Camino Island, John Grisham’s latest doesn’t start out as a page-turner, but that’s how it ends up. Along the way, you’ll meet thieves, a bookstore owner in the town of Santa Rosa, on Camino Island, Florida, and a young and semi-failed novelist and former resident.
A motley group of thieves, who seem to have little in common besides greed, plan a perfect heist of rare manuscripts from the Princeton University library. With the manuscripts insured for twenty-five million dollars, insurance investigators snap into action, along with the FBI. Do they work together? In which book have you ever heard of two agencies working in harmony? But, in this case dual purposes make perfect sense. Insurance companies don’t care about the crime only the recovery of property, and the FBI only cares about arresting the perps.
Mercer Mann, a less than successful novelist and former resident of Camino Island, is recruited to return to her childhood home and go under-cover. The target is Bruce Cable, who runs a successful independent bookstore, but makes most of his money dealing in rare books.
Let’s take a look at the unfolding. First off, as Grisham admits in the end notes, he knows nothing about the Princeton Library, or the nuts and bolts of robbery and the result is his robbers are as interesting as cold oatmeal, which is odd because he’s known for character development, as much as compelling plots. His books, like The Firm, The Pelican Brief and the more recent Rogue Lawyer, all grab you from page one and sweep you along on a twisting, turning ride. Not so with Camino Island. But, if you plod through the first 15% (yes, I read it on Kindle), you’re treated to some real John Grisham. You’ll know Bruce Cable and Mercer Mann as well as you know Mitch McDeere (The Firm), Darby Shaw (The Pelican Brief), and Danilo Silva (The Partner). Once Grisham develops a character, you’re hooked into a plot with unexpected detours, unexpected pleasures, and a raucous ending.
A cardinal rule of writing is, write what you know about. Well, as an experienced practicing attorney, John Grisham knows the law and he also knows people. When he combines those with an ingenious plot, he has a winner. Camino Island is another winner, but like an experienced gambler, you have to be willing to accept a few bad hands before the money rolls in.