Camino Island by John Grisham

A listless, lacklustre, plain and unfortunately avoidable fare from one of the best purveyors of legal thrillers. “Camino Island” lacks the usual verve, vigor and passion that otherwise forms the cornerstone of a John Grisham novel. The breakneck speed at which events conflate and collude is completely absent, the plot meanders along in an irritatingly predictable manner and it is hard for the reader to associate or disassociate herself with a single character forming part of the book. Now that the harsh and somewhat incontrovertible facts are out of the way, let us get to the actual backbone behind “Camino Island”.

The book begins with a daredevil heist in the basement of the Princeton University Library where an intrepid gang of four aided by an unseen accomplish hacker raid a few vaults and decamp with the original manuscripts of Scott F.Fitzgerald’s five masterpieces including the “Great Gatsby”. This collection is referred to by Grisham as “Gastby and friends”. Talk about being imaginative! Bruce Cable is the proprietor of a once quaint now bustling independent bookstore Bay Books located in an even more quaint location of Camino Island. An enterprising go-getter, Bruce has carved out a niche for himself as a bookseller of repute and hosts book signings with many budding and renowned authors. A few feminine luminaries of this breed also inevitably end up in Bruce’s cozy bed. Bruce of the multiple romps! Mercer Mann is a young author who after her promising first novel that impressed the critics now suffers from a serious writer’s block. A once inhabitant of Camino Island she abdicates a cottage owned by her grandmother after the latter’s unfortunate demise following a sailing accident. When the heist at Princeton is linked to Bruce, Mercer Mann is catapulted into forming a dangerous alliance with Bruce to both unearth the deep end of the manuscript mystery and also to unburden herself of her bloating student loans.

What follows is a cacophony of boisterous authors, both struggling and established and their even boisterous parties and conversations. The narrative is bereft of any form of thrill and excitement and the pages move slowly at a nerve jarring pace. After a point in time the reader is frustrated to the point of wishing the book to come to an abrupt end.

In Grisham’s new book, there is one arresting and egregious character, Myra who with her partner Leigh Trane churns out stereotypical mystery novels at the rate of knots just for the sake of writing. As an avowed fan of John Grisham, I am compelled to nurture a shuddering albeit unfortunate conviction that with “Camino Island” Grisham is also invariably on the dangerous path traversed by Myra. I sincerely hope to be proved wrong.

So the next time around, will the real John Grisham stand up?

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