Backman is quietly smuggled out of the country in a military cargo plane, given a new name, a new identity, and a new home in Italy. Eventually, after 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 is no chance of that. The question the CIA needs answered is, who will kill him?
©2004 Belfry Holdings, Inc (P)2005 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.
"The spy-versus-spy intrigue is well constructed and fast paced." (The New York Times Book Review)
I am a Gresham fan and enjoy his style of writing. There is action, mystery, suspense and tense moments, all the elements of an enjoyable book. I was not looking for anything that was heavy, rather something that was intelligently entertaining. The broker won. I am glad I didn't read all the negative reviews first because I would have avoided this book. I enjoyed this book.
This is a stunningly bad book. Without Grisham's name it would never have been published. Like many readers I tend to shop for my favorite authors' works. Never again. I can almost believe Grisham made a bet with someone that he could get any drivel published, and wrote this to win the bet.
The most outrageous flaw in the book is the hours and hours of descriptions of Joel Backman (the Broker) learning Italian. It made no sense in the plot for him to even be required to do so. He never really needs to speak Italian, except to order espresso (which he wil do dozens of times, and each time you'll be treated to extensive English-Italian translations of the transaction). In his intro to Italian his tutor shows him the sights of Bologna, and yes, describes in detail every sight, right down to the number of steps in the tower. At first the travelogue is sort of interesting, but as hours go by and the plot (if ever there was one) is advanced, I found myself wishing I was reading, rather than listening, so I could flip forward a few pages and end the agony.
The basic premise of the plot makes no sense at all. Presumably the Broker is begin set up to be killed by some foreign agency. Depending on which one pulls it off, the CIA learns who owned a satellite system. But they're all gunning for him, and it's not a question of who wants him worst or for what reason, but who will get lucky. And, by the way, there's an excellent chance the CIA will not know which one was successful!
And speaking of that satellite system, Grisham should ask any high school science teacher how fast a satellite in a 300 mile orbit would be travelling. Trust me, it's a lot more than 120 mph. Tom Clancy can rest easy.
The characters are a mess. I didn't know whether to like Backman or hate him. In the end I didn't care. Some interesting characters pop up, like the Tin man, but once developed, they slip away, never to appear again.
Save yourself a few bucks. Don't buy this book.
I usually love anything Grisham, but I must say what was he thinking with this bomb. I was waiting for something exciting to happen but I was left waiting and waiting. I thought I was listening to a translation audio book. Every word in Italian was translated to English. I hate to say this but this was the worst book I have ever heard or read. I should have listened to the reviews, but to be honest I would have purchased it anyway because of the fact that I am a Grisham fan.
I liked this book a little bit, but it is nothing like Grishams other books. Over half of it is a slow repetition of a man trying to learn Italian. This is interesting for a few days, but after a while it starts to sound like a tourist guide.
Grisham himself admits he has a love affair with Italy, and it shows. He loves to talk about Italy until it seems as though you're reading your friend's description of the slides of his trip to Italy.
The last few chapter are good. They finally take one back to the story line and the suspense holds your attention, but it certainly isn't riviting. Grisham wrote another book that is nothing like his others - A Painted House - which I thoroughly enjoyed. But, in my opinion, unless you are an Italian enthusiast, you may find this book a bit flat.
I usually love Grisham's books. Well-conceived characters, with their history, development, sympathies and conflicts creating unusual tension and suspense. However this novel skips the initial backstories and thus loses the fuel to keep it all going. Who is this Joel Backman? And why should we care about him? How did he develop his MO and why exactly did he plead guilty and to what? It's all too vague and Grisham misses an opportunity for the real story. Instead, Grisham hits the reader in a spatter pattern of about a dozen characters each of whose story is hard to put together. I almost gave up but about midway through the book there emerges a secret-squirrel type story that gets interesting and to Grisham's credit, there is great theater and sense of place - all of which kept me going until the end. However, I agree with the author's end-of-story disclaimer and I prefer his psychological exploration of courtroom drama to this latest foray into the espionage thriller.
I just finished this audiobook, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Yes, the action stalls in Bologna--but that doesn't mean the end of suspense and anxiety for readers identifying with the flawed protagonist. All of Grisham's books are riffs on escape--whether it's from the bad guys, surveillance, the feds, or the corrupt, soul-destroying capitalist work world that traps us all. Given Grisham's obsession with this fantasy, it makes sense to set the character in Italy--with its "slow food," ancient rhythms and architecture, and comparative innocence in global terms. It is here that the character--once again like all Grisham's protagonists--relearns what's important, reinvents his life, and gains redemption. I found it believable and strangely powerful--and, of course, it's almost impossible to stop listening toward the end. This book is definitely different in many ways from his previous books, but it works somehow. I'd get it again in a heartbeat.
This is a better travelogue than Frommer's guides. It is obvious that Grisham loves Italy as do I and it was nice to listen to his descriptions of Bologna and Milan. The story itself is fairly preposterous and not terribly satisfying in the telling. OK to listen to on a trip.
I have read every John Grisham book, and this was my least favorite. It lacked the suspense, engaging plot, and interesting character development that made this author famous. This book reads more like a travel guide for Italy, complete with descriptions of restaurant menus, and lessons on how to speak Italian.
Even Michael Beck, who was wonderful as always reading Grisham, can save this book from itself. The descriptions of Italy are lyrical, but this is supposed to be a novel and a thriller to boot. Not only isn't this book thrilling, there is essentially no plot. What's more the characters are flat and not in the least bit engaging.
If you must have meandering descriptive prose from Grisham, then read The Last Juror in which the descriptions match those in The Broker, but which has engaging characters who develop as the plot (yes, plot!) develop. Evidently Grisham fancies himself a latter day Faulkner--he's got the wordiness down pat, just not the enduring worth underlying the long-winded prose.
Boring, boring, boring. I couldn't wait for this book to end.
A good story since it is fairly unique in its setup and execution. The challenges, crimes, and retributions in this story are more indirect and obscure than in your typical crime or espionage book. You really have to think to understand why all the characters are trying to get even and why the "hero" is in the middle of it all. Along the way, we get exposed to Italy and Bologna, in a way you wouldn't normally experience it in an espionage novel. I found myself wishing for pasta and wine every night I was reading this book. If you enjoy subtlety rather than being hit by a 2x4 in a spy book, you'll probably enjoy this.
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