The Whistler

by John Grisham

Hardcover, 2016

Call number




Doubleday (2016), Edition: First Edition, 384 pages


Lacy Stoltz is an investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct. She is a lawyer, not a cop, and it is her job to respond to complaints dealing with judicial misconduct. After nine years with the Board, she knows that most problems are caused by incompetence, not corruption. But a corruption case eventually crosses her desk. A previously disbarred lawyer is back in business with a new identity. He now goes by the name Greg Myers, and he claims to know of a Florida judge who has stolen more money than all other crooked judges combined. And not just crooked judges in Florida. All judges, from all states, and throughout U.S. history. What's the source of the ill-gotten gains? It seems the judge was secretly involved with the construction of a large casino on Native American land. The Coast Mafia financed the casino and is now helping itself to a sizable skim of each month's cash. The judge is getting a cut and looking the other way. It's a sweet deal: Everyone is making money. But now Greg wants to put a stop to it. His only client is a person who knows the truth and wants to blow the whistle and collect millions under Florida law. Greg files a complaint with the Board on Judicial Conduct, and the case is assigned to Lacy Stoltz, who immediately suspects that this one could be dangerous. Dangerous is one thing. Deadly is something else.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member DrApple
This is one of the better Grisham books of late. The good guys are good, and the bad guys are truly bad. There is a satisfying resolution, however, it seemed a little incomplete. I do wish he would stop killing off characters after he's made you like them, but I guess that is part of getting the reader to become more emotionally invested in the outcome.… (more)
LibraryThing member Judiex
As usual, John Grisham has created a suspenseful, intriguing, well-crafted legal thriller.
Lacy Stoltz has worked as an investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct for nine years. Her job is to determine whether there is evidence that a judge is guilty of misconduct. She is a lawyer, not a police officer. One day she received a telephone call from a man who said his name was Ramsey Mix. He was a former lawyer who had served time in prison and had been disbarred for some of his actions. He now had a new identity. He claimed he knew of a judge who was the most corrupt ever. Lacy decided that he sounded genuine so she and her partner, Hugo Hatch, drove to his location to hear what more he had to say and what evidence he had.
It turned out that Mix, who now was using another name, had a lot of information about the corruption of a judge, who he wasn’t willing to name, and questionable activities going on at the Tappacola Indian Reservation casino. He was not willing to provide a lot of evidence to back up his claims, at least not immediately. Nor was he willing to provide the names of his sources. As Lacy told him, “So, your story involves organized criminals, Indians who own casinos, and a crooked judge, all in bed together.”
After gathering some information, Lacy and Hugo went to their boss. He said the Board was understaffed, overworked, and focused on terrorism threats. Unless they could get more information, they should move on to something else.
Needless to say, they did gather more information involving a mysterious man, Vonn Dubois, who had no address, driver’s license, Social Security number, taxpayer ID number, passport, bank accounts, or credit card but seemed to be behind the entire scheme. And, with some people dying or disappearing and threatening actions against some of the good guys, the FJB got the go ahead to pursue the case.
Unlike some of Grisham’s books, there are no extended courtroom scenes but there is plenty of action as Lacy and the people in her department as well as people from other agencies, work together to try to expose the corruption. The final actions are dealt with very quickly.
Some interesting tidbits: The answer to the question: “What’s it like getting hit with an air bag?”
US Marshals have never lost a witness and they’ve protected over five thousand. No Witness Security Program participant, following program guidelines, has been harmed or killed while under the active protection of the U.S. Marshals Service.
“The term, “Native American” is a politically correct creation of clueless white people who feel better using it, when in reality the Native Americans refer to themselves and Indians and snicker at those of us who don’t.” Actually, most prefer “American Indian” or the name of the tribe.
The Tappacola Indian tribe mentioned in this story is fictitious. But many of the casinos on reservations have been very rewarding for the members of the tribe. There are 562 recognized tribes. About 200 operate casinos. One hundred fifty additional tribes seeking recognition but feds suspicious they are only looking to get casinos. At this one, the Tappacola land was also used for condos, hotels, shopping malls, and other tourist attractions. Each male of the tribe received $5000 a month. Each unmarried adult woman got the same, though it was cut in half when she married. If the charges against the judge and her cohorts could be proven, the people providing the leads could receive hefty rewards.
Reading this book was time well-spent.
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LibraryThing member B.J.O.
4 "A Casino, Mobsters & A Corrupt Judge" Stars for the story and 4.5 Stars for the narration!

