When I heard that John Grisham’s newest novel was about valuable books that were stolen from a library, I thought: hey, just my kind of book – a book about books! And I didn’t even have to wait for months on a list to get it, as an express copy was available at my neighborhood library. It didn’t take long to dive into the story.
It begins with the heist. Five guys look to strike it rich by stealing original manuscripts of F. Scott Fitzgerald, which are under lock and key at the Princeton library. They succeed, and then have the problem of where to sell their “hot” items. The FBI thinks they know where the manuscripts are being hidden, and recruits a female author (Mercer) with staggering college debts to get close to the suspect.
What I enjoyed most about the novel was the close-knit community of writers on the island. They hung around together, commiserated when someone’s book didn’t sell well, and even tried to help Mercer when she had writer’s block. That would be a wonderful sort of place to live in real life.
What I disliked was the shallowness of the characters, which could have been much more developed. The shallowness made it hard to stay enthused about the story. Mercer was a flat character, always whining about how she couldn’t think of any good story-lines. Bruce, the bookstore owner and suspect, was obsessed with sleeping with as many women as possible and making a lot of money. None of the original thieves were very likable either.
The book overall was mediocre. Mr. Grisham has obviously used up all his best ideas on earlier books such as: The Firm, The Rainmaker, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Summons, and The Last Juror. (He is, however, doing a great job in recent years writing youth fiction – his Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer series.) His best work always seems to involve lawyers, legal matters, and courtrooms. He would do well to return to his specialty.