Eight Must-Read Grisham Novels

Eight Must-Read Grisham Novels

John Grisham is one of my favorite authors. His books hold my attention from beginning to end. He has several novels which have courtroom drama, but almost all contain suspense. Get your no spoiler recommendations and buy the book here.

#8 Must-Read Grisham Novel – The Racketeer

If you are looking for courtroom thrills and suspense, then John Grisham is the right choice. And, The Racketeer is a good first Grisham novel. It is riddled with plot twists and will leave you longing for another John Grisham book, the very best of which are listed here.

The Racketeer is guilty of only one thing: keeping us engaged until the very last page.”—USA Today

Eleven thousand and eighty-one (11,081) verified Amazon buyers gave The Racketeer 4.2 out of 5 stars, 70 percent gave it either four or five stars.
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#7 – The Chamber

This novel was one of the very few John Grisham did not outline before he began writing. However, it does have courtroom drama and suspense like many of his other books. The opening of this book is strong, which brings the reader into the story quickly so that they want to continue to find out what happens. Set once again in Clanton, like several of his other novels, The Chamber is a must read for Grisham enthusiasts.

Two thousand, four hundred, and eight verified Amazon buyers gave The Chamber 4.2 out of 5 stars, 74 percent gave it either four or five stars.
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#6 – The Rooster Bar

In 2017, The Rooster Bar hit the shelves. This novel seems to examine many areas of social injustice that would interest millennials, like for-profit colleges, lying or exaggerating college recruiters, fake law firms, immigration, and the student loan hustle. It is about four friends who are graduating from law school; they are loaded down with student debt, each with around $150,000 and no job prospects, or more appropriately, no good job prospects. Soon, they hit the streets hustling jobs without having passed the bar or having a license to practice law. They hang a fake shingle and take DUIs and simple traffic ticket cases…until they get caught. But they have a way out of that too. Read it now.

Five thousand and twelve verified Amazon buyers gave The Rooster Bar 3.7 out of 5 stars, 59 percent gave it either four or five stars.
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#5 – The Reckoning

Published October 23, 2018, The Reckoning takes us back to Clanton, Mississippi (the author’s favorite fictitious southern town). The story’s plot centers around the ‘46 murder and trial of the town’s prominent patriarch Pete Banning, who is a war hero recently returned from the Philippines and World War II. Grisham’s fictional Ford County has been the site of six Grisham novels, A Time to Kill (his first novel), The Summons, The Chamber, The Last Juror, and Sycamore Row. If you like historical fictions, this will be more to your liking than Grisham’s usual courtroom dramas.

Four thousand and eighty verified Amazon buyers gave The Reckoning 3.7 out of 5 stars, 57 percent gave it either four or five stars.
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#4 – The King of Torts

Published in 2003, The King of Torts deals with too much greed and too much excess in the life of an attorney. Once a person gets an excess of something, they will become greedy with the pursuit of more. Greedy lawyers, needy clients…a classic combination.

Eight hundred and thirty-four verified Amazon buyers gave The King of Torts 4.0 out of 5 stars, 58 percent gave it either four or five stars.
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#3 – The Pelican Brief

1993. In this book, two supreme court justices got murdered. The circumstances surrounding their deaths, as well as the deaths themselves, shock and confuse a politically divided nation. A law student believes she knows why the justices got killed. This is Grisham’s third novel after A Time to Kill and The Firm.

Five hundred and seven verified Amazon buyers gave The Pelican Brief 4.5 out of 5 stars, 82 percent gave it either four or five stars.
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#2 – A Painted House

2001. Gossip and suspicion surround a murder – and a young boy knows some of the secrets about the crime but does not know if he should tell anybody about them. Set in late summer and the early Autumn of ‘52, it is a story told through a seven-year-old, Luke Chandler’s eyes. His family is cotton farmers, struggling to take in their crops to earn enough money to settle upon debts. The novel depicts the experiences which bring him out of an innocent world into the harsh realities of life.

One thousand, six hundred, and eight verified Amazon buyers gave A Painted House 4.4 out of 5 stars, 78 percent gave it either four or five stars.
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#1 Must-Read Grisham Novel – The Firm

If you want courtroom drama, savvy lawyers, and brilliant villains, and why wouldn’t you if you are reading John Grisham? Isn’t that basically what we all seek from his work? From the first few pages to the very end – it is well-written and robust. The Firm also became a multimillion-dollar film starring Tom Cruise. It’s a remarkable story. If you haven’t read it for a while, try again.

