The Racketeer by John Grisham

The RacketeerReviewed by Allen Hott

A very well thought out plot as usual by Mr. Grisham. This one, although it does somewhat involve the courts, is really more of a mystery as to how The Racketeer pulled off the caper and how is he going to get away with it. Or is he?

Malcolm Bannister is in fact that person. As the book opens he is in a Federal Prison camp in Maryland. Bannister is a lawyer who has served five years so far of a ten year sentence that he believes was handed down by a judge and district attorney who were looking to nail a true racketeer for money laundering. That guy set Bannister up by sending a fee payment of 4.5 million dollars instead of 450,000. When Bannister tried to return the overpayment the group with the racketeer and their bank refused the repayment. Then when they were quickly busted for money laundering they easily implicated Bannister. The DA and judge decided they were all guilty so away to prison Bannister went.

Sometimes bad things turn out good and perhaps that is what happens to Bannister. He is known as a jailhouse lawyer and makes many new friends or business acquaintances through his background. One of them turns out to be Quinn Rucker who, like Bannister, is a black man, serving time for distributing drugs. The two become quite friendly and learn a lot about each other.

About that time a federal judge, Raymond Fawcett, is murdered near Roanoke, Virginia. The judge and his secretary (mistress) were spending a weekend in his cabin in the woods. It appears to have been a robbery as a safe that the judge owned was opened and emptied. The authorities throughout the area were up in arms as over the years there had only been four federal judges in the United States prior to this killing.

One of his jobs in prison is the librarian so Bannister had access to all types of media and he is a great researcher. He begins studying about the judge’s murder and then goes to the warden (through a kind of drawn out procedure).

Bannister tells the warden that he knows who killed the judge and he will make a deal with the government. He will tell them who the killer is and they will free him of his still to be served sentence and also pay him the $150,000 reward. At first the warden scoffs at this but later he discusses it with his superiors and the FBI. Since they are at wit’s end now trying to find the killer they accept his offer. If they arrest and indict the killer Bannister will get his end of the deal.

From here on in the book Grisham really puts his mind to work and earns the big bucks that he receives for his work. The planning, details, and overall concept of the rest of the book are really outstanding. I am a Grisham fan and have been for a while but I truly believe this is one of his best. The ending isn’t completely unthought-of but the way it is all told is really well done. Great concept and fantastic writing!

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