What you should know:
John Grisham is in my short list of favorite authors alongside Tana French, Philip Kerr and Pierce Brown. My two favorites are probably Runaway Jury and The Client. I never finished Gray Mountain so that would not be a positive review if it came down to it.
Camino Island is a heist story. It takes place in the book world. My complements to John Grisham for writing a novel about the novel writing business. A book about authors and their work can’t be all bad. I’m convinced this book is Grisham’s tribute to his readers and book lovers in general. It’s also a salute to independent bookstore owners
What I liked:
The story takes place in the summer. I chose it as a summer read. It’s so appropriate to have summer novels cover the summer season! It’s on the beach too. What a perfect setting for a summer read. The only regret I have is that I didn’t take it to the beach with me.
There’s a nice vignette depicting authors talking about authors and writing. Or not talking about writing. Apparently, writers come in two camps, those that talk about their writing and those that don’t. Either way this for me was the cornerstone of Camino Island. I wish there was more, a lot more, of the group of writers. That was a book I really could have gotten into. There wasn’t enough of that part of the book for me.
There’s a private insurance investigation group of characters in the story. This part also has potential. I could see an entire series of novels based on them. I doubt that John Grisham has the inspiration to do that though. He’s written so much already and I don’t think he needs the money. Oh Well.
What I didn’t like
None of the thieves involved in the heist were convincing. Having spent time around people who steal things, I have an impression of what they’re like. None of them were given much depth either. At least if they weren’t convincing I might have tolerated them had I gotten to know them a little bit.
I got the impression that Grisham was interested in writing about one character – Bruce Cable – a book store owner. He spends his time and energy on Cable. Just not enough on the others, any of them, to make the book enjoyable.
He has another character, a young author named Mercer, who is struggling to write her second novel. She is also struggling, financially and personally. However, her story would have meant a totally different book. I suspect Grisham didn’t find her challenges interesting enough on their own, so he folded her into this heist novel. Mercer has writer’s block. I am wondering if she’s a projection of the writer’s block Grisham had trying to write the novel about her, until he gave up and put her in Camino Island. All in all I expect Grisham fans will appreciate this book. If you aren’t a fan I can’t see any reason why this one would convince you otherwise.
Recommendation: Maybe Read