In his final hours in the Oval Office the outgoing President grants a full pardon to Joel Backman, a notorious Washington power broker who has spent the last six years hidden away in a federal prison. It’s a controversial move, but what no one else knows is that the presidential pardon comes as a result of enormous pressure from the CIA. They claim that Backman may have obtained secrets that would compromise the world’s most sophisticated satellite surveillance system. Backman is quietly smuggled out of the country in a military cargo plane; he is given a new name, a new identity, and a new home in Italy. Eventually, once he has settled into his new life, the CIA will leak his whereabouts to the Israelis, the Russians, the Chinese and the Saudis. Then the CIA will do what it does best- sit back and watch. The question is not whether Backman will survive there’s no chance of that. The question the CIA needs answered is- who will kill him?
The trees cut down for this book would have been more useful for toilet paper purposes, but nevertheless, not wanting to begrudge the book its value as in-flight low-grade soporific entertainment, one can best suggest to leave it on an airport bench somewhere, with a forewarning inside for its next unsuspecting reader.
In this hefty 422-page wanna-be spy-novel-travel guide, -421 pages too long-, Mr. Grisham confirms that he is fortunate, indeed, to make so much money with so little talent. This book is generously peppered with little gems, such as,
‘”I love Stuttgart,” Marco said, just to watch it unwrinkle.’
“He met Joel at the powerful oak door and they shook hands properly, but not like old friends.”
“In other days, he’d have followed Elke anywhere, but now it was only downstairs.”
Mr. Grisham, who is no Paul Theroux, daringly forays into travel writing with his tedious descriptions of Bologna, Italy, and increases the word count by tediously writing delightful, rambling, mundane phrases, first in Italian, followed by the translation in English.
“He had a brain, cervello. He touched a hand, mano; an arm, braccio; a leg, gamba.”
As the author mentioned in the afterword, his desire to learn Italian was what drove him to place the action for this book in Italy. We can definitely tell what words he learned.
Unfortunately, for me, this book was a bore, more like a travel guide to Bologna than anything else. John Grisham was a lawyer. He doesn’t know about technology or espionage, still, he chooses to write on that and ends up writing a travelogue.