on February 26, 2005
In the Author's Notes at the end of the book, Grisham states "If something in this novel approaches accuracy, it's probably a mistake". Purchasing this book in hardcover was my mistake.
He admits that his background is not in tecnology or espionage, and that he did not do any research when writing this book. This laissez faire attitude toward his craft greatly shortchanges his readers. Other writers (Jeffery Deaver and Greg Iles come to mind) spend a great deal of energy researching their subject matter and it comes through in their work. What Grisham has done here is an amteurish hack job.
I have been a fan of Grisham for years, but this book was simplistic and boring. Part of what has made Grisham a bestselling author is his ability to create sympathetic characters (be they scoundrels are outright criminals). In The Broker he has failed to create a chracter who is even interesting. By the end of the book I suspect most readers will not even care what happens to the Broker.
If you are looking for a good spy novel try Robert Ludlum.
While reading this book, you will learn a little bit of Italian and get to visit Northern Italy at the same time! Yeah! I've read a few Grisham books and so far I've enjoyed most of his distinctive legal suspense. This is an excellent book for 99% of the way -- and then, it ends brutally with many side plots left hanging and too many loose ends to count. What happened?! I was sitting on the edge of my seat until the end and then bang, nothing. Oh what a disappointing ending. Is there a sequel? Here I was, telling myself how fun it was to read a Grisham book and enjoying how he was cleverly setting up the story, putting in place the various assassins...here I was, worrying for the life of Joel Backman (aka, Marco Lazzeri) and his family/friends, crossing my fingers that they would manage to pull it off and then, it seems like the author gave up and just ended the book with a quick, "that's it folks." We don't know what happens to anybody. Perhaps my paperback was missing pages?! I was going to give it 5/5 stars but now, the best I can do is 3 stars -- i,e.., good, especially if you like reading travelogues featuring Italy!
on January 26, 2014
The Broker is an exciting, action packed fiction and page-turner of the top class. I found it as enjoyable as most of his previous titles. I enjoyed this book as a good thriller which left me on the edge of my seat. The characters are masterfully depicted, and so too is the plot. John Grisham's portrayal of international conniving, espionage, conspiracies, betrayal, corruption in government, mystery, suspense, murder and sex are the ingredients that put this book amongst his best. With the fastness of the pace, any reader will certainly finish the book before he/she realizes it. As someone who lived in Europe and Italy in particular, John Grisham's Italian setting was perfect. I also loved the way he wrote about food in the book.
The fact that international espionage is not his field, I give credit to Grisham for making this story remarkably believable. Even though it wasn't entirely credible, it had a lot of credibility. I recommend this book to any thriller fan. The style employed here is similar to that in Triple Agent Double Cross, with their colorful characters, unique settings and gripping plot.
In the Author's Note for this book, John Grisham observes that his background is law . . . and not satellites or espionage. In addition, he admits to being a technophobe when it comes to electronic gadgets. Be aware of this information before deciding if you want to read this book or not.
The Broker is a book about high tech satellites, espionage and involves advanced use of all kinds of electronic gadgets. Those are clearly the weakest parts of the story . . . for the reasons stated above.
You can also read the book as a variation on the old television series, The Prisoner. The book works better that way. A lame, lame-duck president is encouraged by a Machiavellian CIA director to pardon Joel Backman, a traitorous deal maker. The CIA wants to see who kills Backman as a way to solve some old mysteries.
From that premise, the story mostly moves to Backman's perspective as he is unexpectedly removed from a very unpleasant solitary confinement into being shepherded around Italy in a process of assuming a new identity . . . as an Italian. You will struggle with Backman as he learns Italian (and pick up a lot of phrases and words yourself) and follow him through the tourist sites and back streets of Bologna. You will probably also get some ideas for Italian foods you'd like to try. This part is the most appealing aspect of the book.
From there, Grisham puts a target on Backman's back and the thriller part of the story begins. I found that aspect of the book to be well below average. Grisham would be well advised to follow the advice of those who tell writers to stick to what they know.
