The Brethren Hardcover – Feb 1 2000
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John Grisham's novels have all been so systematically successful that it is easy to forget he is just one man toiling away silently with a pen, experimenting and improving with each book. While not as gifted a prose stylist as Scott Turow, Grisham is among the best plotters in the thriller business, and he infuses his books with a moral valence and creative vision that set them apart from their peers.
The Brethren is in many respects his most daring book yet. The novel grows from two separate subplots. In the first, three imprisoned ex-judges (the "brethren" in the title), frustrated by their loss of power and influence, concoct an elaborate blackmail scheme that preys on wealthy, closeted gay men. The second story traces the rise of presidential candidate Aaron Lake, a puppet essentially created by CIA director Teddy Maynard to fulfill Maynard's plans for restoring the power of his beleaguered agency.
Grisham's tight control of the two meandering threads leaves the reader guessing through most of the opening chapters how and when these two worlds will collide. Also impressive is Grisham's careful portraiture. Justice Hatlee Beech in particular is a fascinating, tragic anti-hero: a millionaire judge with an appointment for life who was rendered divorced, bankrupt, and friendless after his conviction for a drunk-driving homicide.
The book's cynical view of presidential politics and criminal justice casts a somewhat gloomy shadow over the tale. CIA director Teddy Maynard is an all-powerful demon with absolute knowledge and control of the public will and public funds. Even his candidate, Congressman Lake, is a pawn in Maynard's egomaniacal game of ad campaigns, illicit contributions, and international intrigue. In the end, The Brethren marks a transition in Grisham's career toward a more thoughtful narrative style with less interest in the big-payoff blockbuster ending. But that's not to say that the last 50 pages won't keep your reading light turned on late. --Patrick O'Kelley
From Publishers Weekly
Only a few megaselling authors of popular fiction deviate dramatically from formula--most notably Stephen King but recently Grisham, too. He's serializing a literary novel, A Painted House, in the Oxford American; his last thriller (The Testament) emphasized spirituality as intensely as suspense; and his deeply absorbing new novel dispenses with a staple not only of his own work but of most commercial fiction: the hero. The novel does feature three antiheroes of a sort, the brethren of the title, judges serving time in a federal prison in Florida for white-collar offenses. They're a hard bunch to root for, though, as their main activity behind bars is running a blackmail scheme in which they bait, hook and squeeze wealthy, closeted gay men through a magazine ad supposedly placed by "Ricky," a young incarcerated gay looking for companionship. Then there's the two-bit alcoholic attorney who's abetting them by running their mail and depositing their dirty profits in an overseas bank. Scarcely more appealing is the big fish the trio snare, Congressman Anthony Lake, who meanwhile is busy selling his lifelong integrity when the director of the CIA offers to lever him into the White House in exchange for a doubling of federal defense spending upon Lake's inauguration. The expertly orchestrated and very complex plot follows these evildoers through their illicit enterprises, devoting considerable attention to the CIA's staging of Lake's presidential campaign and even more to that agency's potentially lethal pursuit of the brethren once it learns that the three are threatening to out candidate Lake. Every personage in this novel lies, cheats, steals and/or kills, and while Grisham's fans may miss the stalwart lawyer-heroes and David vs. Goliath slant of his earlier work, all will be captivated by this clever thriller that presents as crisp a cast as he's yet devised, and as grippingly sardonic yet bitingly moral a scenario as he's ever imagined. Agent, David Gernert. 2.8 million first printing. (Feb. 1)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
Unfortunately for Grisham, he decided to make a novel to follow that brilliance. The novel falls far short of the promise of that beginning.
I won't tell you about the beginning because that would spoil your pleasure, but do consider stopping there.
These are the plot premises in the book:
1. Two judges and a justice of the peace are incarcerated in a minimum security Federal prison. What would life be like for these former "law upholders?"
2. Felons need money when they get out. How can they earn some while in prison?
3. Felons and wardens need non-violent ways to resolve disputes in prison. How might this be done?
4. How can a presidential election be manipulated to determine the country's foreign policy?
5. How could a bunch of crooks threaten a presidential candidacy?
A lot of the answers depend on the presumption that the world is full of stupid older men with lots of money who want to have hot, young boy friends.
This book will appeal most to those who enjoy conspiracy theories about government action and inaction.
As a crime story, I've read a lot better.
But do enjoy that opening scene.
The Brethren starts out strong with the idea of three former judges blackmailing men from inside a federal prison and getting away with it, until they target the wrong man. This is a great idea, full of promise and somehow Grisham looses all of that promise in the end.
One of the things that I still do not understand about this book is when of the people being blackmailed actually finds his way to Fla., and finds the lawyer who is the outside man in this scheme. We hear about him finding the lawyer, and then what, he just drops off the face of the Earth? Also the ending is very weak, and so predictable that it almost not worth the effort to finish the book.
I started out thinking that I was going to like this book and recommend it highly, but I am sorry to say that this was one of Grisham's biggest let downs, and I would have to say, do not waste your time.
"contributions" and not question his backers and their motives? Also, the incentive for blackmail was accusing men of being gay. This may have been more of a critical career killer 10 years ago, but today we have openly gay politicians(Barney Frank, etc.), so the motive sort of loses it's impact. Why did the CIA waste all that time and effort just to end up killing the attorney who was dealing with the "brethren"? I just could not buy off on the plot and thus, my interest waned.
And the ending went really nowhere. For instance, why didn't the CIA director just have the three blackmailing judges killed, rather than sending them away? What was the point behind Buster breaking out of prison? This subplot never went anywhere. I hope his next novel is given a little more thought, or perhaps, Grisham is out of fresh ideas? I know I'll be wary of his next, if or when it comes.
Most recent customer reviews
I thoroughly enjoyed this book as it was very intriguing and full of suspense.Published 18 months ago by joeyrou
Political scandals, judicial controversies and an extortion plan that will make three disgraced former judges very rich and powerful men make up this fast-paced thriller. Read morePublished on June 16 2006 by Cheryl Tardif
I got stuck on a couple of Grisham's books and was unable to finish them (the rainmaker and one other i can't remember the name of), but this one was good. Read morePublished on June 12 2004 by J. Whittle
Suprisingly entertaining book. Book talks about terroism and presidential primaries, reflective of today's 2004. Multiple plots come together throughout the book. Good read!Published on April 6 2004 by spirit339a
After reading the reviews here, as I always do before I pick up a book, I was worried. The Brethren did not get many good reviews. Read morePublished on April 3 2004 by Theresa W
Grisham has to be one of the most cynical authors writing legal fiction today. Everyone is corrupt, thinking only of himself, and money rules. Read morePublished on March 25 2004 by Eric C. Welch
This was a fun John Grisham novel. Sure, the characters are sleazy, people are killed, etc, but behind the whole thing the author was clearly enjoying himself. Read morePublished on March 19 2004 by Robert Wellen
While there's not much suspense here, it isn't the worst thing I've ever read. The story isn't very hard to figure out and before you are a quarter of the way through it, most of... Read morePublished on March 8 2004 by Tom