(26. – 913.) Camino Island by John Grisham – A gang of sophisticated thieves, think Ocean’s Eleven, break into the vaults in the basement of the Princeton University library and steal the five manuscripts of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels owned by the University. There is careful planning, perfectly timed diversions and almost perfect execution of the crime.
A drop of blood left behind by one of the thieves is swiftly analyzed by the FBI and the hunt is on. Grisham sets out how difficult it is for modern thieves to effectively “case out the joint” without detection. Surveillance cameras monitor most public buildings. Facial recognition software can penetrate disguises.
While priceless to the university the manuscripts are insured for a total of $25,000,000. Facing a huge payout the insurer mounts an extensive private investigation into the theft.
Suspicion falls upon Bruce Cable, a bookstore owner, living and working on Camino Island just north of Jacksonville, Florida. He is the dream of independent booksellers. He has built a successful store featuring 100 author events a year with a dependable clientele of readers and local authors who will reliably attend the events. For even the obscure and unknown writer he can muster 40-50 people.
Cable is further known as a trader of first editions. He has built a huge collection of first editions from the modestly valued to a copy of Catcher in the Rye worth at least $80,000.
Cable is charming and handsome and eager to please. In a loving open marriage Cable is known for the seduction of female authors who have come to events at the store. His wife has been known to entertain male authors. I am sure it is far fetched that book touring female or male authors would surrender themselves to bookstore owners. I thought of him as a modern Cary Grant, without socks, from To Catch a Thief.
I am not sure why the movie allusions are coming to me but expect it relates to my feeling that Camino Island is well written for the type of entertaining caper movie preferred by Hollywood when the plot is to feature a clever theft.
The role of Cable could have been written for George Clooney.
In an effort to penetrate Cable’s life the insurer recruits Mercer Mann, a modestly accomplished author of 31 who has had a modestly successful first novel and then a less successful collection of short stories and is three years overdue in finishing her current novel. Short term university teaching positions have sustained her but she is now unemployed and crushed by student debt.
Going back to To Catch a Thief I thought of Grace Kelly when I see Mercer in my mind.
Her arrival on Camino Beach, where her late grandmother Tess had resided, allows Grisham to explore the apparently bitchy world of authors. Their comments about each other are far different from the remarks I read by authors on authors in book blogs. While the remarks of Camino Island authors are entertaining I hope the blogger comments are more indicative of relations between authors.
I thought Camino Island was a nice easy read. I was reminded of the breezy easily read mysteries featuring Archie McNally a generation ago. While I cannot remember the individual plots accomplished mystery author, Lawrence Sanders, created a very likeable sleuth in McNally. Easy going and witty Archie solved mysteries down the Florida coast from Jacksonville at West Palm Beach. (His parents were wealthy.)
Were it one of Grisham’s legal mysteries I would have been disappointed by Camino Island. I would have expected more from characters and plot. His legal mysteries explore contemporary legal issues. Camino Island does not strain itself with “issues”. It focuses on the theft and the pursuit of the purloined manuscripts.
I think Camino Island, set on an island with a wonderful beach, is perfect for a real life beach. It is likely to captivate you but will not tax a reader’s mind.
I did look at the front of my copy of the book. It is a first edition. I shall not hold my breath concerning the likelihood of it becoming a valuable first edition.
I hope the next Grisham book returns to lawyers.
Grisham, John – (2000) - The Brethren; (2001) - A Painted House; (2002) - The Summons; (2003) - The King of Torts; (2004) - The Last Juror; (2005) - The Runaway Jury; (2005) - The Broker; (2008) - The Appeal; (2009) - The Associate; (2011) - The Confession; (2011) - The Litigators; (2012) - "G" is for John Grisham - Part I and Part II; (2013) - The Racketeer; (2013) - Grisham's Lawyers; (2013) - Analyzing Grisham's Lawyers; (2013) - Sycamore Row; (2014) - Gray Mountain and Gray Mountain and Real Life Legal Aid; (2015) - Rogue Lawyer and Sebastian Rudd; (2016) - The Whistler;