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Camino Island

Review

Camino Island

When your books are perennial occupants of the bestseller list and your sales are surpassed only by The Bible and perhaps J.K. Rowling, it would be quite simple to rest upon your laurels and just crank out another legal-themed novel. That is not John Grisham’s way, and readers can be grateful for his occasional forays outside of what some would call his comfort zone.

CAMINO ISLAND never sees the inside of a courtroom, mentions lawyers very briefly on two or three occasions, and can be best described as a caper novel. Five criminals set out to accomplish a huge heist --- the theft of the original manuscripts of F. Scott Fitzgerald from their sanctuary at Princeton University. Their crime is successfully committed in the opening chapters, and the stolen manuscripts are offered on the black market to the highest bidder. Quickly on the case, the FBI begins with one drop of evidence and starts apprehending the culprits. But in this crime novel, it is not the criminals who are the focus, it is the manuscripts. Finding those priceless artifacts of American literature is what must be accomplished by Princeton, the FBI and the company that has insured the manuscripts.

"[I]f you are looking for a good, fast-paced read for the coming months, this is the book for you. Grisham always provides just enough information to let you think you know what the ending will be, and then skillfully pulls the rug right out from your analysis."

The denizens of CAMINO ISLAND include Bruce Cable, who owns a popular bookstore in Santa Rosa on Camino Island. Reading a Grisham novel always includes timely references to current events. Fellow readers are certainly aware of the difficulties of independent booksellers as they battle the online book chains. Cable has succeeded where many have failed, and Grisham includes quite lengthy discussions about the struggles of independent booksellers. Cable makes a lot of his money as a dealer in rare books and is a prime suspect in the Fitzgerald case. To place someone near Cable, the insurance company, on the hook for $25 million, enlists the aid of a young novelist, Mercer Mann.

Having spent summers on the island with her grandmother and having published one successful novel, Mercer is the perfect spy to infiltrate the writer and book community of Bruce Cable. In addition, she is attractive, which Cable will certainly note. And she needs some money, having just been fired from her adjunct teaching position at the University of North Carolina and facing great difficulty in completing her second novel. She is recruited by Elaine Shelby, the head of a security company seeking to recover the manuscripts, and agrees to spend her summer on Camino Island as a spy.

For those who have read all of Grisham’s novels, I know you will pick up a copy of CAMINO ISLAND. But those who might have shied away from Grisham because of his legal themes will truly enjoy this latest effort. If you are an aspiring writer, there are some great conversations amongst the writers here. While they may be fictional in the book, much of what they say is what Grisham truly believes. There are some wonderful discussions about the world of bookselling as well as book reading. If you are the occasional first-edition aficionado as I am, there is a little to be learned in these pages about collecting. Finally, if you are looking for a good, fast-paced read for the coming months, this is the book for you. Grisham always provides just enough information to let you think you know what the ending will be, and then skillfully pulls the rug right out from your analysis.

And a final word for Grisham fans. Fear not: His new legal thriller will release on October 24th. It will be his 33rd novel, and I am already counting the days.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on June 9, 2017

Camino Island
by John Grisham

  • Publication Date: June 6, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday
  • ISBN-10: 0385543026
  • ISBN-13: 9780385543026