The Whistler is a tale of the perfect storm of corruption, a corruption so profound and well hidden that it lasts decades and involves an entire Native American tribe, countless of mobsters that have previously evaded law enforcement attention, numerous murders, a corrupt judge, and her attorney, as well as loads of dirty cash. Going deep into how the organization of a Native American tribe and the federal laws that allow gambling on tribe lands work, as well as, the powers of a little known governmental authority whose job it is to investigate judicial misconduct, called the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct, Mr. Grisham's spare no detail account of the inner workings of these various matters are sure to keep the listener entertained and fascinated with learning more about these interesting matters. Moreover, the listener is sure to be glued to the edge of their seat as they work out who the secret mole, or "whistler," and intermediary actually are, as well as the enormity of the grandiose corruption scheme they are blowing the cover on. Moreover, as if the story were not reason enough to listen, Cassandra Campbell's adept narration makes this a great title to experience in audio format.

It all begins with a tip as to a corrupt judge who allegedly is skimming money, along with the help of the little known Coast Mafia, from a casino on Native American land. Although RICO cases and crimes on Native American lands are within the jurisdiction of the FBI, it is Lacy Stoltz, a lawyer who works for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct, who gets the tip based on a complaint of the judicial misconduct of a Florida judge. It is the informant's goal to earn a large fee under the related whistler statute for providing a tip that leads to the recovery of money from the corruption.

However, Lacey and her partner, Hugo, are immediately presented with several quandaries. First can they believe the informant? A person who refuses to be identified and who has only reached them through an unknown intermediary and the intermediary's counsel, who goes by the very common name of "Greg Myers." Moreover, Myers fully admits that he has a criminal record and was at one point disbarred for his past transgressions. As if that wasn't sketchy enough, Myers also seems to live beyond his means and constantly on the run on his expensive boat. Can Myers be trusted? Even if he can, Lacey's normal line of work involves sanctioning judges who commit small infractions, not organized crime. When she suggests that the Myers take his complaint to the FBI, however, he absolutely refuses. Stating he will never work with the FBI. Just who is telling the truth and who is corrupt in this story? And the deeper Lacey digs the more dangerous the situation gets when it becomes clear that someone wants to silence her investigation. Can she stay safe when she has no formal law enforcement training to guide her?

Cassandra Campbell provides a talented narration that is perfectly suited for a law enforcement drama or thriller. Using expert timing, Ms. Campbell's delivery is easy to follow and allows the listener to sit back and seamlessly enjoy the story.

Ms. Campbell also expertly produces different voices for each one of the various characters allowing the listener to know who is speaking in dialogues without the need to rely on dialogue tags. She even manages to make each character's voice match the personality traits that Mr. Grisham pens for each. For example, Lacey sounds like an inquisitive, energetic, and dedicated lawyer which matches her description, whereas her partner Hugo, who has 4 young kids and is constantly described as sleep deprived, sounds appropriately tired. Even the informant sounds appropriately anxious as the corruption scheme begins to unravel and it becomes a fight to see which side will win: good or evil.

All in all, I really enjoyed listening to The Whistler. As a lawyer myself, I found the description of the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct and how the Native American tribes are organized and self-governed fascinating. I also enjoyed the fast-paced action scenes as the corruption ring slowly begins to be uncovered. Although there isn't a lot of mystery or suspense surrounding this title, it is the action and interrelationships among this wide disparate group of criminals that is the draw of this legal based thriller. It's amazing to see that after decades of great legal thrillers, Mr. Grisham is still one of the best of this genre.

Source: Review copy provided for review purposes.
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LibraryThing member labdaddy4
Another excellent book by this very prolific author. He is the master of the legal thriller. This one is pretty straight forward - moves quickly - easy to read - but no totally unexpected twists. The characters are well developed but this happens gradually over the course of the book - not crammed into the opening 25% like many. Seemed more like getting to know someone rather than being lectured on their background. This is SO much better than Grisham's last novel - glad to see that.… (more)
LibraryThing member shazjhb
This book is so bad I cannot believe I finished it. The characters were boring predictable and one note. The story had not interest and did not hold together. Disappointing to say the least.
LibraryThing member jfe16
As an investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct, Lacy Stoltz deals with complaints of judicial misconduct. Nine years on the job has taught her that incompetence causes most problems.
But a previously disbarred lawyer surfaces with a new identity; Greg claims a Florida judge, conspiring with the Coast Mafia, is getting a sizeable cut of funds skimmed from a Native American-run casino.
Greg files the complaint and Lacy begins her investigation only to discover that investigating can be both dangerous and deadly.

Complex characters and a tantalizing, twisting plot combine to ramp up the tension and suspense; the result is an unputdownable tale from a master storyteller.

Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member Doondeck
As with all of Grisham's books, this one was fast paced and contained some clever twists and turns.
LibraryThing member velopunk
The house of cards fell pretty fast for the bad guys, but still a good book. I would have liked to know what happened to the Indian on Florida's death row.
LibraryThing member alanteder
This had an intriguing build up with a [mild spoiler] shocking attack about a third of the way through but then it settled into a dull rut and the final 10% of the book was just a narration of the events without any real suspense or any proper confrontation of the heroes vs the villains i.e. at the point of the book when the tension and suspense should have been ratcheting up it actually died down and the recitation became boring. A predictable twist towards the end didn't do much to rescue the situation.
[2] rating = it was just o.k.
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LibraryThing member Susan.Macura
Sometimes I just want to read a book that is written for intelligent adults that has an interesting storyline, great characters and a remarkable ending. It is in those times that I reach for a proven author like Grisham. He never disappoints. This is the tale of Lacy Stolz, an investigator for Florida’s Board on Judicial Conduct. She finds herself mired in an investigation about a corrupt judge that leads her to find so much more corruption than she can handle. It is the much more that provides much of the action in this tale – involving the FBI, an Indian Casino, the Mafia, two disbarred attorneys and a corrupt judicial system. Thank you John Grisham for another great book.… (more)
LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
The Whistler, John Grisham, author, Cassandra Campbell, narrator
When the head of the Bureau of Judicial Conduct, Michael Geismar, assigned Lacy Stoltz and Hugo Hatch to investigate a corrupt judge, none of them had any idea about what they were getting into. Quickly, the situation turned treacherous and deadly. Normally, they only had subpoena power and had no involvement in law enforcement, since that fell under the jurisdiction of the FBI, but this case had arms and legs that reached out beyond the justice department endangering all involved.
A Florida Judge, Claudia McDover, who appeared to be untarnished by scandal, was being accused of corruption involving, among other things, an Indian casino, real estate, murder, drugs, payoffs, bribery, and money laundering, through her supposed involvement with a shadowy group, a group known in legends as the Coast Mafia.
As their investigation began, Hugo and Lacy met a lawyer who used an assumed name, Greg Myers. He told them that there was someone sitting on death row wrongfully accused of a double murder and there was a corrupt judge involved. Using the carrot and stick approach, he offered just enough information for them to believe there was a reason to pursue Judge McDover. Then he offered more, if they would agree not to involve the FBI, and to take on this miscarriage of justice, he would reveal his source, a mole who could prove her guilt..
Myers told the agents that McDover was working with a criminal organization that secretly paid her off so that her rulings favored their positions. Myers said his contact, whom he did not know, was in touch with an intermediary who dealt directly with the whistle blower, the person who could provide evidence against the judge. He re-emphasized their need for secrecy because the organization that was controlling the Judge’s behavior was not only criminal it was highly dangerous. He himself moved around frequently to prevent any retaliation against him.
The story spread out in many directions and several characters were introduced creating diversions which were sometimes confusing. As the search for proof to indict the Judge developed, and the intrigue grew deeper and deeper, violence, romance, sex, intrigue, corruption and a mysterious mob moved all the players around. Although, at times, the tale seemed pretty predictable, the narrative was always interesting as the author drew the reader in, little by little, making the reader wonder how all of the loose ends would tie together successfully. The massive criminal scheme unraveled, bit by bit, and sometimes the explanations seemed a bit thin and the story seemed to ramble. It suddenly seemed to come to its conclusion, almost magically, and the mysteries were resolved. The reader will have to decide if all the questions were answered in a satisfying way.
This novel has all the elements necessary for a made for TV movie or a movie for the big screen. The author exposes all sorts of corruption in organized crime, banks, casinos and our own judicial system. It is obvious that his research is extensive as he exposes the greed which motivates people who lack a moral compass and the extent to which some will go to feather their own nests regardless of the cost or consequences to others.
Cassandra Campbell is an excellent narrator, but in this book, her voice often sounded too sultry for the part she was portraying.
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LibraryThing member Bauernfeind
An insiders look at casinos on Indian reservations and the corruption that often accompanies these industries when left unregulated.
LibraryThing member flourgirl49
I always enjoy John Grisham's books, but I have to agree with some of the other reviewers that this was not his best outing. It seemed very methodical - more like a case study. I hope the next one will be better.
LibraryThing member pegmcdaniel
DID NOT FINISH. I won this novel on's Word of Mouth. Thank you! When I realized it was on the Bestseller List, I was excited. Also, since I live in Florida, any novel set here is always interesting to me. Sorry to say that the excitement and interest didn't last once I was into the novel. I always want to give the author a fair chance by reading the first 100 pages before deciding to quit. I had a hard time liking the characters and the plot didn't interest me. Reading about corruption in our judicial system doesn't appeal to me right now so I decided to look at some of the reviews. I was disappointed to see how many were dissatisfied with the ending. I chose not to finish the novel at this time but might try to read it again at a later date.… (more)
LibraryThing member Tatoosh
A confidential informant approaches the Florida Board of Judicial Conduct (BJC) and claims to have evidence that a Florida judge is a participant in an ongoing operation that has skimmed hundreds of millions of dollars from the profits of an Indian casino. According to the informant, a judge, the leaders of the Indian tribe that runs the casino, and a group known as the Coast Mafia are working together and they are ruthless in eliminating anyone who threatens their operation. They may have framed one innocent man, now on death row, for the murder of a leader who opposed their scheme, and a jailhouse snitch that helped to put the man on death row disappeared shortly after the trial.