Two thousand, four hundred, and eight verified Amazon buyers gave The Chamber 4.2 out of 5 stars, 74 percent gave it either four or five stars.

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John Grisham weaves his crafty stories in the courtroom in most of his stories, some like Playing for Pizza, Calico Joe, and a few others are sports stories. All of his novels have suspense in them, some more than others. Besides being a novelist, John is also an attorney, activist, and politician.

Many of the must-read Grisham novels are sold worldwide and translated into 42 different languages. As of 2018, John’s net worth has been said to be around $350 million. He has attended Mississippi State University, the University of Mississippi School of Law School, and Delta State University.

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Recommended Book – The Reckoning

The Reckoning

My featured book for this month is John Grisham’s The Reckoning. It is historical fiction of 432 pages published by Doubleday. If you liked A Time to Kill and Sycamore Row, you will like The Reckoning as well, though they have nothing to do with each other besides that they are both set, at least in part, in Clanton in Ford County.

Take my author’s quiz, here.

In another trip back to Clanton in Ford County, Mr. Grisham introduces us to Pete Banning, a southern cotton farmer who murders his Methodist preacher shortly after he returns from WWII.

He then works his way backward to Major (battlefield commission) Banning’s participation in the Bataan Death March and his exploits in the Philippines during WWII. The story is quite gripping and graphic.

Featured Book: The Reckoning

It is a saga of war and love; it’s a courtroom drama, a gripping portrayal of the conditions in the south during the WWII period. The dreadfully barbaric treatment of prisoners by the Japanese soldiers. Mr. Grisham shows us what secrets can do to a family. He also gives us a glimpse into the making of a war hero and his unraveling as well.

He will take you on a painful path, a brutal march you can’t or won’t escape from because the only escape is to put the book down, and that is impossible. For it is both illuminating and entertaining.

Although throughout this featured book, you believe you know what’s going on and you have all the answers, you really know nothing. What causes a man, a war hero to kill in cold blood? To dispatch a life as if swatting a fly. What was it that drove him so far away from what was expected of a man so many respected and idolized?

“When a master of storytelling and suspense takes on one of the most wrenching stories in history, the result is a book that will break your heart, set your blood pumping and your mind racing, and leave you gasping for breath by the final page. I’m still trying to recover from The Reckoning.” –Candice Millard, New York Times bestselling author of The River of Doubt and Destiny of the Republic

Buy December’s Featured Book, The Reckoning to Find the Answers!

The Reckoning: Kindle

The Reckoning: Hard Cover

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Review Camino Island by John Grisham

My Review Camino Island

Review Camino Island, a novel about the theft of five original, hand-written F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from Princeton’s Firestone Library by five cunning yet nerdy guys, well except the one psychopath, which goes south rather quickly after the heist, when the FBI discovers a small drop of blood left by one of the thieves.
There are rumors that Bruce Cable, a Camino Island bookstore owner bought the manuscripts. Elaine, an investigator for a mysterious and covert company hired by an insurance company that holds a policy on the manuscripts for $25 million, hires Mercer Mann. Mercer is a down-on-her-luck writer, who has just lost her teaching job. Elaine wants her to get close to Bruce and his wife, Noelle Bonnet, an antique dealer, to possibly discover if they have the manuscripts.

Summary of Camino Island a Novel

My review Camino Island. Mercer is the “perfect” woman for the job as she is young and beautiful, newly unemployed and up to her eyeballs in student debt, which Elaine offers to pay off for her, plus $100,000 for a six-month assignment, during which time she can finish the novel she hasn’t even started writing yet and is 3 years overdue. She’ll get half up front and the other half at completion. Another component that makes her ideal for the situation is that she spent nearly every summer with her grandmother, Tessa on Camino Island. Though she hasn’t been back since her grandmother’s passing, the beach cottage is still in the family and available for use.
Mercer fits right in with the crowd of Bruce’s friends on the island, mostly writers with storied pasts and stories about each other, as writers are notorious gossips. At least, they are in this story. Her plan to spend the six months writing her passed due novel does not necessarily go as planned. However, the discussion she has with Bruce about writing turns into a story that draws them closer together. One of Bruce’s past girlfriends was writing a story about a love triangle between F. Scott Fitzgerald, his wife Zelda, and Ernest Hemingway before his ex-girlfriend committed suicide and he begins giving Mercer the details.
While Noelle is in France buying antiques, they have a romantic fling. Despite Bruce and Noelle’s open marriage, Mercer feels a bit guilty about it, but not enough to stop.