As compared to most page turners, The Broker is perfectly acceptable. If you are looking, however, for a book that captures the early Grisham style and appealing story lines, this isn't it.
on July 11, 2007
Our book club recently read three books by Southern authors. Southern U.S. authors, that is. The first was a light read titled SECRET LIFE OF BEES and it was easy and fun. The second was BARK OF THE DOGWOOD and it was a page-turner, but quite disturbing--funny, too. Last, but not least, was THE BROKER. At first, I was a little skeptical about the book when it began with the pardon; however, the further I read into it, the more I couldn't put it down! THE BROKER begins with President Arthur Morgan granting a last minute, controversial pardon to convicted felon Joel Backman. Joel was a former lawyer who went to federal prison after his law firm collapsed after a conspiracy with a spy satellite. Joel gets moved to an obscure place in Italy to hide from an assassin and to protect himself from getting killed. In Italy, Joel gets helped by Marco Lazerri, who is a native Italian and almost like a tour guide. With the plot taking place in another country than the US, John has created a unique novel in The Broker. As the book progresses, Joel meets a lot of new people and gets to know the country of Italy like the back of his hand. He begins to show people around in the city and drops his fear of getting killed. I will not go any deeper into the book so that I can save the suspense for you to enjoy.If you enjoyed Grisham's THE FIRM, then you'll warm to this book also. Would also recommend the book MIDDLESEX and LIFE OF PI for something COMPLETELY different.
on June 16, 2007
Being an avid John Grisham fan, I picked up the very first copy of The Broker that I could get. Power, politics and espionage are key to the central theme of the storyline and John Grisham has interwoven them beautifully. He takes the reader to various locations and the way in which he describes them, you can tell that John Grisham himself had gone to those places and did not pick up random information from any travel book. The build-up of the story is fascinating and the character of Joel Backman, is very well thought-off and finely executed. In the end though, the book fails to deliver on what it had initially promised. After going through the last page, I was left with a sense of "unfinished business"... John Grisham leaves the story open for the reader's imagination to go on a tour... but, it seems that the ending was finished off in a hurry and rather than imagining, you are just left pondering over how the book ended so soon, on such a note. As the title of the review says, could have been so much better... but still a good read.
on November 19, 2006
The Broker by John Grisham - if the cover is to be believed - was once a New York times bestseller which boggles me completely since this was such a bad novel. But taking a step back I see how it is easy to mistake this book for an intense thriller. One: the piece in question is written by John Grisham a widely acclaimed writer. Two: the plot summary makes the book sound like the perfect spy thriller.
The main character Joel Backman has just been granted a last minute pardon from the president and the CIA whisks him off to Italy. Why? Because before he was arrested Backman was the most powerful lobbyist in Washington and during his career he compromised the world's most advanced satellite system. This led to his subsequent arrest; his jail time working as both punishment and protection. Protection from some angry people not only in the US but also in other countries. Now the CIA intends to keep Backman in Italy, leak his whereabouts to several foreign governments, and see who gets him, hopefully answering some of their own questions about the satellites.
Sound ominus and exciting? That's exactly what I thought when I first bought it. But boy was I wrong. The plotline has as much bang as a wet firecracker. It is also frequently illogical and un-realistic. Grisham, known for his lawyer stories, warns readers that espionage novels are not his speciality. The only problem is he tells us this in the afterword. If only he warned me in the introduction!!!
Two moderately good things come out of this mess. One is the main character. Even though he glosses over physical appearance, he makes Backman a very charismatic character. Witty and intelligent I began to like him despite his slimy background as a lobbyist. I also give Grisham props for his research of Bologna, Italy the main setting for the story. History, landmarks, streetnames, he knew it all. Besides Backman and Bologna though Grisham fails miserably to bring anything else to life.
My Verdict: Don't under any circumstances buy this book unless your a hardcore collector of Grisham books. Or maybe you want a narrative guide of Bologna, Italy.
