Welcome to “Worth the Read?”, where I give you my honest opinion on whether you should spend your precious time reading a super-hyped New York Times Bestseller.
Today’s book is:
Camino Island, by John Grisham
On bestsellers list for 10 weeks
Ranked #2 on Adult Hardback Fiction
John Grisham. That’s the hype 🙂 Basically, anything he writes will sell. Ever since the release of The Firm in 1991, Grisham has been unbelievably popular. As of this May, he has sold nearly 300 million copies of his books! Camino Island is his 30th book and was on the NY Times bestseller list the first week it was released.
From the publisher – A gang of thieves stage a daring heist from a secure vault deep below Princeton University’s Firestone Library. Their loot is priceless, but Princeton has insured it for twenty-five million dollars.
Bruce Cable owns a popular bookstore in the sleepy resort town of Santa Rosa on Camino Island in Florida. He makes his real money, though, as a prominent dealer in rare books. Very few people know that he occasionally dabbles in the black market of stolen books and manuscripts.
Mercer Mann is a young novelist with a severe case of writer’s block who has recently been laid off from her teaching position. She is approached by an elegant, mysterious woman working for an even more mysterious company. A generous offer of money convinces Mercer to go undercover and infiltrate Bruce Cable’s circle of literary friends, ideally getting close enough to him to learn his secrets.
Camino Island was my first John Grisham read ever. I readily admit to being a literary fiction snob, but I try to fight against my prejudices, so I was excited to actually try a Grisham novel. He’s uber successful for a reason, right? But my excitement was short-lived.
As mentioned above, John Grisham is best known for his legal thrillers and Camino Island did not fall in this category. (There’s actually a NY Times article all about it: Plot Twist! John Grisham’s New Thriller Is Positively Lawyerless) This is the precise reason I picked it up, since I generally don’t gravitate anything with a legal bent. The fact that the items stolen in the heist are F. Scott Fitzgerald’s manuscripts was a major draw, but the book fell flat for me.
The plot moved along and the characters were pretty well developed, but it lacked a sense of urgency that I look for in a mystery/thriller The main female protagonist, Mercer, spent too many hours ruminating on the beach for my taste. Since I’ve never read any other Grisham, I don’t know what his romances look like but I found the one in Camino Island to lack any real fire.
I did, however, enjoy Grisham’s portrayal of author- and bookseller-life and the world of rare book collecting. His descriptions of Bruce Cable’s bookstore, Bay Books, had me itching to visit my local independent bookstore! And some of the authors in the story (most notably the writer of steamy romances) brought some color to the story.
So, if you’re looking for a quick and light read with a bookish focus, then Camino Island will do the trick. Just don’t expect anything life changing.
The main takeaway I have from my first Grisham read is that I should have started with one of his legal thrillers, since that what launched his career in the first place. Live and learn!
Rating: 50% worth it
Have you read Camino Island? What were your thoughts? Share in the comments below!
80% – 100% – the book lives up to the hype. Go read it now!
60% – 79% – the book is good, but there’s no rush to read it
40% – 59% – the book has some degree of merit, but has flaws and probably isn’t worth your time
0% – 39% – the book stinks and isn’t worth the read