Camino Island: A Novel

by John Grisham

Hardcover, 2017

Call number





Doubleday (2017), Edition: 1st Edition, 304 pages


Bruce Cable owns a popular bookstore in the sleepy resort town of Santa Rosa on Camino Island in Florida. He makes his real money, though, as a prominent dealer in rare books. Very few people know that he occasionally dabbles in the black market of stolen books and manuscripts. Mercer Mann is a young novelist with a severe case of writer's block who has recently been laid off from her teaching position. She is approached by an elegant, mysterious woman working for an even more mysterious company. A generous offer of money convinces Mercer to go undercover and infiltrate Bruce Cable's circle of literary friends, ideally getting close enough to him to learn his secrets. But eventually Mercer learns far too much.

User reviews

LibraryThing member Clara53
I am so glad Grisham is back with a good novel! (At least 3 of his latest books were rather lackluster). The subject matter here is more to my liking too: a mystery of stolen original manuscripts of F.Scott Fitzerald's novels from a university library and all the legal aspects of chasing after them
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and unconventional methods of recovering them, as well as a general "book lovers and writers" background. Well done. As always, with Grisham, we don't talk about "developed" characters and so on - he spends little time on that, but his description of action is always admirable - precise and to the point and with good twists and turns of the plot. I didn't care for the last two-three pages, though - the epilogue was redundant.
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LibraryThing member grammarchick
This book starts with a heist, one of my favorite things to read about, so I was hopeful. Then it went into an unemployed writer spying on a book dealer to find the stolen goods. Unfortunately, I think he published a draft and not an actual novel. At one point, two of the main characters are
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discussing when to give up on a book that is awful; one feels they should plow to the end, the other says only 50 pages, because there are too many good books out there to waste time finishing a bad one. THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN AN OMEN. I don't know what happened, but this author's work has gone straight downhill and finishing this was a waste of time. The story was pointless, the characters cliched and the ending completely unsatisfying. His early work made you care and took you through struggles and turns. This was a yawn fest, peppered with sudden idiolect-swaps. A character who commonly uses average words like "great" and "cool" randomly spouts "it's a delight to be here/ it's so delightful / I'm delighted." I shouldn't have to tell an author who's published so much that overusing words so close together looks crappy and unimaginative, anyway.
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LibraryThing member Jcambridge
It has been several years since I read a John Grisham novel, but after hearing him on Fresh Air, I decided to give this one a try. It was a great weekend read and was of particular interest since I volunteer at a local library reviewing book donations -- the book provided interesting insight into
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the old/rare books trade. It was also nice seeing reference to books and authors I have read over the years. I recommend this as a light read for booklovers.
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LibraryThing member clue
I liked Grisham's early books but after awhile I fell off his wagon and didn't try any more until 2015 when Gray Mountain came out. It was a DNF for me. So, why would I even try this one? Well, stolen Fitzgerald manuscripts, rare books and bookstores were the lure.

