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The Brethren [Mass Market Paperback]  The Brethren [Mass Market Paperback]
by John Grisham
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
ASIN: 0440236673

Condition: Good
Comments: Good. Creased binding. December 2000.

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Customer Rating
A flawed conclusion
An interesting concept but a weak conclusion forces me to give no more than a three-star review for John Grisham's 'The Brethren'. The story is simple - three disgraced judges prey on closet homosexuals, demanding money for their silence. One of their intended victims is just about to hit the political world big time. Meanwhile, in the background, the Director of the CIA is monitoring (and changing) events to suit himself.

While the story rolls along at a good rate, and while we're treated again to Grisham's short, declarative sentences, the outcome is one that left me wondering why I'd read the book. In any novel that is predicated on plot, the plot must be watertight and must follow through logically. This one does not. There are loopholes that an author as good as Grisham should have foreseen and plugged. How, for example, does a half-drunk lawyer who is being watched day and night by the CIA, just walk out of his house without being seen? Why would the CIA permit the scam to continue, threatening their preferred candidate, when they could have closed it down in moments? And why, at the end, were the bad guys just allowed to walk free?

I enjoy Grisham, but 'The Brethren' left me feeling empty.

Customer Rating
Entertaining and a Quick Read
I liked this book. Grisham has done again what he does consistently well. Unfold an interesting tale of criminality or nefarious doings that moves at a quick pace and never gets boring. Yes, it is not his best book, as many others point out, but still ranks as a good effort from one of the most popular authors in America today.

This story hinges on a wonderfully simple criminal extortion scheme hatched by three judges doing time in a federal penitentiary. Their scheme (I don't want to give it away) plays upon people exercising a fantasy in a way they think is discrete, only to find themselves subject to paying to keep their identity and fetish secret from their families, friends and community. The difficult task for the schemers is doing this from inside the pen, but they overcome that problem with the help of a few well placed twenties and a corrupt local attorney.

This story manages to intertwine the swindle with presidential politics, CIA intrigues and a counter-plan to silence the Brethern (as the judges refer to themselves) before they interfere with a chillingly brazen plan to capture the White House.

I didn't think Grisham spent as much time developing most of his characters as he has in past books -- many make convenient appearances in order to advance the plot and then disappear again. But the pacing is quick, the story intriguing and clever, and all in all a fun read.

Customer Rating
Long Road to Nowhere
I won't go into detail about the plot of the book. With nearly 1000 reviews at this time, there are far more summaries you can read.

This is only the second book from Grisham that I have read (after the Firm). I'm a fan of caper/crime stories, and the idea of a con game being run from prison appealled to me.

Grisham's style is easy and quick. His characters are drawn broadly, but with the exception of the non-entity of Aaron Lake (and maybe that was Grisham's point), they are entertaining.

I had one major complaint against the book: The total lack of suspense. As others have noted, this story, which appears to be a thriller, has very few thrills in it. Once the major coflict is set up, the three judges versus the CIA, nothing is really resolved. And while a shadow of a threat hangs over the last quarter of the book, Grisham robs the reader of a sense of closure by not having any dramatic climax to speak of. Yes, as written the story has a logical resolution, but none of the characters ever really know what's going on, and the only character that comes close never acts on the information, he simply gives up. Things are hinted at, but never fully shown.

One other small gripe is that there is no clear protagonist, no one for whom the reader can relate to or root for. Not the judges, who are not portrayed sympathetically at all, or the puppet-like Presidential candidate, or even the crooked attorney being stalked by the CIA.

From what I understand, this, along with 'Testament' was one of Grisham's last novels before he started breaking out of the legal thriller genre with 'A Painted House.' Maybe he was losing interest in the genre and wanted to stretch himself, or maybe he was just losing steam, but it's obvious he was going in a different direction than when his career started, and this book shows it.

 
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