Given the importance of what they do, and the controversies that often surround them, and the violent people they sometimes confront, it is remarkable that in the history of this country only four active federal judges have been murdered. Judge Raymond Fogletree just became number five. His body was found in the basement of a lakeside cabin he had built himself and frequently used on weekends. When he did not show up for a trial on Monday morning, his law clerks panicked, called the FBI, and in due course the agents found the crime scene. There was no forced entry, no struggle, just two dead bodies, Judge Fogletree and his young secretary. I did not know Judge Fogletree, but I know who killed him, and why. I am a lawyer, and I am in prison. It's a long story.
What happens next is unclear - I mean it's not clear what Bannister is up to, what his motives are - we are left in the dark in great parts of the story - but patience dear reader - there are some nice twists and turns and big revelations in the last part of the novel. On the cover it says "It's payback time" - sure is true. What a payback.
This is a perfect novel when you need some relaxed, non-complicated reading - Grisham is all about the story - and this is one of his better stories. I listened to the audioversion, J.D. Jackson reads this very slowly and with a deep voice.
Flows nicely, well-developed characters, lots of twists and surprises; I definitely recommend it!
He was once a small town lawyer, happily married with a young son. Now his is divorced, disbarred and a resident at the Federal Prison Camp near Frostburg, Maryland for a 10 years sentence, 5 of them still to come.
What did he do? Well, he says that he was only guilty of taking on the wrong client and being a bit naive as to what was going on. But when the client came under federal investigation for some very bad deeds, the feds cast a very wide net and poor Malcolm was caught up in it, charge with money laundering, along with the guilty. Five years later, the appeals are over, there is nothing left to do, except the rest of his time.
Until a federal judge and his girlfriend are tortured and killed in a secluded lakeside cabin, leaving two bodies and an empty safe and not one other clue. The FBI is investigating but every lead quickly goes cold and they are desperate for a break in the case. And then Malcolm steps forward.
He claims to know who killed the judge and what the motive was. And he will be happy to tell the feds in return for them invoking Rule 35, a federal rule that allow a prisoner's sense to be reduced if they provide “substantial assistance in investigating or prosecuting another person.” And Malcolm is the man who know the truth and in return he wants his conviction thrown out, he wants out of jail and he wants a new start in the Federal Witness Protection Program.
And maybe he wants a tiny bit of revenge against the system as well.
That would be all well and interesting, but folks, that is just the first step. Very shortly, after Malcolm's release and the start of his new life, it become apparent that something much bigger and much more complicated is going on, with Malcolm in the lead. And I dare say, until it starts to unroll, you will not have a clue what it is!
I saw one description of this book as wicked clever...and that describes it perfectly.
I will warn you that at times, things will happen, things will be said, people will do things, that you don't understand. Please, don't worry, it will all become clear soon enough. You just need to see the BIG picture and that will be reveled to the reader, bit by bit, until it all makes sense. Clever, entertaining sense.
A former Marine, Malcolm Bannister was found guilty of being part of a RICO (Racketeer Influlenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) offense. His role was mininal and he claims he had no knowledge of what was happening. The judge and jury saw it differently and he is now half-way through serving a ten-year term at a minimal security prison. As a result of his incarceration, he has lost most of his family, especially his wife and son, his friends, and his law license. At age 43, things look rather dismal.
Then a federal judge is murdered. The FBI has no lead to find the killer. Malcolm has information to identify him and decides to trade that information for his own freedom. The story tells how he handles that course and has many twists and turns.
Grisham devotes a little space to the RICO Act. He writes, "The Constitution names only three federal offenses: treason, piracy, and counterfeiting. Today there over forty five hundred federal crimes, and the number continues to grow as Congress gets tougher on crime and federal prosecutors become more creative in finding ways to apply all their new laws."
The story of this case is an excellent read.
Racketeer: "A person who commits crimes such as extortion, loansharking, bribery, and obstruction of justice in furtherance of illegal business activities."
Malcolm Bannister is a former attorney, currently serving time in the Frostburg, Maryland prison camp for money laundering. Trouble is, he swears he's innocent - he just picked the wrong client. License gone, wife gone, everything he had - gone. Five years into his sentence, he may have found a way out. He knows who killed Federal Judge Raymond Fawcett, found dead in his cabin retreat beside an empty safe. Can he bargain the killer's name for his freedom? And what about what was taken from the safe? There's a lot of people after that knowledge...
I love 'heist' and 'sting' type movies such as Ocean's Eleven. Grisham weaves his own take on the heist scenario with The Racketeer. And it's a great piece of storytelling. This is still a 'legal' thriller to a degree, but I think Grisham just had a lot of fun with this one. It's not a serious book, but an entertaining tale.
As he says in the author notes at the end: " The Racketeer is indeed a work of fiction. Accuracy was not deemed crucial. Long paragraphs of fiction were used to avoid looking up facts."
I chose to listen to this book. J.D. Jackson was the reader and his voice was perfectly suited to the main character. Macolm changes his speech patterns at one point and I did find the slower pace a bit annoying. I just wanted the story to move along.
The only reason I'm giving this a four instead of a five is that there was just something about Malcolm I didn't like. He's the one we should be rooting for, but I found him to be pompous and cocky. I never did feel sorry for him. Did he get what he deserved? In his eyes, yes. In mine - not really. I almost felt sorry for the 'bad guy'. I don't know that it was Malcolm's place to mete out judgment. In the end he's no better and his protestations of innocence at the beginning of the book are moot.
Still, I quite enjoyed it. Not his best, but entertaining nonetheless.
This book started off really slowly but then picked up. I never cared for Malcolm/Max/Reed but liked Quinn. Interesting twist with Max's girlfriend - but I liked how it tied back up together. Coley/Cooley was an interesting character - and I was left wondering how his story resolved itself
Overall, a decent read. Not quite on par with early Grisham, but not a bad read.