The plot is simple but there are a
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few edge of the seat moments and the characters are good. I think anyone that likes his books will be pleased with this one.
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LibraryThing member diana.hauser
CAMINO ISLAND is John Grisham’s latest work. I liked it. I can’t say it was one of my favorites (I’m not sure any title can top THE FIRM, one of my all-time favorite books by any author), but the plot was interesting. The best part of the book for me was chapter 1 The Heist, which described
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the theft of priceless, original manuscripts by F. Scott Fitzgerald from the Firestone Library at Princeton University.
I liked all the literary references in the book and I liked the ‘sense of place’ of Bay Books Bookstore, the Princeton campus and the Camino Island, Florida, area.
I wasn’t satisfied, however, with how the plot developed. There weren’t enough details or descriptions - of the manuscripts changing hands; the aftermath of several murders; the whole writing desk scenario; the personalities of the main characters. I have to say that I didn’t really warm up to any of the characters and wasn’t concerned about their futures. Mercer, especially, didn’t have a developed personality and Bruce Cable, Noelle, Elaine and Camino Island residents were personality-challenged as well. The ending was extremely unsatisfying.
I do like Grisham’s writing style and I like a book with literary references and day-to-day workings of a bookstore. A pleasant read, but not a great one.
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LibraryThing member Judiex
John Grisham unpeels the details of a heist in CAMINO ISLAND. In the first chapter, we learn that F, Scott Fitzgerald handwrote all of his works. The originals are stored in the Firestone Library at Princeton University. One evening, a gang of thieves broke into the library and stole the entire
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collection. Two members of the gang were captured quickly, but they refused to provide any information about the location of the manuscripts.
In most cases where rare artifacts are stolen, the person ordering the theft plans to return the objects after receiving a large ransom. The manuscripts were insured for $25 million but the insurance company wanted to get them back rather than pay the claim or ransom.
We next learn about Bruce Cabot, a bookseller who, when he was an unsettled 23- year- old, received a $300,000 inheritance when his father died before cutting him out of his will, as he had often threatened. “Some ancient relative had made a fortune in gravel, and, following bad legal advice, had set up a scheme of misguided and complicated trusts that had strewn money over generations of undeserving kinfolks.” He decided to become a book seller and specialized in rare older classic books. He collected first editions, especially signed ones. He had been suspected of shady dealing in the past.
We soon meet Mercer Mann’s first novel was a best seller. She was now three years overdue on her second one. Her academic position was being terminated and her bank account was running low. Her grandmother had lived on Camino Island and Mercer had spent her summers there while she was growing up. She hadn’t returned since her grandmother died.
Mercer was approached by a woman trying to locate the missing Fitzgerald manuscripts asked Mercer to go undercover, befriend Cabot, and find out if he might have it and where it was hidden. Mercer was very reluctant but a large payment for six-months work in an location she knew and liked and which would give her time and a place to work on her new book were very tempting.
CAMINO ISLAND is the story of how well the hunt worked and what obstacles had to be overcome and, as in all of John Grisham’s stories, there are many.
A major under theme of the book is the plight of authors and booksellers. “Selling books was a tough business...The big chains were deep discounting all bestsellers, some offering 50 percent off, and now with the Internet and Amazon folks were shopping from home. In the past five years, over 700 independent bookstores had closed. Only a few were making money.”
“But the one constant was that those giving advice enjoyed what they were doing. They loved books, and literature, and writers, the whole publishing scene, and they were willing to put in long hours and deal with customers because they considered their to be a noble calling.” Good authors were going on tours at which the few people that attended usually did not buy the book. Many were self-publishing even though it was harder to build a market. Some of the authors had begun writing books that sold well even though they were not the high quality stories they were able to tell. Many were
CAMINO ISLAND includes some of “Cable’s Top Ten Rules for Writing Fiction.” Among them are don’t include prologues, don’t introduce too many characters in the first chapter (“Five’s enough.), showing off by using big words most people don’t know; not using quotation marks for dialogue, and not cutting extraneous material.
This is not Grisham’s usual legal, courtroom drama. It’s a nice diversion, though, with a story as well-written and complicated as his previous best sellers
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LibraryThing member bnbookgirl
I don't normally read Grisham but when I saw this was about books, I thought I would give it a listen. So glad I did. This book is highly entertaining and I learned some things about the book business and the business of book theft along the way. As a bookseller and bibliophile, I would love to own
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a place like Bay Books. What an amazing place Grisham made it. This book is filled with quirky characters that I could not get enough of, especially Myra. I can still picture her in my mind. If you are a lover of books, this is a must read!!
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LibraryThing member Doondeck
A different kind of story from Grisham. He still keeps the narrative going and he has good characterization. No lawyers this time; a nice change.
LibraryThing member zmagic69
After buying a number of new hardback books last summer based on rave pre release reviews and hype, or based on the author I was disappointed with most of them, so this year I decided I will buy a maximum of 3.
The first one was Camino Island and things are not off to a good start.
The premise of