The informant, an ex-convict, is willing to file a complaint with the BJC but he does not have first-hand knowledge of the illegal operations. Instead, the informant receives his information from an intermediary who receives information from a mole inside the operation. The BJC is legally required to investigate and soon people are dying, the informant and later the intermediary disappear, and the mole goes on the run from the Coast Mafia's enforcer.

The plot gets off to a weak beginning as the original revelations made by the informant are not convincing. His original contact with the BJC serves primarily to tell readers that the investigators will be in mortal danger. Given the weak case made by the informant that a judicial crime is being committed, however, I am skeptical the BJC would have initiated an investigation. We are supposed to believe that the mere allegation of judicial wrongdoing obligates he BJC to investigate. The informant's statement that he does not trust the FBI so he will just walk away if the agency is consulted also serves as a weak plot device to obligate the BJC to investigate. The informant's incentive is to share in the millions that will be awarded to the whistle-blowers, so it is implausible that he would give up so easily. The investigators, of course ignore his weak excuse, but readers are left to wonder if the informant is really that naïve.

The Whistler fails to create any genuine sense of tension. Grisham fails to make us care about most of the characters so when one dies we feel no sense of loss. Despite the death we never experience any tension or concern about the safety of the central characters.

Indeed, Grisham seems to take the easy way out of most situations. For example, the Coast Mafia's enforcer has been assigned to kill the mole as soon as the opportunity presents itself. The mole has taken refuge in a motel room and the he muses that he can shoot the mole from his present location if he so much as catches a glimpse of the mole through a crack in the motel room curtains. However, the mole escapes by simply walking out of the motel room and getting into the car of a BJC investigator who drives away. Easy-Peasy. What a letdown.

Grisham makes an abrupt change in the last 70-100 pages of the book in what may be introduced to extend the length of the novel. Up to that point the story is told primarily from the perspective of the primary BJC inspector, supplemented on occasion by the perspective of other central characters and the brief use of narrative to fill in details. Grisham then switches to the primary use of narrative and most of the remaining story reads like a newspaper summary. This brings the story to a conclusion, of course, but most of this section provides unnecessary explanations of earlier plot elements. For example, we learn how the mole is in a position to provide inside information, how one of the Coast Mafia's managerial level employees obtained his position, and how one of the low level employees became involved in a murder. These explanations are unnecessary because, for example, we are willing to accept that the mole has a position that provides access to inside information without an explanation of the eight years of employment that led up to that position.

In summary, this is an uneven book that moves back and forth between mildly entertaining and a bit slow and boring. The Whistler represents somewhat of a rebound from the disappointing Gray Mountain, but it is far from Grisham's best.
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LibraryThing member Bridgey
The Whistler - John Grisham ***

John Grisham is an author that I have never really been interested in before, crime thrillers with all the legal wrangling just don’t appeal to me all that much. I received The Whistler as a gift so thought I would give it a try and see what I would make of it.

This is the tale of Lacy Stolz, an investigator for Florida’s Board on Judicial Conduct. This basically means that where there is suspicion of foul play with a Judges involvement she is sent to investigate before deciding whether or not there is a case to prosecute. An anonymous tip off leads her to delve into the past and present of a high profile female judge. It is obvious from the outset that this could be a case that comes with more than the usual dangers, but she decides that the risks outweigh the potential result. What ensues is a cat and mouse game that proves to have disastrous consequences. We encounter bribery, miscarriages of justice, murder and double crossing, which all sound very exciting and the bones of what has the potential to be a great, edge of the seat read, yet it all seemed a little bit... well... meh.

