The Broker: John Grisham

Posted: January 31, 2017 in Uncategorized

I bought this 2005 book in a second hand book shop for 99p so I wasn’t too concerned that it turned out to be not Grisham’s best novel by a long distance. I admit to be interested by the first sentence: 

In the waning hours of a presidency that was destined to arouse less interest from historians than any other than any since that of William Henry Harrison [thirty one days from inauguration to death], Arthur Morgan huddled in the Oval Office with his last remaining friend and pondered his final decisions.

Not quite accurate as the 1840 election of William Henry Harrison still interests political historians as it was one of the first modern style campaigns. A great slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler too” [Harrison was the victor over the Shawnee at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, and Tyler was his Vice President] and a campaign logo of a Log Cabin, suggesting the untamed frontier, when in fact both Harrison and Tyler lived in Greek revival mansions. Enough history.

Arthur Morgan in his last moves pardons Joel Backman, serving 20 years in a Federal Penitentiary. Backman pleaded guilty to various charges involving the attempted sale of a computer program that can control a secret satellite system. When his business associate and the three young Pakistani scientists, who created the program are murdered, he feels he is safer in prison. The head of the CIA gets him pardoned and sent to Italy, when his location will be leaked and the CIA will observe who kills him the Chinese, Russians, Saudis or Israelis. Then the Americans will have an idea who created the satellite system.

Much of the book reads like an Italian lesson and travel guide to Bologna, but with not enough details about the food. It seems bizarre that so much time is devoted to teaching Joel aka Marco Italian when he is going to be set up to be murdered. But he has to be introduced to the beautiful enigmatic Francesca, who provides a platonic romantic  interest while she waits for her ailing husband to die.

Joel was a lobbyist and fixer and as such is more of an anti hero than a character I could have liked. 

The Broker is an easy to read, apart from the Italian lessons, airport thriller but I do prefer Grisham when he is writing about legal procedures in the USA . I also found it a bit unbelievable that Backman could outsmart the CIA, FBI, Chinese secret service, Russian intelligence and Mossad all at the same time, and get back to the USA unharmed with his computer disks. 


  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    I know what you mean, Norman, about things being a little too much for credibility. Still, I’m glad you found things to enjoy about the book. And that first sentence is interesting, isn’t it?

  2. kathy d says:

    I’m glad you found an easy-to-read book. I agree about John Grisham’s writing; I like it the best when he’s writing about legal issues here. I have not read the book you reviewed and won’t.
    But as a long-time Grisham fan, I have found that his books vary in quality, although always popular. Sycamore Row was at the top of the line; Gray Mountain was good; and The Rogue Lawyer was good and very funny.
    Other books vary. I had read a lot of his books and then stopped reading them until Sycamore Row came along, which was excellent. So I read the following two books.
    Now The Whistler is on the best-sellers’ lists and I’m ambivalent about reading it. It’s about a corrupt judge. Grisham said this book is about “sales,” so he churned it out.
    That said, Grisham’s books are among the best on best sellers’ lists, so I give him a pass.
    He also always roots for the underdog, as he explains his views. So I like that.

  3. Bill Selnes says:

    Norman: I thought it a curious book. I equally agree Grisham is much better when his lawyers are in the courts. I think his best involve lawyers in Mississippi where he practised law.

  4. kathy d says:

    I guess he’s not an underdog. I was just repeating what Grisham said in the New York Times Book Review, that he’s always for the underdog.

    I agree about his books set in Mississippi. But I also liked Gray Mountain about Big Coal and a woman lawyer in a professional dilemma. I think that Grisham also is promoting lawyers working for “the people” rather than making big bucks on Wall Street.

    His best books are about hard-working regular people who are lawyers and fight for people’s rights and want justice.

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