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the book sounded great, prices F Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts are stolen and the insurance company needs help identifying who now has them and where they are.
Here in no particular order were my problems with the book.
1. Mr Grisham has managed to write a chick lit book, sadly it isn't very good.
2. After the manuscripts are stolen, the book is painfully boring.
3. The woman hired to help find the criminals, is annoying and not at ,all interesting.
4. Mr Grisham's liberal politics are scattered throughout.
By the time I got to the end I didn't even care how the book turned out.
It is always disappointing when authors who have written a number of fine books decide to do the bare minimum, just for the money.
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LibraryThing member LivelyLady
Grisham at his best and oddly enough, with a female as his one of his main characters. This thriller deals with the world of book lovers and collectors with some sex thrown in. The setting is Camino Island, off the coast of Florida. It is not established if this is an island attached or unattached,
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but since there was no talk of ferries I put it in the Amelia Island category. This book had me at the start. Great summer read!
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LibraryThing member Susan.Macura
This is another fascinating and beautifully written book by the master storyteller of our time. I started reading it in the morning and did not put it down until I had finished it.
LibraryThing member Mathenam
I hadn't read Grisham books in quite some time, but listened to the audiobook version of Camino Island when I found out it was a heist novel, and NOT set in a courtroom. I really enjoyed this book and thought it was very clever. Book lovers appreciate the mention of other books in their reading
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material, so I loved that about Camino Island. I would recommend giving this book a try for the usual Grisham fans and for those who are not. It's a very different type of Grisham novel!
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LibraryThing member Sensory
So, this was a big disappointment. I expected something more than a nothing plot, with superficial characters. Action was threadbare. The plot was mostly not there, and when it was there, not believable. Not much happened between the first and last chapters. This is a wasted few hours I won't get
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back. Gave it two stars for the beach setting.
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LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
Camino Island, John Grisham, author, January LaVoy, narrator
Mr. Grisham has written a book that will work well as a serialized television program once it is spiced up a bit with the romance and violence emphasized. Essentially, priceless manuscripts have been stolen from Princeton University by a
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gang of five men. The book is about the search for them and their ultimate return to the rightful owner. The very beginning and the very end were more interesting than the middle which was very thin with some brief mentions about the value of rare books and manuscripts and the nefarious behavior that some booksellers engage in as collectors.
There was often too much extraneous information about silly romantic moments, binge drinking, and character backgrounds that added nothing to the story. Many scenes were contrived, emphasizing the emotional dysfunction, rudeness, and alcohol dependence of the writing community. The characters, by and large, appeared either empty headed or overly impressed with their own ability. The women were portrayed very negatively as greedy, rude, sex-seeking shallow individuals. Amorality or immorality was very much alive and well!
The FBI, after their initial success in the investigation, was made out to be a bit incompetent, failing to recognize obvious clues or to pursue obvious leads in a timely way. Stupid errors were made allowing for the crime to actually pay. Insurance companies were driven by greed, not right or wrong. The criminals sometimes seemed to be the brightest bulbs, although some did, although rarely, actually pay a high price for their shady behavior.
Most of the characters were self serving and unlikable, and the story was unbelievable. Basically, it is about a young, out of work writer who is broke and having a dry spell. She is past due on a book for her publisher and in need of money. When approached by an insurance company to help find the stolen manuscripts, she suddenly becomes a well known writer and capable investigator/spy. Although I thought she seemed hopelessly naïve and immature, she is portrayed as competent and sure of herself in very compromising situations. She neither had the experience or talent to be the spy she becomes. I found the story silly, the romance manufactured, the characters shallow, and the relationships totally artificial. The best part about this book was the narrator who gave the weak story vitality.
Once again, it will be a very good television series, but as a book, it left a lot to be desired. This author seems to be writing his books more for the entertainment world than the literary one.
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LibraryThing member DrApple
A good Grisham. I enjoyed hte characters and the world of rare books which this novel explores. I appreciated that he didn't kill of a character that I liked after a few chapters as he sometimes does. This is a fun summer read that will keep you turning the pages.
LibraryThing member jbarr5
Camino Island by John Grisham
Enjoy Mr. Grishams books for many reasons.
They get me thinking, they take me to new places and I learn new things.
Love this one because it deals with the publishing side of books and how a heist is pulled off quite easily.
It's amazing where the manuscripts end up. Love
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learning about clamshell and cedar boxes. Lots of twists and turns in this book.
Loved the part about Hemingway and Zelda and Charles Dickens wife as I had just read a book on that subject.
I received this book from National Library Service for my BARD (Braille Audio Reading Device).
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LibraryThing member RaucousRain
I like John Grisham's stories, and over the years I have read most of them. I preorder his new ones, and usually read them soon after they arrive. But I don't think I've ever posted a review about any of his books before.