This was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I was interested by the inside look at the Indian reservations and learnt a lot more about how they currently feature in today’s society, including the potential for organised crime. The plot was enough to get me hooked and I rattled through the book at a fair pace, but I always expected something major to happen or some sort of explosive scene, unfortunately this just didn’t seem to happen. The ending when it came was an anticlimax and I felt almost cheated, I just wanted so much more to have happened. As I said, this is my first novel by Grisham so maybe my expectations were wrong, but from all the rave reviews the majority of his books receive, surely there has to be more?

I enjoyed the book, but it definitely wasn’t enough to make me read another by the author. A fair 3 stars.
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LibraryThing member zmagic69
This was a fantastic book. Not loaded with the authors liberal beliefs, and it gave a nice insight into the laws, or lack there-of, regarding casinos on Indian land.
This is a quick read as it sucks you in fast.
LibraryThing member brangwinn
Grisham never ceases to surprise me as he continually finds new subject matter for his legal thrillers. This time it involves bringing a corrupt judge to justice and finding out she is just the tip of the iceberg.
LibraryThing member LivelyLady
Not his best. A man notifies the Judicial Bureau of Ethics of a judge skimming money. Lacy and Hugo are assigned to the case and things go bad at that point. I found the story engaging but the writing bland.
LibraryThing member GrandmaCootie
Another top-notch thriller by John Grisham! He has written yet another novel with non-stop action and danger, compelling characters, and a detailed crime with a fascinating backstory. As always, the walk through the legal system and the many ways people try to circumvent it is enlightening. If you are looking for a well-written solid story from a reliable author, the Whistler is it.… (more)
LibraryThing member Carol420
The Whistler by John Grisham
3.5 Stars

From The Book:
We expect our judges to be honest and wise. Their integrity and impartiality are the bedrock of the entire judicial system. We trust them to ensure fair trials, to protect the rights of all litigants, to punish those who do wrong, and to oversee the orderly and efficient flow of justice.
But what happens when a judge bends the law or takes a bribe? It’s rare, but it happens.
Lacy Stoltz is an investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct. She is a lawyer, not a cop, and it is her job to respond to complaints dealing with judicial misconduct. After nine years with the Board, she knows that most problems are caused by incompetence, not corruption.
But a corruption case eventually crosses her desk. A previously disbarred lawyer is back in business with a new identity. He now goes by the name Greg Myers, and he claims to know of a Florida judge who has stolen more money than all other crooked judges combined. And not just crooked judges in Florida. All judges, from all states, and throughout U.S. history.
What’s the source of the ill-gotten gains? It seems the judge was secretly involved with the construction of a large casino on Native American land. The Coast Mafia financed the casino and is now helping itself to a sizable skim of each month’s cash. The judge is getting a cut and looking the other way. It’s a sweet deal: Everyone is making money.
But now Greg wants to put a stop to it. His only client is a person who knows the truth and wants to blow the whistle and collect millions under Florida law. Greg files a complaint with the Board on Judicial Conduct, and the case is assigned to Lacy Stoltz, who immediately suspects that this one could be dangerous. Dangerous is one thing. Deadly is something else.

My Thoughts:
I have to say that this is not his best work but it did seem to be the longest. There was sometimes so much explanations and back history that had really nothing to do with the current story, that that it became boring. The plot is laid out way too early and you almost know by page 100 what and how it's going to turn out. In spite of all that, the idea of the corrupt judge and how the attorney came to be tried and imprisoned was interesting and frankly it's the only reason this one got 3.5 stars.
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LibraryThing member she_climber
I have issues with Grisham. Namely he's a great writer but he can't finish a book to save his life. The end of a Grisham novel to me equates to slamming into a brick wall. He puts down his pen at a point and just walks away. This book wasn't much different other than it felt like everything started out slowly moving along with this group of lawyers who investigate complaints against judges who get a real live one that goes beyond their capabilities so they call in the FBI, who isn't really sure they want this case. They are too busy with terrorism to deal with organized crime anymore. Finally enough people die, or disappear, that they decide they want in and then Grisham got tired of this book and decided to sprint for the finish and get this book wrapped up before the weekend so he just rounded everyone up and arrested them. Case closed.… (more)
LibraryThing member peterannis
Very similar to other Grisham books, but as always a good read
LibraryThing member sblock
Felt like John Grisham phoned this one in. Ending was anti-climatic.
LibraryThing member BookDiva85
I forgot how much I enjoyed John Grisham's work. I haven't read any of his book in years. This story definitely piqued my interest since it involved Native Americans and the casino scene. The story was well written. As usual, Grisham keeps the reader on their feet. Just when you think the story can't possibly have any more twists, you're thrown a curve ball. The plot plays on your emotions.… (more)




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