Today’s mystery is Camino Island by John Grisham, a complicated look at the underground buying and selling of stolen first editions and manuscripts. It begins with the theft of 5 priceless F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from Princeton University’s Firestone Library by a gang of five: Denny, Mark, Jerry, Trey & Ahmed — the at home man, “the forger, the the hacker, the creator of illusions”. It is a heist flawlessly executed except for one thing: a tiny drop of blood where a splintered piece of wood from the third drawer in the vault nicked Jerry as he lifted the duffle bag of tools as they were readying to leave. Within a short period of time, Mark and Jerry are behind bars, Trey is dead, and Denny and Ahmed have fled the country.
With her adjunct professorship at the Chapel Hill campus of the University of North Carolina about to expire, thirty-four-year-old Mercer Mann is offered a job she can’t refuse: live in her late grandmother’s house in Santa Rosa, Camino Island, Florida, work on her second novel, and learn what she can about Bruce Cable, owner of a popular bookstore on the main drag and where he keeps his real assets — stolen first editions and manuscripts. The offer comes from a representative from a recovery company that helps insurance companies retrieve stolen items of great value to save them paying out huge fees. They work closely with the FBI according to rep, Elaine Shelby, and since Mercer has spent many summers in Santa Rosa, her cover will be perfect — she’ll fit in with the literary crowd that Cable associates with and earn their trust.
Except for the murder of one of the gang members, there is no violence in this book. It is a fairly laid back story mostly set in the small resort town on Camino Island and while there is a fair bit of suspense, both the dealer in stolen property and the amateur sleuth are likeable characters who come through the escapade relatively unscathed. The recovery of the manuscripts is a delightfully complex episode that makes for an unusual resolution to the plot. The characters providing the backdrop to the Santa Rosa community are interesting and diverse despite the literary connection, and the development of Mercer’s character as the story unfolds is totally believable. The ending is surprising and the book is just a really fun read. Classic Grisham. * * * * 1/2
If you, too, are a fan of mysteries, I hope you’ll not only enjoy my Monday posts but will contribute by publishing your own Monday Mystery, mention my meme, then come to my blog, comment on your mystery (or mine) briefly, and include the link directly to your mystery review. You can also copy my MMM badge to your post or your sidebar. (Links to books are an Amazon affiliate link!)