Book Review: The Racketeer (Grisham)

The Racketeer

Author: John Grisham; © 2012 (Belfry Holdings, Inc)

Publisher: Bantam Books

Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Subgenre: Legal, Spies, Conspiracies

Reviewer: Sara

Book received from: Bought at a retail store.

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A federal judge and his girlfriend are murdered at his isolated cabin, and his secret, high-tech safe open and emptied by the killer.

Malcom Bannister, a former attorney, is imprisoned at a Federal Prison Camp near Frostburg, Maryland on racketeering charges; a crime for which he claims to be innocent.

The identity of the judge’s murderer is known to Bannister, and he knows the FBI is chasing their tails. With his unique knowledge and skills set, Bannister devises a plan to catch the murderer and guarantee his own freedom…but not in the way the FBI expected.



Busy moms, this one’s a middle of the road recommendation. You could take it or leave it. Read it or not. I picked up this book after a family member who was drawn to the story because of a tie to western Maryland, from which part of my husband’s family hails. Historically, I have appreciated John Grisham novels. It has been years since I last read one of his legal thrillers, in part because they all seemed to run together after a while. Conspiracies, plot twists and last-minute-reveals lost some of their appeal.

The Racketeer holds true to Grisham’s story formula. The primary plot is interesting and hooks you from the first chapter. It’s layered and contains twists, at least one of which you will probably see coming.

And then it goes on. And on. And on. At three hundred-forty pages, it’s longer than it needs to be. There’s a lot of race-specific commentary, such as when Bannister makes a racially toned joke to the white FBI guys. He makes them laugh, then scoffs at them in his inner dialogue. In my opinion, there’s some that flowed well, but a lot that distracted from the story and fell flat. Great, it’s a non-white former attorney who’s setting up the FBI so he can get out of prison for a crime he (maybe) didn’t commit. Yes, the legal system needs reform. You’ve made some good points. Can we move along now? I’m reading this book for entertainment…

In the end, the final reveal happens late, and in a “so, here’s how it all worked out” manner that it left a bitter note on my reader’s palate. The last thirty or-so pages are all an info dump of the details that were withheld, and the great escape plan for Bannister and his allies. It was a relief to get to the last page.

Having had some time away from the book, I’d say if you’re a legal thriller lover or devoted John Grisham fan, the overall story is good. You’ll enjoy it. If you’ve never read either, this isn’t the best place to start. If you’re somewhere in between, but have a specific interest in the story (such as seeing several departments of federal government get a fork in the eye), go for it. Everyone else: it was a good story and had clever points, but I won’t keep it to read again.

Side note: I read this book close on the heels of finishing Grisham’s Calico Joe. Before this, I’d heard gossip that Grisham has one (or more) ghostwriter(s), but never gave the claims much thought. Now, having read two books under his name close together, I would wager that there is a ghostwriter. That, or he is a man of tremendous writing talent. The cadence, the voice and the styles were so different from one book to the next that I had a hard time believing they were penned by the same hand. We may never know.

Happy trails, and may the good books be plentiful!



Thanks for reading! Have you read The Racketeer? How did you like it? Are you a new-Grisham reader or an old fan? In the comments section, please share if you’re planning to read this and leave a link to your own review after you do!

The Mom Who Runs posts book reviews on AmazonGoodreads and Barnes & Noble. Help others find this review by following the links to the review on the respective site and “like” or “vote” for it and many thanks in advance for doing so. 🙂


Featured image:

  • Cover design (Carlos Beltran)
  • Cover image (Gibson/Trevillion Images)

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