No doubt about it, John Grisham is a cracking storyteller, and “The Broker” is a gripping read from start to finish.
This is one of the least “legal” of Mr. Grisham’s novels (at least amongst the ones I have read) and even though the broker in question is indeed a lawyer, he is more of a political lobbyist. Joel Backman is in fact one of the most powerful men in Washington, the ultimate high-flyer, a man who wheels and deals at the highest echelons of the Washington power structure.
Until he ends up in jail, that is, disbarred, bankrupt and in solitary confinement.
One of the last acts of possibly the most ineffective US President ever, is to pardon Joel Backman, at the apparent behest of the CIA, who immediately fly him out of the US and off to Bologna in Italy, under an assumed name and with a handler, Luigi, whose sole mission is, it would appear, to get Joel to learn Italian as quickly and effectively as possible.
There is a lot of Italian in this book, and a lot of wandering through the historic city of Bologna which, one can only imagine, Mr. Grisham loves a lot.
The contrast between Italy and the US is often highlighted, be it the food, the long lunches, the smoky cheek-by-jowl tables in cafés, and we spend many a happy hour in Joel’s company as he discovers a new city, a new country, a new language and a whole new way of life.
But danger is never far away, and Joel Backman is soon on the run – but from whom? His own country, in the guise of the the CIA and/or the FBI? Or someone else?
To answer those questions would obviously be a major plot-spoiler, so I won’t.
Suffice it to say, you are gunning for Joel Backman all through this exciting, fast-paced book, and as he ducks and dives and weaves to escape from something he doesn’t fully understand, you the reader are hooked.
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And, yes, one day I definitely intend to visit Bologna, inspired by Mr. Grisham…