Narration (Review Camino Island)

The narrator is the storyteller, the bard, or Mr. Grisham, whichever you please.

Setting (Review Camino Island)

The first set for this novel is the Firestone Library at Princeton, then the cabin in the Poconos where the thieves hide out for a while, but the setting for most of the story is modern day Florida, Camino Island, in the small, sleepy tourist town of Santa Rosa.


To me, the overall theme of this novel is not to let greed rule your life. The thieves wind up dead, in jail, or on the run because of greed. Mercer sells her moral standing to discover if Bruce has the manuscripts, mainly because she has no job, no money, and a ton of student debt. Elaine’s company and the insurance company do not want to pay the $25 million they insured the books for, and Bruce gives up a cushy, comfortable, and prosperous life on a resort island and possibly risks everything for the excitement of dealing in stolen goods.


This is a crime fiction dealing with rare books and manuscripts.


As all Grisham fans know, he is a notable trial defense and courtroom drama writer with very few exceptions. From his very first novel, A Time to Kill to The Rooster Bar, and some very popular titles in between, such as The Frim, Sycamore Row (the sequel to A Time to Kill), and The Pelican Brief most are courtroom dramas. Many of these titles became major motion pictures. Even his Young Adult (YA) series of Theodore Boone books were courtroom drama based. And yes, he did stray from the genre with Playing for Pizza, Calico Joe, The Tumor, and a few others, but crime drama or legal thriller, at least to me, is his forte! After all, he was an attorney.
Well, this is not the usual John Grisham courtroom drama, but you could refer to it as a legal thriller because much of the storyline deals with criminal elements within the underground rare books and art trade.

My Opinion & Recommendation

My favorite character was Bruce Cable. I can’t imagine having a better life than as the owner of a successful bookstore and coffee where you are the barrister. I mean come on, you can wear any outfit you want, even with a bowtie if you’re into such things, and no one thinks you’re weird because, hey you own a bookstore. You go to “work,” make some coffee, grab whatever book you choose from the shelf, and sit down and read until someone comes in. You have a huge collection of first edition books autographed by the authors, most of whom you know personally; and then, you meet and marry a beautiful and beguiling antique dealer, who fills your home with Provençal furnishing. I couldn’t imagine wanting much more, but then there are the nefarious deals with rare books to keep things exciting.
To me, this was a good story, not a great John Grisham page-turner novel like many of his legal thrillers, but it is superb crime fiction. If you’re looking for a compelling story that forces you to turn the page in anticipation, this is not it. Although, I do believe it is a must-read for all Grisham fans, and it didn’t become a New York Times Bestseller and reach number one just because it was Grisham who wrote it; still and all, I’m sure that helped. Plus, his going on tour for the first time in twenty-five years to publicize the book probably helped as well.
I think non-Grisham fans would probably like this book even more than his regulars because it is such a departure from courtroom dramas and legal thrillers. Someone that is not expecting a cutting-edge courtroom battle would perhaps be more in tuned to the book. Nevertheless, I do think anyone would enjoy the story. Well, that’s my review Camino Island!

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Crime Action Drama: The Rooster Bar Book Review

As a John Grisham fan, I was eager to read his newest crime action drama, The Rooster Bar. Grisham’s readers often expect a fast-paced story with vivid characters and a plot filled with thrilling twists and turns, and this book does not disappoint. The Rooster Bar is a sharp criticism of today’s educational, financial, and immigration systems. Grisham savages the shady colleges and universities which are far more interested in creating large profits than in enriching the lives of their students. The book also exposes corruption in the student loan industry and the excesses of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
This crime action drama follows three students at the fictional Foggy Bottom Law School: Mark, Todd, and Zola. They all borrowed heavily (each nearly $200,000) to attend school, and they are struggling in their personal and professional lives. All of them were betting heavily on their earnings as lawyers to pay back their high-interest loans. The schools recruiting videos and TV ads sold them on how easy it was to borrow the money and get a high-paying job in a law firm.
As they progress through law school, they become aware that their school has a low percentage of graduates that pass the bar exam and only a few of those that do get well-paying jobs. They find out that even that was an elaborate hoax, as the mega-millionaire also controlled eight law firms where they would hire a few of the graduates and start them at a high salary, use them in their recruiting ads, and then lower their salaries at annual reviews.

