The Broker – John Grisham

I’ve just finished reading The Broker, the first I had read by John Grisham. Having seen many of the films I had previously been put off reading them by a friend who said that Grisham’s plotlines were good, but his writing was turgid. Having got the opportunity to read this – I won a book in the galaxy book club competition and the other choices didn’t appeal – I’m glad I did. Grisham’s plot is good and fast paced and draws you in.

The main character, Joel Backman, is a former Washington lawyer and power broker who has got himself into trouble. He had been approached to broker deals to sell military secrets, such secrets which saw his closest colleague and the people who approached him killed. In the subsequent investigation he quickly pleaded guilty which saw him quickly dispatched to proson, out of sight from the assassins who had killed his colleagues and wanted the secrets.

But now, in the last days of a failed presidency, Backman is pardoned by the outgoing presidency. It is all a ploy by the CIA use him as live bait –  to see who would kill him first, and hence, who the secrets that he is carrying belong to. He is given a false name, a CIA handler, and is hidden in Italy and taught Italian under the guise of a Canadian -Italian discovering his roots. Then his locations is leaked and the chase begins.

The scenes in Italy, in Bologna specifically, are very well written. Grisham describes the city, it’s history, lure, and importance well as his character Backman settles in and samples the many cultural and culinary differences. He paints it as a city with charm, elegance and which would be wonderful to visits. Grisham obviously enjoyed doing his research in Bologna (who wouldn’t). And the subsequent chase is written like a real thriller, drawing the reader in as Backman is always looking over his shoulder.

A great book for holiday reading – light enough but with a deep enough central character. Grisham doesnt’ say anything profound in the book (although some might comment that Grisham obviously beleives his government is capable of doing such a thing). Throughout the story, Backman does realise that he got many things wrong in his pre-prison days (particularly with regard to his family), but Backman (or Grisham) doesn’t major on it – the cetnral focus is on Backman getting his freedom back and being able to live without fear. Well written, a great thriller, worth reading.

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