on April 24, 2006
The author is a lawyer by profession. So do not expect a mistake in that field. But this book does not have to do with a lot of legal arguments. We are in the field of lobbying and power. Who has real power in our modern democracies ? The President ? The CIA and FBI ? Congress ? The People ? Or the rich who can pay for and use organized professional pressure groups know as lobbies ? No direct answer in the book, though a lot of implied answering matter. But we deal with the study of what happens when such a lobbying firm gets in possession of military secrets that give them a tremendous and totally secret power and that make them a competitor to secret services and spying agencies around the world. There the answer is once again not clear at all and Grisham definitely projects the dominant opinions and fears of the Western world, or maybe only of the Western hemisphere or even maybe only of the Northern third of the Western hemisphere, onto his subject : the Israeli Mossad is definitely a band of professional killers but they are ''self''-defending the state of Israel and this seems enough to justify these killings for Grisham. The Russians are poor and uninterested in anything and willing to live alone in their corner with their antiquated living style. This view is obviously anterior to the announced decision that Russia will oppose, or not support, sanctions against Iran. They do have the power to veto all United Nations decisions, do they not ? The Americans are, in spite of all the war episodes between and among security agencies and spying chapels, the depositary of all possible peace and safety for the entire world. Europe is nothing but the playground of everyone else. And finally Red China is both ahead of everyone and yet far behind the first three pakistani hackers that come along out of high school. Red China is dangerous, totally inhuman and dictatorial, which means dangerous for the world they only aim at conquering and controlling. Pure post-cold-war phantasms. And yet the book is interesting at another level : the discovery of Italy and the long lesson of Italian. If you can't speak some decent Italian after reading this book, it is because you are linguistically hopeless. That makes the book entertaining though it is rather shallow and superficial. As Grisham himself says : « If something in this novel approaches accuracy, it's probably a mistake. » We will note that the sentence is absolutely meaningless, but it is true down to its very last letter and comma. We must suspend our disbelief a lot and just enjoy the adventure, even if it sounds very iffy at times.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, Université Paris Dauphine, Université Paris I Panthéon Sorbonne
on February 8, 2006
When Washington power broker Joel Backman gets a presidential pardon after serving six years of his twenty-year sentence in federal prison for compromising national security, he is given a new identity and sent to Italy. He undergoes an intensive language and culture training program to integrate him into Italian life and hide him from danger... at least that's what he's told. What he doesn't know is that he has been set up by the CIA as a target for assassination in order to determine which foreign agency he tried to sell secrets to.
Joel Backman might be a former lawyer, but this is no legal thriller. There are no courtroom scenes, crime investigations, or legal maneuvers. It borders more on an espionage thriller, although the cloak-and-dagger action is minimal. The book consists mostly of Backman's struggles to keep a low profile in a foreign country and outfox his nameless pursuers. There is some amusing humor at the start of the book as the completely inept president, in his last hours in office, is bullied by the CIA into pardoning Backman. But that rapidly falls by the wayside as Backman goes into hiding. I found that the best part of the book was its delightful travel narrative, with Backman playing tourist and absorbing the local color of Treviso, Bologna, and other Italian cities. I imagined myself sitting with Backman in the cafes, drinking espresso and dining on fantastic local cuisine, learning Italian, and wandering the arched portico-covered sidewalks while absorbing the scenic panoramas of Bologna.
Although the first half of the book was fairly suspenseful, the ending was very disappointing. It seems that Grisham grew weary of Backman's predicament and decided to tie up the loose ends far too tidily. He brought the story abruptly to an unrealistic and naive conclusion. This is not one of Grisham's best efforts, but if you enjoy travelogues and want to practice your Italian 101, you might consider that the book's redeeming quality. You might also check out Giorgio Kostantinos--The Quest, another great thriller.
on December 24, 2005
I'm shocked at all the raving reviews! Leaves me to wonder whether readers have no discernment between one story and the next. I've read all of Grisham's books and enjoyed some more than others, but this one is really lazy and sloppy. On several occasions while reading the book, I stopped to think, sheesh, Grisham is using this book to write about Italy's buildings and restaurants. Come on! When you're pulled OUT of the story like that, it's not a good thing.
My second huge complaint is the characterization. Backman is a slimy, greedy lawyer, but six years in jail reforms him. Apparently it doesn't reform him to the point where he'll actually apologize to his son Neal. I was hoping right to the end of the book, but sadly, Backman's greatest concern, is to leave the country and look up his Italian woman. Pretty sad. Especially since despite having given his son nothing all these years, Neal still found it in himself to help him. Not a good thing when you don't like your main character.
It seemed to me Grisham decided he wanted to write a book about Italy and the story was secondary in his considerations.
I don't care about spending $12 on this book, but I need to go find me a GOOD book to get this one out of my system.