Camino Island by John Grisham
Camino Island is a Crime fiction thriller novel written by John Grisham that was released on June 6, 2017, by Doubleday. The book is a departure from Grisham’s main subject of legal thrillers and focuses on stolen rare books. Grisham made his first extensive book tour in 25 years to publicize the book.
A gang of thieves stage a daring heist from a secure vault deep below Princeton University’s Firestone Library. Their loot is priceless, but Princeton has insured it for twenty-five million dollars.
Bruce Cable owns a popular bookstore in the sleepy resort town of Santa Rosa on Camino Island in Florida. He makes his real money, though, as a prominent dealer in rare books. Very few people know that he occasionally dabbles in the black market of stolen books and manuscripts.
Mercer Mann is a young novelist with a severe case of writer’s block who has recently been laid off from her teaching position. She is approached by an elegant, mysterious woman working for an even more mysterious company. A generous offer of money convinces Mercer to go undercover and infiltrate Bruce Cable’s circle of literary friends, ideally getting close enough to him to learn his secrets.
But eventually Mercer learns far too much, and there’s trouble in paradise as only John Grisham can deliver it.
In ‘Camino Island,’ John Grisham Takes a Vacation From Writing John Grisham Novels
Mercer Mann, a young novelist struggling to come up with an idea for her next book, is recruited by a shadowy company to locate five priceless F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts that have been stolen from the Firestone Library at Princeton. In John Grisham’s latest thriller, the inspiration-starved Mercer spends a lot of time moaning about her lack of juicy subject matter, even as she runs down clues to the Fitzgerald theft and befriends a cunning rare-book dealer she suspects may be the crime’s mastermind. About midway through, you may feel like tapping Grisham’s heroine on the shoulder: “What do you mean, you can’t think of a plot? Look around you! You’re living in a dandy one!”
The veteran suspense novelist is off on a happy lark with Camino Island, a resort-town tale that reads as if Grisham is taking a vacation from writing John Grisham novels. Instead of hurtling readers down the dark corridors of the courthouses that dot his 20-plus legal thrillers, here he gently ushers us onto an island off the coast of Florida, a sleepy place whose town’s social life is enlivened by a busy independent bookstore run by a garrulous peacock who has a different-colored seersucker suit for every day of the week.
At Bay Books, Bruce Cable presides over book signings with authors on tour and regular dinners with local writers. But since his real money comes from trading in rare first editions, this makes him a suspect as a possible fence for the Fitzgerald manuscripts, the clever theft of which gets Camino Island off to its suspenseful start. Law enforcement goes after the thieves, but so does a mysterious private company that specializes in “security and investigations.” Enter Mercer Mann and her thwarted second novel. A representative from the unnamed company taps her to get close to Bruce. Why does she agree? The company will write off her college-loan debt as well as hand her a hefty paycheck. (As with so many thriller plots, it’s best not to get bogged down in the plausibility of this setup.)
Grisham is crafty in his construction. “Camino” begins with the theft, and the quick, precise portraits of the perpetrators lead you to assume this is going to be a caper novel. Then the focus switches to Mercer, and you start wondering how this innocent with writer’s block is going to connect to the criminals. Cable, the colorful bookseller, is the glue that holds Grisham’s plotting together. He’s also a way for Grisham to have more fun than usual. Camino Island contains leisurely passages in which Cable gasses on entertainingly about collecting first editions by writers ranging from Virginia Woolf to J. D. Salinger to John D. MacDonald. Sometimes, though, Grisham gets a bit too relaxed, letting his dialogue become both simplistic and florid, as when Mercer, pondering Woolf, sighs sadly: “She killed herself. Why do writers suffer so much, Bruce? So much destructive behavior, even suicide.” There are also repetitions: In these pages we encounter “seasoned thieves” and a “seasoned raconteur,” and find Cable described as a “seasoned professional” when it comes to sex. That’s a lot of seasoning.
