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.