I’m relatively new to Grisham’s work, but even I could tell that his book, The Broker, was not up to his standards. The story follows Joel Backman, a high-powered broker who gets himself into a lot of trouble and is sent to a federal prison to be kept in solitary confinement. What that trouble is exactly we don’t find out until about halfway through the book. When we are first introduced to Backman, he is described in such terms that make you glad he got caught. Surely, he is the bad guy in the book, right? As events unfold so painfully slowly, I thought perhaps that Backman would turn out not to be too bad and perhaps he was framed or something. Nope. He did everything and got everything he deserved. But yet by the end of the book, I got that feeling that I was supposed to like him, despite being the sleazeball that he is/was.
The story is set in Italy where the U.S. government has decided to hide Backman until they deem an appropriate time to leak his whereabouts to foreign nations in order to see who kills him first. I thought perhaps this was going to turn into a story of how Backman kept having to hide from either the U.S. government or foreign governments. Instead, way too much of the book is spent on Backman learning Italian or eating some lovely Italian delicacy or visiting some wonderful Italian architecture. The pace does pick up when the time actually comes for Backman to run, but even that doesn’t make up for the rest of the book. The professional, government-paid assassins sent to whack him are seemingly a side note, even though the whole premise of the book is that Backman is hiding from them and is supposed to be on the run.
It’s evident, as Grisham points out in his author’s note, that he greatly admires the Italian culture. I’m sure quite a bit of research went into describing the various Italian cultural tidbits. But reading how to greet one another in Italian over and over again is not the stuff a person usually wants to read in a Grisham book. Overall, it was slow and disappointing.
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