About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Racketeer by John Grisham

The Racketeer by John Grisham – Malcolm Bannister is a 43 year old disbarred lawyer serving a 10 year sentence for a breach of the RICO statutes that have been stretched far beyond their original intent to curb organized crime. Bannister has been convicted of money laundering allegedly being part of a conspiracy involving a shifty Washington D.C. developer and lobbyist. I doubt he would ever have been convicted in Canada of any criminal offence.

While Bannister is incarcerated in a “country club” Federal minimum security prison time is passing painfully slowly. Half way through his sentence his wife has divorced him and ended contact with his son. Friends and relatives hardly ever visit him. Only his father, Henry, comes monthly.

Bannister is a rarity among the white collar criminals being a black man.

He dreams of freedom while focusing on getting through another day of the 1,800 days left in his sentence.

Bannister is a bitter man who has lost his livelihood, his family and his future because of overzealous Federal prosecutors.

When Federal Judge, Ray Fawcett, and his much younger secretary are found executed in his very isolated cabin Bannister does not mourn.

The FBI investigation into the judge’s death falters as there is neither forensic evidence nor an identifiable suspect. Bannister sees a lawful escape from prison and a means to economic prosperity in Fawcett’s death.

Rule 35 of the Federal Court Rules allows an inmate’s sentence to be commuted if he provides the information to get an indictment of another person for a major crime.

Bannister entices the FBI to come to his prison with the promise to identify the killer of Judge Fawcett. With the FBI desperate to solve the crime Bannister is soon able to strike a deal for his release from prison and payment of a reward.

Bannister identifies a former inmate, Quinn Rucker, as the killer. When Rucker is indicted Bannister is freed and enters the Federal Witness Protection Program.

At this point the story becomes less predictable and more intricate.

Bannister proves a master schemer. With an abundance of time in prison he has meticulously plotted his strategy. It is brilliant legal work as he manipulates the Federal judicial system.

Unlike Confession it is not one of the Grisham books that will challenge how a reader views an issue. It is a book with an interesting, even sympathetic, lead character going after a system that had made him a criminal when he was only an ordinary lawyer helping a client buy property.

There are issues to be considered but they do not dominate the book. The Federal Justice Department’s abuse of the RICO statute and its crude treatment of prisoners should make readers fear being caught up in a legal system so focused upon conviction and jail.

In real life, while I believe Conrad Black was wrong in his actions in taking non-compete payments while running Hollinger he should not have been prosecuted. It was a potential civil fraud rather than criminal fraud. How the U.S. Federal Government went after him and included in the indictment individuals far on the periphery of the decisions on the payments while never pursuing the high profile Board of Directors who approved the transactions is a real life illustration of the questionable use of Federal Justice Department power and discretion.

There are darker elements to The Racketeer than some Grisham books.

Grisham is just as skilled as Michael Connelly in drawing the reader forward anxious to know what is on the next page. It is not a brilliant book. It is another good read from Grisham with yet another fascinating lawyer. Unlike The Black Box I liked Grisham’s ending. The Racketeer takes readers on a journey of revenge with a very clever lawyer.

I look forward to Grisham’s next foray into legal mysteries. I hope it will feature a lawyer back in the courtroom, preferably in the southern United States.

This is the first post in trio of posts involving John Grisham. My next post will list all the main lawyers he has featured.(Jan. 2/13)


  1. Bill - Thanks for your insights on this novel. You raise some important and thought-provoking questions about the power of government and about what the limits of that power should be. And I like Grisham's work too so it's good to hear you enjoyed this one.

  2. Margot: Thanks for the comment. From the North I sometimes have trouble distinguishing how America both wants government to have extensive power for criminal matters but prizes government staying out of the lives of citizens.

  3. The book starts slowly so much so that the first 100 pages are on the verge of being truly boring. But then knowing John Grisham, you plod and soon hit pay dirt! You’re sucked up into an edge-of-the seat suspense thriller and like the hero in the book; sleep and food become ancillary to knowing what happens next in the plot that the hero and his friends hatch in jail and let fly by the skin of their collective teeth. The reward is their freedom, new identities and a pot of gold. Will they succeed and how is what this book is all about. Totally enjoyable!

    If you have a long boring journey ahead, I suggest you buy the book but not read until you travel – you will be so engrossed you won’t even realize you've arrived. Fantastic! May his (John Grisham’s) tribe live long, prosper and produce more such books!