REVIEW The Broker: John Grisham


We all love Mario Puzo for his mafia chronicles, Frederick Forsyth for his spy thrillers and John Grisham for his legal dramas. So when an author decides to diversify, the end-product usually turns out to be uninspiring( codeword for lame). The book starts off with this handicap, and never really recovers.

The Broker has Joel Backman, a once-influential Washington power broker, as its protagonist. After spending six years in jail for peddling software for a powerful foreign spy satellite system, he is granted a pardon in the dying hours of a lame-duck presidency. The CIA hides him in Italy, with a plan to release his location at an appropriate time and monitor who kills him, which will lead them to the country where the satellite originated.

The book essentially reads like a travel guide to Bologna, with free Italian lessons thrown in. Backman's escape is ridiculously simple, and it is difficult to believe that he manages to flee from the clutches of the Mossad, the CIA and the Chinese. The Chinese assassin, once introduced, is left hanging in the loop with nothing to do. The whirlwind world of lobbying and cutting deals is not explored in much detail, and the ending is an anti-climax. As a humble reader, I suggest Mr. Grisham stick to the legal world and not enter the espionage one.

One advantage of reading this book: I now know what to order at an Italian restaurant (though I may not be able to pronounce it correctly). My review: a book only for die-hard Grisham fans.

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