Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Review of "The Whistler" by John Grisham


Lacy Stoltz and Hugo Hatch are lawyers with the 'The Florida Board on Judicial Conduct', which investigates claims that Florida judges are engaging in inappropriate or illegal behavior. This can range from being drunk on the job, to propositioning attorneys for sex, to taking bribes.....or worse.

Even so, Lacy and Hugo are skeptical when a disbarred lawyer, who calls himself Greg Myers, claims that Judge Claudia McDover is in cahoots with the Coast Mafia - a criminal organization that engineered the construction of a casino on Tappacola Indian land in the Florida panhandle.

According to the informant, Judge McDover helped the mafia grab land for the casino (and other developments) by shady use of eminent domain; and she covered up the murder of a casino opponent by engineering the conviction of an innocent man - who's now on death row. The tipster also asserts that the judge gets tons of cash skimmed from casino profits and accepts other perks - like expensive condominiums.

Lacy and Hugo look into the allegations, which seem to be true. The judge has been very careful though, and It won't be easy to prove she's guilty. So, to get a 'toe in', Myers makes a complaint citing McDover's ownership of illicit condominiums. This allows Lacy and Hugo to begin an official inquiry.

Though Myers signs the complaint, he's actually the 'spokesman' for a trio who want to take down Judge McDover. These three include a 'whistle-blower' close to the justice, an intermediary, and then Myers. (IMO this hierarchy of snitches unnecessarily complicates the plot.) These tattletales are in it for the money, since whistle-blowers share in 'illegal gains' retrieved by the government.

As part of their inquiries Lacy and Hugo start to sniff around the casino, which alarms the Tappacola Chief as well as the Coast Mafia - which is run by Vonn Dubose. As a result, Dubose arranges for his lieutenants to cause an accident that will intimidate The Florida Board on Judicial Conduct. This incident results in a death and a serious injury. Afterwards the Chief and his minions try to derail any investigation into the tragedy - which occurred on Indian land.

The men who orchestrate the accident make some bad mistakes. This gives the FBI a wedge to expose the entire criminal enterprise. This is my favorite part of the book, since I always enjoy seeing the bad guys get their comeuppance.

Some interesting characters in the story include:
Judge McDover - a bottomless pit of greed; she amasses a mind-boggling collection of riches and her extravagant lifestyle is beyond belief. (Literally. I don't believe a judge can have numerous properties in foreign countries, fly all over the world on private planes, and spend infinitely more than she makes without Homeland Security or the FBI - or someone - noticing.)
Gunther - Lacy's businessman brother, who alternates between being rich and being bankrupt. He's an assertive, annoying guy.....but always has Lacy's back.
Vonn Dubose - a ruthless schemer who amasses bars, liquor stores, restaurants, strip clubs, hotels, convenience stores, shopping centers, amusement parks, golf courses, etc. Dubose is a wizard at hiding the ill-gotten gains....and will kill anybody that gets in his way.
The story also includes several FBI agents, various thugs, a couple of colleagues of Lacy and Hugo, a reputable Indian cop, and more.

For me this book is just okay. The plot is interesting, but not that original. And large swatches of the story don't move the plot forward, or seem to lead nowhere. This feels like padding to me.

You might enjoy the book if you like legal thrillers.....but temper your expectations.

Rating: 3 stars

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