The Broker : Review
This time, I shall review on my own : John Grisham’s latest : The Broker
I just finished The Broker, and its fresh in my mind. And there’s a surprise in it, for all those people who have come associate Grisham’s name with gripping courtroom drama, and stories of brilliant lawyers, foolish lawyers, law firms and their larger-than-life successes and failures….
The Broker is not about the law. Its a spy novel about a pseudo-lawyer named Joel Backman, with a political and international relations backdrop . I am sorry for the poor categorization but thats exactly where the novel sits.
Its about a hard-core lobbying power broker (Joel Backman the lawyer) who is forced to seek sanctuary in prison due to a botched deal over control intelligence equipment , but gets pardoned at the last minute and is hidden away by his country’s intelligence agency to ‘protect’ him (as he is told). There are vested interests involved of course, and the unsuspecting but brilliant Mr. Backman figures out he is in danger.
Frankly, the book painfully creeps along in Mr.Backman’s “hiding” phase, because as Grisham admits in the authour’s note, he knows very little about spies and spy technology. His attempts to write about them are very amateurish. He does describe the hiding place : Bologna, in Italy, very well and it reads more like a tourist guidebook in some places than a novel.
The book ends with a thrilling maneuver by Mr.Backman that gets most of the snipers and spies off his back , but in between, it goes through endless fussing over his problems with learning the language of his hiding place (Italian). And more repeated discussions of the CIA and the FBI and a few more intelligence agencies from other countries thrown in: the Israeli Mossad and the Chinese MSS.
The only two characters of interest in the book are Joel Backman himself and Teddy Maynard – Director of the CIA…and only Joel Backman gets any kind of justice as far as character development is concerned.
All in all, the verdict is clear. Grisham should write law…or do a LOT of research before he attempts to write a novel like The Broker. It fails to excite the espionage fans, and simply disappoints the legal drama fans.
Read the book if you have nothing to do, or be patient with the story until the point Mr. Backman decides he must run.