The Racketeer – John Grisham

Book Review: The Racketeer

If Walt Whitman and Mark Twain are considered the fathers of American literature, it isn’t a stretch to give John Grisham as the father of all legal thrillers.

If you look at his body of work, you’ll soon find that his efforts have long surpassed those of his peers, and the hits don’t stop coming.

Reading “A Time to Kill” was my first experience of reading a John Grisham novel, and while my mind couldn’t capture the complexity of racism and its impact on how court cases are decided in the South, the movie which soon followed, really drove this home, thanks to Matthew McConaughey’s scintillating performance as the lawyer, Jake Brigance.

But has Grisham sought to rest on his laurels? Of course, not.

His books get more complex, carry more twists and as for him, his reputation as an author of legal thrillers continues to grow.

The Racketeer is an excellent example of how his writing continues to thrill, amaze and absorb his readers while also giving them an inside peek of the American criminal justice system.

This Time, It Is Rule 35

There are two things that occur regularly with John Grisham novels: the plot always has a lawyer in trouble and revolves around a particular legal principle.

These two aspects are repeated in The Racketeer but there’s more: the disbarred lawyer known as Malcolm (or Mal) is black and for no fault of his, is serving a prison sentence for getting involved in a real estate transaction (known as RICO violations) that goes horribly bad, and without his knowledge. And this is where the similarities with his earlier novels ends…

Thanks to a loophole law called Rule 35, he finds his chance to get out of prison since he has information that could solve the case of a Judge who is found dead with a young girl at his vacation cabin.

In exchange for this information, without which the case cannot be solved, he wants to be released from prison, put into the Witness Security Program while being allowed to do whatever he wants to do with his life after that.

So, everything ends well for Mal, right? Not just yet…

Unlike most of his other books which gets preachy about justice, the protagonist goes about protecting himself from both the killers’ family who are involved in the drug business just in case they decide to come after him.

And considering his conviction in the past, he does this because he does not trust the FBI. But that’s not the only thing he’s after. In the meanwhile, there’s a lot that Mal intends to get away with, and does so too, leading to an ending that has been described as absolutely fantastic by readers and reviewers alike.

In Closing

So, is “The Racketeer” a book you won’t be able to put down? You can be sure that it is. Just don’t make the mistake of assuming that this novel is all about the legal mumbo-jumbo that has featured in his earlier. Grisham, for all practical purposes, has focused much more on the storytelling aspect rather than doing the research based on law for the book.