The Racketeer

by John Grisham

Hardcover, 2012



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.… (more)

Library's rating


½ (769 ratings; 3.7)

Media reviews

The Toronto Star
Grisham’s novel has been hanging around the best-seller lists for a few weeks now. It’s easy to see why. Grisham is the master of the school of telling the readers what happens rather than showing them, and there’s a huge market for that kind of thing. In the new book, an Afro-American
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lawyer is sentenced to prison for a white collar crime he didn’t commit. He sets out to get even with the FBI, the prosecutors and everybody else who locked him up. In ways that might baffle even the Perry Masons of the world, the jailed lawyer succeeds.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member ctpress
This latest Grisham-novel starts up with an "almost" innocent lawyer, Malcolm Bannister, getting 10 years in prison for his involvement in a big fraud scheme - but he was unaware of his participation in the whole thing. When a judge is being murdered, Bannister comes to the FBI with an offer - he
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knows the murderer - and will give the name if he's released under the FBI witness-protection program - the FBI agrees….

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.
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LibraryThing member Clara53
As far as page-turners go, this is an excellent one. Typical Grisham - skeptical bordering on cynical (not the most appealing quality but that's who he is), succinct, thrilling and not predictable. Great improvement on some of the not-so-sharp latest additions (like "The Appeal" - way too bitter,
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or "The Confession" - that was predictable...). This one was hard to put down till the end.
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LibraryThing member cohenja
The good read that we have to expect from Grisham. I didn't give it more because Vanessa, the girlfriend character with whom the narrator has had limited contact is not believable. Also, I am not a fan of the "trick" plot, where the narrator is not leveling with us.
LibraryThing member Nirmala-books
As always I found this Grisham work to be so absorbing and exciting. Interestingly the main character is a black guy, a lawyer and loving father who never dreamt of any other life other than what he had with his wife and little son. But as fate would have it, he was put in the jail for a crime he
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never committed and he lost his family forever. His anger with the Government, the FBI for his undeserving jail-life and loss of what is most precious to him led him to skillfully plot an incredible rip-off and leave the jail life for good with an incredible amount of money. I am waiting for the film adaptation of this story perhaps with Denzel Washington in the lead role?
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LibraryThing member stillwaters12
I am a real fan of character development by authors. I want to really know each character and therefore care how things work out for them. John Grisham is not that kind of writer. I read him when I want to be puzzled and he always comes through. In The Racketeer, he comes through in spades. Instead
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of caring if Malcolm's plan would work, I was preoccupied with "How does Grisham think of all these details?" Why did he make his job so hard with them?" Not the best way to enjoy a story but I'm impressed by the intricate details Grisham gives Malcolm's plan and by the story weaving flawlessly together to an acceptable end. If I felt like I "knew" any of the characters, I' probably would have given The Racketeer a five.
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LibraryThing member levasssp
Best Grisham book in a LONG time. Not a classic, but a great improvement on his recent efforts. Page turner with a decent story and ending.
LibraryThing member Kelslynn
This book has a well thought out plot involving Malcolm Bannister, a black Virginia lawyer who has spent five years in a prison "camp," Judge Fawcett, a federal judge who is tortured and killed and several other interesting underworld types. Although I've read more compelling Grisham books, The
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Racketeer has many surprise twists and turns, but ultimately a satisfying ending.
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LibraryThing member Auj
What a great story! I enjoy Grisham's writing, and this latest one is tops. The twists and turns are well written and kept me wondering what would happen next.
LibraryThing member caitemaire
Malcolm Bannister has lost it all.
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member Twink
John Grisham's last book - The Litigators - was one of my favourites by this award winning author. (my review) I was pretty excited to read his latest - The Racketeer.

