and witness protection. Yet this is just the first step in a complex plan that Malcolm has set in motion. The Racketeer is a highly complicated tale which is less of a legal thriller and more of a mix of confidence game and revenge thriller which pushes right up to the line of implausibility. I loved every minute of it. Grisham has created a wonderful character in Malcolm Bannister. A simple small time lawyer whose experience being railroaded by Federal Government embitters him, while unleashing his inner criminal genius. Malcolm’s genius is a slowly burning, deliberately plodding type of genius that takes a long time to unfold. There are moments of The Racketeer that seems simply ludicrous. Series of events that have to happen just the right way for the story to work, but let’s face it, if it all crumbled apart it wouldn’t make much of a story. In the past, Grisham will often use a novel to highlight a social ill, yet, in The Racketeer, Grisham gives us mini-glimpses of a plethora of Government incompetence, from bloated and wasteful prison budgets, to the drug culture that is feeding the beast, with stops for Public corruption and single minded law enforcement along the way. Yet, most importantly, it’s simply a lot of fun. I think that there will be a huge split among Grisham fans, many will love it, but plenty will loathe Grisham’s complicated and often harebrained plot. I totally came down on the loving it side. While I won’t try to paint this as one of Grisham’s greatest novels, it’s the most fun I have had reading Grisham in many, many years.

JD Jackson reads The Racketeers with a slow, deliberate pace that perfectly matches the meticulously deliberate character of Malcolm Bannister. Jackson definitely gave a lot of thought to the approach he would take with this novel, and I feel his choice here was just right. Jackson always seems to find the music of the novel, whether it be a bit of funk, or some jazz, and he often serves as conductor of the rhythms of the novel as much as he does it’s voice. Here Jackson reads The Racketeers as a slowly developing piece of classical music, allowing the plot to build slowly through its characters until a wonderful dénouement. Along the way his tones a rich and pure, bringing flavor to the many characters you meet along the way. JD Jackson was the perfect choice for this novel and gives another performance to remember.

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