The Brethren, by John Grisham

The eponymous Brethren are a three ex-judges who find themselves in prison together and, with the help of a crooked lawyer on the outside, cook up a blackmail scam which starts to bring in money. However, one of their victims turns out to be a presidential candidate who's being sponsored by some high-ups in the CIA.

To start with I wasn't sure I was going to like this, because I don't think the writing is very good, and the characters and conspiracy stuff felt a bit cliched. But the plot was strong enough to carry it off, and it was a very enjoyable read.

Steve said it reminded him of Elmore Leonard, but although I can see ways in which Leonard might use a similar scenario (the prison scam), the style felt different, with a plot that seemed to be fairly carefully structured, and relatively little dialogue. And he broke rule 3 of Elmore Leonard's Rules of Writing - on one page open now I can see two "saids", a "barked", a "yelled" and an "admonished".

The "Angola scam" described seemed very familiar and I thought I'd come across it before, perhaps in a Leonard novel, and when I checked on the net it turns out there is a book called "Mississippi Mud: Southern Justice and the Dixie Mafia", which is a true story and includes details of a blackmail scheme which according to some is where Grisham got the idea from. I can't find any reference to it having been used in a Leonard book though...

Completed : 11-May-2004

BookCrossing id : 879-1634883

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