THE WHISTLER by John Grisham
If the Devil is in the details then he certainly had a hand in the creation of John Grisham’s latest novel THE WHISTLER. Just about everything you get in this well planned out story is detail. You will learn more about modern Indian tribes, Indian held casinos, judicial investigations. money laundering, etc than you ever wanted to know. Grisham gets all of the details right, and he has a good plot; the only things missing are some good characters.
The basic plot involves allegations against a sitting judge in Florida for taking bribes and receiving monies skimmed from the bank accounts of an Indian tribe in Florida that runs a gambling casino. There is also the involvement of what is called the Coastal Mafia, a businessman and his cronies who have become self-imposed “rulers” of a certain area of land. This land abuts the Indian land and through wheeling and dealing one hand serves the other.
What hurts with THE WHISTLER is knowing Grisham knows how to create great characters. He has done it in the past and I hope will do so in the future. However in THE WHISTLER the characters are all tissue thin. The main character in the story is Lacy Stoltz, an investigator for the Board of Judicial Conduct. In the introductory paragraphs about her she appears to be someone you could enjoy knowing. However at the end of the book you know her only minimally more than you did when she was introduced.
The same is true of her partner Hugo, and of her boss Michael. It is especially true of Greg Myers who is the informant who first brings Lacy into the case against Judge Claudia McDover. The reader almost begs for details about all of their lives but all the reader gets is more details about the schemes and ploys these people use.
There is suspense in the book as several murders and near murders do take place. But how are you supposed to get emotionally involved with people you barely know! In the past Grisham has not only given us fully detailed characters but also words that are laden with humor and/or drama. That Grisham touch is missing from this book.
When a writer has created books as spell-binding as A TIME TO KILL, THE FIRM and THE CLIENT, you enter into each of his new efforts with high expectations. He has set the bar quite high and this new book doesn’t even come close to matching or topping it. Those who expect the same level of quality here as in most of his past books will be disappointed.
THE WHISTLER is published by Doubleday. It contains 4384 pages and sells for $28.95.
Jackie K Cooper