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The Brokerby John Grisham
Synopses & Reviews
In his final hours in the Oval Office, the outgoing President grants a controversial last-minute pardon to Joel Backman, a notorious Washington power broker who has spent the last six years hidden away in a federal prison. What no one knows is that the President issues the pardon only after receiving enormous pressure from the CIA. It seems Backman, in his power broker heyday, may have obtained secrets that compromise the world's most sophisticated satellite surveillance system.
Backman is quietly smuggled out of the country in a military cargo plane, given a new name, a new identity, and a new home in Italy. Eventually, after he has settled into his new life, the CIA will leak his whereabouts to the Israelis, the Russians, the Chinese, and the Saudis. Then the CIA will do what it does best: sit back and watch. The question is not whether Backman will survive — there is no chance of that. The question the CIA needs answered is, who will kill him?
"Readers will find an amiable travelogue to Italy and its charms in Grisham's latest. What they won't find are the suspense and inspired plotting that have made the author (The Last Juror, etc.) one of the world's bestselling writers. Yet Grisham remains a smooth storyteller, and few will fail to finish this oddball tale of what happens to ruined D.C. powerbroker Joel Blackman, 52, when he's suddenly released from federal prison after six years. Teddy Maynard, legendary CIA director, has engineered the release in order to put Joel into a variant of the witness protection program and then see who kills him. Many want him dead — the Saudis, the Israelis, especially the Chinese — because of his role in trying to sell a global satellite spy system that would alter the world's balance of power; that was what got Joel imprisoned, and the CIA hopes that whoever kills him will clue them in to who may have access to the satellites. Joel is relocated to Bologna, and much of the narrative consists of his touring that city, its historic sights and its many restaurants, and learning Italian ways from his male handler, Luigi, and his language tutor, Francesca — a middle-aged woman with whom he falls in love. A major subplot concerns Joel's secret dealings with his stateside son to prepare for escape from Bologna if necessary. Eventually, the CIA leaks Joel's whereabouts to his enemies, who dispatch killing teams. Can Joel broker his way to safety? There's some depth to the troubled relationship between Joel and his tutor, but otherwise the novel reads like a contented afterthought to a memorable Italian vacation, with little action or tension, plastic characters and plot turns that a tricycle could maneuver. Still, anyone wishing to learn how and why Bologna built its famed porticos, why to be wary of most Italian desserts and how to send an encrypted wireless message using a global cell phone will find that information cheerfully given here." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"I had a very good time with The Broker, found Backman believable and charming and interesting, got a few laughs and felt my pulse thumping as the climax approached." Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post Book World
"It's certainly Mr. Grisham's prerogative to try new things, and to make his own personal escape from the thriller format. But The Broker switches gears so drastically that it seems to be two separate novels in a single binding." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"Most and best of all, it's Grisham living up to his reputation as a great storyteller. Readers looking for a non-stop thrill ride won't find it in The Broker. For those ready to relax and settle into an almost sensuous pace, The Broker is benissimo." USA Today
"Fans won't be disappointed with the subtle humor, fine plot, and rich character development. Well-constructed and perfectly paced, the book's only disappointment is that it doesn't last longer." Philadelphia Inquirer
"The Broker is smart, quick and fun. Time will slip by. And like so many of the earlier novels, it has 'major motion picture' written on every page." Rocky Mountain News
"What do you get when you combine a spy thriller with an Italian travel guide? After plodding through The Broker, I decided the answer must be 'John Grisham's tax-deductible vacation.'...As a thriller, it's a not very good travel guide." The Oregonian (Portland, OR)
"Grisham's weakest output in some time....What had the makings of a solid thriller...turns into one of Grisham's patented cat-and-mouse games, only this time with a lot more mouse than cat and a ton more tedium than thrills." Denver Post
"A tense situation and pacing, pacing, pacing will keep readers turning the pages of John Grisham's latest thriller....It's a good choice for killing time on a long flight, train ride or daily commute." Boston Herald
"A novel that is more travelogue than anything, with a smattering of spy mumbo-jumbo and sinister developments and a late-in-the-game chase. Grisham usually makes your pulse race but that will only happen if you drink cappuccino while you read." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"[F]ast-paced, entertaining and suspenseful....Traditional Grisham fans will be required to make a few mental adjustments, but still they will find another well-written and exciting thriller to help pass the time during the cold winter evenings to come." BookReporter.com
"[Grisham is] talented enough to keep The Broker intermittently interesting. But ultimately, The Broker is the printed equivalent of a breath mint. It might cause momentary tingling, but nothing more." Dallas-Ft. Worth Star Telegram
"Perhaps Grisham deserves a commendation for trying something different, but the spy-chase story has been told often and better by others who know more about it. It's time for Grisham to go back to the courthouse." San Antonio Express-News
"Lest Grisham fans worry, they should be assured that none of this emotional interplay lapses into sentimentality. The international killers are ferocious, even if depicted sketchily. And the author's command of pop fiction delivers crisp, sharp prose." Boston Globe
"It's tempting to dismiss Grisham's debut spy thriller as just undercooked fast-food fare. But Grisham is a fine writer, with a talent (like Conan Doyle) for creating memorable characters in even his weakest work." Los Angeles Times
"If you will be satisfied with a workmanlike spy-cum-politics novel, with some first-rate cloak and dagger intrigue, an uplifting vignette of father-son redemption and a poignant pastiche of unrequited love, then The Broker is the book for you." Alan M. Dershowitz, The New York Times Book Review
"Zippy but uneventful, the book tastes like something Robert Ludlum left sitting on his stove when he died....Grisham's novels are never boring, but this one is padded and unconvincing. (Grade: C" Entertainment Weekly
With 14 years left on a 20-year sentence, notorious Washington power broker Joel Backman receives a surprise pardon. But Backman has serious enemies from his past. As the CIA watches him closely, the question is not whether he will be killed, but rather who will kill him first.
About the Author
John Grisham is the author of The Last Juror, The King of Torts, Bleachers, The Summons, Skipping Christmas, The Runaway Jury, The Pelican Brief, The Firm, and A Time to Kill, among many others, all bestsellers.
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