Reviewed by: Monidipa Fouzder
Author: John Grisham
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
A federal judge and his secretary have been found murdered at his lakeside cabin. No forced entry, no struggle, just two dead bodies and an empty safe. Malcolm Bannister is a lawyer halfway through serving a 10-year prison sentence after innocently being caught up in a money laundering operation. Bannister knows who the killer is. And he’ll give a desperate FBI the name – but at a price.
Grisham, a lawyer who specialised in criminal defence and personal injury litigation, has been described as ‘the master of the legal thriller’ and, after 25 novels, it’s hard to argue with that. The Racketeer is gripping from the start, drawing you into a more complicated and intriguing story than you realise. More importantly, though, the novel throws up two important life lessons for solicitors.
First, if you haven’t already done so, brush up on your knowledge of the money laundering regulations. The ‘but I’m innocent’ defence will get you nowhere when you’re found guilty of committing, let’s say, one of the principal offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
Second, if you find yourself in jail after putting that Law Society anti-money laundering practice note at the bottom of your ‘things to read’ pile, then make the most of your unwanted free time: set up as a sole jailhouse practitioner and offer your legal services pro bono. Not only will your knowledge of the law remain fresh, but you never know what information you might come across that will provide you with a ‘get out of jail free’ card – a miracle you’ll be hoping for while you sit in your cramped cell wondering whether Chris Grayling will still be justice secretary by the time you’re released.
Could The Racketeer be Grisham’s ninth book to be turned into a Hollywood blockbuster? My money’s on Denzel Washington for the lead.
Monidipa Fouzder is a sub-editor at the Law Society Gazette