Thom Geier
October 26, 2012 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Racketeer

Current Status
In Season
John Grisham

We gave it an A-

In a bit of a departure for John Grisham, his tautly plotted new thriller The Racketeer is pure fiction. ”There is no federal [prison] camp at Frostburg,” he writes in an endnote, ”no uranium lawsuit (yet), no dead judge to inspire me, and no acquaintance in prison scheming to get out, at least not to my knowledge.” Instead, Grisham introduces a small-town Virginia lawyer named Malcolm Bannister, who’s dubiously convicted of money laundering for a drug-lord client, and maps out a revenge plot from his federal penitentiary cell that’s twice as elaborate as the one Alexandre Dumas cooked up in The Count of Monte Cristo. Like many a Grisham hero, Mal is a legal insider who knows how to work the system to his advantage. He’s also a peculiarly lone wolf, willing to shed all his family ties in pursuit of a very long and entertaining con. A-

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