Racketeer: "A person who commits crimes such as extortion, loansharking, bribery, and obstruction of justice in furtherance of
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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.
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LibraryThing member Gatorhater
This was a very interesting story about Attorney Malcolm Bannister, who is serving a 10 year senrence in a federal prison camp, the Feds convicted him for no reason other than representing the wrong client, Barry the Backhander of conspiracy and money laundering charges. Three years into his
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sentence a Federal Judge Raymond Fawcett and his secretary/mistress were discovered murdered in the judges secluded camp, this judge was also responsible for Bannister's conviction a disbarment of his law practice. Bannister comes up with an elaborate plan using the "Rule 35" to get him out of prison and sent this adventure into high gear, taking turns at every piece of evidence, never knowing where the plot is moving.
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LibraryThing member Judiex
As John Grisham states in his Author's Notes, "[THE RACKETEER]is indeed a work of fiction.... Accuracy was not deemed crucial. Long paragraphs of fiction were used to avoid looking up facts." adding his fertile imagination to some ideas from others, he has written a gripping novel that maintains
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the reader's interest.
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.
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LibraryThing member everfresh1
I typically enjoy John Grisham novels, some more than others. This one will be with the most enjoyable. Great plot, great main character. Joy to read, difficult to put down.
LibraryThing member ebyrne41
This is my first Grisham in a number of years, I think since "The Associate", which I was a bit disappointed with. But this did not disappoint, this for me is Grisham the storyteller back to his near best. It centres around a disbarred lawyer doing prison time as a consequence of he representing
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the wrong people. His time in prison and the relationships he strikes up, together with the murder of a federal judge, provide the opportunity for a way out of prison, based on what is commonly known as Rule 35. This has a good plot, with twists and turns, is well crafted, and the intrigue should keep your interest throughout. The one disappointment I have had with Grisham in the past has been his endings, which I have thought weak when compared to otherwise strong story lines. The ending here, while not disappointing, is enough to ensure the book does not quite earn a 5-star rating. But 4 stars ain't bad! A book I enjoyed and can recommend.
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LibraryThing member khiemstra631
This Grisham book is a little different from his standard fare because it is written from the perspective of a rogue lawyer who is out to fleece the government. Said lawyer does his best to convince us that he was innocent of the charge that landed him in federal prison for racketeering.
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Nonetheless, he's certainly not above bending the law for his own uses in order to get out early and end up a very wealthy man. The plot has some interesting twists and turns in it and is a step above recent Grisham fare.
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LibraryThing member LivelyLady
Grisham at his best! Jailhouse rock with witness protection and a few other twists and turns. I love it. Could not put it down.
LibraryThing member Doondeck
One of the better Grisham mysteries. A very clever plot that had me wondering until the end.
LibraryThing member gbower
Very intricate plot. Sometimes confusing but always interesting. Enjoyed this very much
LibraryThing member FCH123
Haven't read a Grisham in years, but I heard this one was a good read. And it was. In typical Grisham style, no story is ever straightforward, and there are a few swirls and loops before everything is unraveled. Enjoyable.
LibraryThing member skinglist
I really wish Grisham would go back to the LA/MS area.

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
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left wondering how his story resolved itself

Overall, a decent read. Not quite on par with early Grisham, but not a bad read.
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LibraryThing member zoomball
Like a few other recent reviewers, I had not read Grisham for a long time. As I listened to the audio version I would just like to put in a word for the narrator. Very well done. At times the pace seemed a bit slow (if reading there were parts of the text I most likely would have skimmed), but that
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is just my taste.
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LibraryThing member Beamis12
A very interesting story, with a very interesting character. Doesn't quite have the depth and awe factor of his earlier works, but I feel he is heading in the right direction. Did keep reading though and finished this in one day.
LibraryThing member 66usma
Very little substance. A general waste of time.
LibraryThing member dpappas
I don't know why I even bothered finishing this book. It started off okay but went downhill quickly. This was extremely boring. Nothing about this held my interest at all. The main character Malcolm/Max came off as a gigantic jerk to me and I really didn't care to read about him. The ending was
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obvious and was as boring as the rest of the book. I would not recommend this book to others.
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LibraryThing member repb
Grisham is chewing on the Penal System again; rather transparent, he is. But the book: It was all right, but not great. Too many unnecessary twists and turns which made it hard to follow. I read it quickly and was not as impressed as I should have been.


Doubleday (2012), Edition: First Edition, 352 pages

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