Camino Island is different. It's set primarily at the beach (which is great
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for summertime reading, whether or not one actually is at the beach) ... and the story involves authors, bookstores, rare books& manuscripts, an Ivy League library, and of course a few book thieves trying to outwit those who trail them. Plus, I found the ending to be quite satisfying. My only complaint is that I finished the book so quickly -- I would have enjoyed being in that world longer!
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LibraryThing member LisaSHarvey

MY RATING ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
PUBLISHER Random House Audio
PUBLISHED June 6, 2017
NARRATOR January LaVoy

A masterfully crafted story of a dramatic heist and the suspenseful search for five priceless manuscripts.

Five priceless F. Scott Fitzgerald handwritten
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manuscripts are stolen from Princeton University. Only one drop of blood was left behind. The culprits had planned their get away well, and planned for all manner of contingencies. The FBI is investigating, as is the investigative arm of the insurance company that is on the hook for the financial loss, to the tune of $25 million. These experienced investigators have leads that the manuscripts might be in Camino Island, Florida, just north of Jacksonville. They need a Camino Island insider to go undercover, so they hire a young women author who has ties to the area. And she needs the money! She is instructed to get to know the local independent bookstore owner. And boy, does she!

CAMINO ISLAND is an highly entertaining heist thriller. It's not anything like the legal thrillers Grisham usually writes. It’s even better. I really appreciate that he branched out from his norm.

This is a great novel about rare books, first editions, independent books stores and authors. Grisham conveys a good deal of knowledge about writing books and the book selling industry. I have a tendency to love any book, that has books as it theme!

All the characters in CAMINO ISLAND are both likable and believable. The pace of the book is fast and as a result it's a quick, easy and most enjoyable read. As a native Floridian, I love it when books are set in Florida, and even though Camino Island is fictional, it certainly seemed real to me. This would make a great summer beach read. Highly recommended.

I listened to the Audible edition of the book. It was narrated by January LaVoy who did an absolutely fabulous job.
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LibraryThing member repb
A quick read - and an enjoyable one. A look into the book store universe – writer's block – and particularly the world of rare manuscripts. Grisham is a great story teller. My minor criticism is I found it a bit too long in places, perhaps a tightening up would help.
LibraryThing member lewilliams
This book starts out good but goes down hill fast. Not a real page turner and the characters are not all that interesting. All in all, Camino Island is not up to the John Grisham standard I come to expect.
LibraryThing member VashonJim
Grisham, as always, spins a good yarn.
LibraryThing member dara85
I thought this was a nice change of pace from the usual Grisham fare. A stolen manuscript, a bookstore on the beach. Mercer Mann is recruited to infiltrate and find out what really happened to the manuscripts stolen from Princeton. As a writer trying to find her next story she befriends a man who
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owns a bookstore on an island in Florida.
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LibraryThing member annbury
This book attracted me because of its subject matter -- the world of book dealing -- rather than because of its authorship, and proved a satisfactory choice. The plot held my interest, if it did dawdle a bit at times, and the characters were interesting if not entirely sympathetic. The sections on
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the heist itself, and on the world of rare books, were the most interesting to me, but I didn't find myself skipping over the rest of the material. I'd call it a good solid "how-dun-it" rather than a thriller (a rather odd plot twist damped the thriller quotient substantially near the end), but I'd also call it an enjoyable read. As to how it stands up to the rest of Grisham's works, I really can't say, having read only a few of them.
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LibraryThing member vintagebeckie
Camino Island is classic Grisham. An intriguing crime with bad guys who are very bad and good guys who are a bit bad as well. The book begins with a daring heist of extremely valuable and rare manuscripts. Just what has happened to them is the focus of the novel, but the real treat for the reader
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are the wonderfully colorful characters, including main characters bookseller Bruce Cable and young novelist Mercer Mann. For those who love books, Camino Island will definitely appeal. There is a lot of talk of bookselling, publishing, and writing, with references to numerous authors, both real and fictional. The fictional setting is a laid back northeast Florida island with long expanses of beach and intense sun. The book is a fun trip into the literary world, but those looking for a clean read need to look elsewhere. There is a lot of adult activity, including heavy drinking, sex, and language. I found the book perfect for my morning walks. Not too intense, a good narrator, and a story that kept me engaged.


Audience: adults.
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LibraryThing member rglossne
I was looking for a good escapist story, and I found it here. The set up: five thieves plot and carry out a daring smash and grab in the rare books section of Princeton University's library. They make off with the 5 handwritten manuscripts for F. Scott Fitzgerald's novels. The FBI makes some
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progress but is stumped. Along comes the insurance company who recruits a young female novelist with family ties to Camino Island to go and live in her family's cottage on the beach and infiltrate the circle of a bookseller who may have received the manuscripts. Not a courtroom or attorney in sight, but a well-told tale with a surprisingly satisfying ending.
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