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Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Broker by John Grisham

Fairly boring story, lots of good info on Italian culture, history and cuisine

Published by Random House Audio in 2005.
Read by Michael Beck.
11 hours, 4 minutes.

The last two thrillers that I have read by John Grisham have been anything but. A couple of years ago I listened to The King of Torts and came away with a great education in class action lawsuits but at the cost of a disappointing story. With The Broker, I came away with a great education in Italian culture, cuisine and great insights into the oft-overlooked city of Bologna, Italy - but it was a thriller with precious few thrills.

John Grisham
The Broker is centers around Joe Blackman, a Washington, D.C. lobbyist that plays fast and loose with all of the rules and revels in throwing his weight all over town. Blackman is approached by Pakastani computer hackers who have discovered and hijacked a set of super high tech spy satellites with a special computer program. They want Blackman to sell it to the highest bidder and soon enough the Israelis, the Saudis, the Chinese and the CIA are all interested. One of Blackman's associates winds up murdered and an FBI probe into Blackman's practices place him in prison.

A portico (covered walkway) in Bologna - I felt the need
to include a picture because Grisham
mentioned them so often.
Suddenly, he is part of a surprise last minute pardon deal by an outgoing president and he is whisked into a witness protection program administered by the CIA in Italy. Blackman is forced to learn a new language and a new culture. Most of the book deals with Blackman's lessons and endless trips to drink espresso in one coffee shop after another in Bologna, Italy. Seriously, at least 2/3 of the book is Italian lessons, lunch at one Italian restaurant after another or visits to Italian cultural sites. I am quite sure the inspiration to write this book was the desire to spend a great deal of time in Italy and still be able to write off every bill as a business expense on Grisham's income taxes.

If you are a fan of Italy, this may very well be your book. If you are a hardcore international spy thriller book fan, don't bother.

I rate this book 2 stars out of 5.

Reviewed on October 17, 2010.

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