Yet these flaws don’t impede the jolly appeal of the novel’s storytelling. Grisham has said that he and his wife dreamed up Camino Island during a long car ride to Florida, and the book provides the pleasure of a leisurely jaunt periodically jolted into high gear, just for the fun and speed of it.
More about John Grisham
Long before his name became synonymous with the modern legal thriller, John Grisham was working 60-70 hours a week at a small Southaven, Mississippi law practice, squeezing in time before going to the office and during courtroom recesses to work on his hobby–writing his first novel.
Born on February 8, 1955 in Jonesboro, Arkansas, to a construction worker and a homemaker, John Grisham as a child dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Realizing he didn’t have the right stuff for a pro career, he shifted gears and majored in accounting at Mississippi State University. After graduating from law school at Ole Miss in 1981, he went on to practice law for nearly a decade in Southaven, specializing in criminal defense and personal injury litigation.
One day at the DeSoto County courthouse, Grisham overheard the harrowing testimony of a twelve-year-old rape victim and was inspired to start a novel exploring what would have happened if the girl’s father had murdered her assailants. Getting up at 5 a.m. every day to get in several hours of writing time before heading off to work, Grisham spent three years on A Time to Kill and finished it in 1987. Initially rejected by many publishers, it was eventually bought by Wynwood Press, who gave it a modest 5,000 copy printing and published it in June 1988.
That might have put an end to Grishams hobby. However, he had already begun his next book, and it would quickly turn that hobby into a new full-time career. When he sold the film rights to The Firm to Paramount Pictures for $600,000, Grisham suddenly became a hot property among publishers, and book rights were bought by Doubleday. Spending 47 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, The Firm became the bestselling novel of 1991.
The successes of The Pelican Brief, which hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list, and The Client, which debuted at number one, confirmed Grisham’s reputation as the master of the legal thriller. Grisham’s success even renewed interest in A Time to Kill, which was republished in hardcover by Doubleday and then in paperback by Dell. This time around, it was a bestseller.
Since first publishing A Time to Kill in 1988, Grisham has written one book a year. His other books are The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Chamber, The Rainmaker, The Runaway Jury, The Partner, The Street Lawyer, The Testament, The Brethren, A Painted House, Skipping Christmas, The Summons, The King of Torts, Bleachers, The Last Juror, The Broker, Playing for Pizza,The Appeal, The Associate, Ford County, The Confession, The Litigators, Calico Joe, The Racketeer, Sycamore Row, Gray Mountain, and Rogue Lawyer. All of them have become international bestsellers. In addition he has written six novels for Young Adult readers: Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer, Theodore Boone: The Abduction, Theodore Boone: The Accused, Theodore Boone: The Activist, Theodore Boone: The Fugitive, and Theodore Boone: The Scandal (2016). There are currently over 300 million John Grisham books in print worldwide, which have been translated into 29 languages. The Innocent Man (October 2006) marked his first foray into non-fiction, and Ford County (November 2009) was his first short story collection. Partners (March 2016) was his first original digital short story. Nine of his novels have been turned into films (The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, A Time to Kill, The Rainmaker, The Chamber, A Painted House, The Runaway Jury, and Skipping Christmas), as was an original screenplay, The Gingerbread Man.
Grisham took time off from writing for several months in 1996 to return, after a five-year hiatus, to the courtroom. He was honoring a commitment made before he had retired from the law to become a full-time writer: representing the family of a railroad brakeman killed when he was pinned between two cars. Preparing his case with the same passion and dedication as his books’ protagonists, Grisham successfully argued his clients’ case, earning them a jury award of $683,500—the biggest verdict of his career.
When he’s not writing, Grisham devotes time to charitable causes, including most recently his Rebuild The Coast Fund, which raised 8.8 million dollars for Gulf Coast relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He also keeps up with his greatest passion: baseball. The man who dreamed of being a professional baseball player now serves as the local Little League commissioner. The six ballfields he built on his property have played host to over 350 kids on 26 Little League teams.
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