Gordy, a friend of the three main characters and romantically linked to Zola, traces a conspiracy linking Foggy Bottom to a lender in the student loan industry. His suicide leads the three friends to investigate further. The three decide that exposing the corruption is more important than receiving tainted law school degrees. They drop out of law school, assume new identities, and set up a fake and unlicensed law firm of their own with the goal of taking down Foggy Bottom and its financial partners.
The plot builds in excitement until this crime action drama provides a thrilling climax. Grisham’s reuse of a plot device from The Firm was one of my few real problems with this book, though some avid Grisham fans could rationalize it as an update to an ongoing problem, which in a way it is.
Grisham manages to make us sympathetic to these underdogs even though their methods are almost as shady as those of the law school they are trying to expose. I especially enjoyed the development of Zola’s character. Born to undocumented parents from Senegal, she becomes heavily involved in the politics of immigration after the deportation of her family members. Zola’s family’s experiences with the immigration system lend urgency to her character.
Other reviewers have criticized Grisham’s last few books for having lost the spark and thrill of his earlier works, but I found that The Rooster Bar was a return to his usual form. The characters came to life for me and were the best part of this crime action drama. Despite the slightly predictable plot twist, this courtroom drama was as engaging as any Grisham novel.
Grisham’s new book The Rooster Bar will not disappoint fans of crime action drama. Although those who have read The Firm might be turned off by the reuse of an older plot device, it’s a small point and after you get into the story, it won’t matter that much. The characters of Mark, Todd, and Zola carry the book and cause the readers to root for them even though they operate outside the law. If you’re looking for an entertaining legal read, pick up The Rooster Bar and decide for yourself.
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Sycamore Row Book Review

Sycamore Row

John Grisham

25 real-world years after John Grisham’s first novel. Grisham takes us back to Clanton in Ford County, Mississippi. Three book years after Jake Brigance successfully defended a black man accused of murdering the three white men that raped and killed his daughter in A Time to Kill, Grisham re-introduces us to Jake, Judge Attlee, and the racial tensions that abound in this small southern town.

The Tribulations of Sycamore Row

Sycamore Row gets its name from a stand of sycamore trees, one of which was used by Seth Hubbard, a millionaire suffering from late stage lung cancer, hanging himself from a sycamore tree. The day prior, he made a new will. A hand-written will leaving the majority of his estate to his maid, Lettie Lang, who nursed him through his final days on earth. He also left 5 percent to his church and 5 percent to his brother whom he hadn’t seen in years and wasn’t sure was still alive. This hand-written will would over-ride the will he had drawn up by a law firm two years earlier. What makes this story interesting is that the new will was legal in Mississippi. Probate law requires he had the mental capacity to write it and there was no undue tampering from anyone named in the will. Seth hated lawyers and had a healthy distrust for all but Jake Brigance, whom he wrote to requesting that he protect his new will at all costs.

Since, Seth Hubbard was worth somewhere in the neighborhood of 24 million dollars, everybody wanted a piece of his estate. In the first will, Seth’s children, Herschel and Ramona were named as the primary recipients of his estate. Herschel and Ramona were deadbeats according to their father that rarely came to see him, unless they needed something. So, they of course hired lawyers to protect their interest. Their primary purpose was to raise a bit of doubt in the jury’s mind. Both, to the mental capacity of Hubbard and the relationship between he and Lettie.

Lettie, whose husband cared more for drinking than he did working, had a son in prison, and a daughter recently returned from the military. Lettie’s supposed friends and relatives came out of the woodwork to help her stake her claim to the money, hoping she would reward them monetarily after she received her reward.

And, the Trial

Grisham takes us through the boring and mundane process of establishing the estates worth, jury selection, and trial procedures. After all, not everything about a trial is filled with action and adventure. But, the events outside the courtroom, such as Lettie’s husband arrest for driving under the influence and vehicular homicide, Lucien’s search for Seth’s brother, a merchant marine with drug and alcohol abuse problems, the search for Lettie’s real parents, since she is an orphan, and the racially charged events in the town where the trial takes place are what really keeps the story moving.

Grisham is a master story teller that knows his way around a courtroom. He has proven that time and time again in his other books, but in Sycamore Row as in A Time to Kill he showed us his ability to pull us into the small town of Clanton that is the Deep South and hold us spellbound until the final verdict.

Sycamore Row Book Review



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