Movies Books Music Food Tv Shows Technology Politics Video Games Parenting Fashion Green Living more >

Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » The Broker » User review

The Broker

A book by John Grisham.

< read all 6 reviews

The unique (and successful) combination of thriller with a European travelogue!

  • Oct 2, 2010
With technology stolen from two US defense contractors, a cutting edge satellite surveillance system dubbed Neptune was secretly built and launched under the very nose of the CIA and the rest of the world's elite spy communities - Israel, Saudi Arabia, Russia, England and China. Nobody even knew of the system's top secret existence (let alone who was operating it) until two brilliant Pakistani computer wizards unwittingly hacked into the system and parlayed that illicit entry into an astonishing piece of software capable of hijacking, manipulating and neutralizing the system.

When greed and human nature drive these naive programmers into the arms of Washington power broker, Joel Backman, to ask for his help in shopping the knowledge of the clandestine satellite system and their superlative software package to the highest bidder, the best laid plans of mice and men and crafty programmers and Washington lawyers are smashed into a million tiny pieces. The hapless young hackers are assassinated and never seen from again and Joel Backman is indicted and hidden away in prison on some nebulous but entirely bogus conspiracy and treason charges. The reputation of his multi-million dollar legal firm is shattered, his partner commits suicide (maybe?) and his son's reputation is left in tatters.

The story really begins in earnest when a cynical, conniving director of the CIA and an unscrupulous outgoing president hatch an idea to solve the continuing puzzle of who owns Neptune. Grant Backman a pardon, create a false identity for him in another country, be a little less than 100% efficient in guarding this identity and location and, finally, sit back to see who comes gunning for him!

Joel Backman's character as a man, a failed father, a wealthy lawyer and power broker, a broken prisoner, a driven student of culture and language and a newly minted caring lover is exceptionally well-developed. Francesca Ferro, his language tutor, is equally well crafted and a wonderfully detailed study of an enigmatic and sophisticated but very human European woman.

While its fundamental premise is a tad over the top and registers a little low on the credibility meter, THE BROKER is an enjoyable spy vs spy suspense thriller with the legal overtones for which Grisham is so well known. It's a cautionary tale that warns of the dangers of power without checks, balances and accountability. It's a dark and sinister story that should terrify readers about the extent to which an unscrupulous government spy agency will go, ostensibly in the interests of national security.

Finally, and perhaps this will be quite difficult to believe, it is also a charming low-key romance and a wonderfully informative travelogue on Italian life in the city of Bologna. By the bye, THE BROKER also relates an exceptionally interesting narrative of the difficulties of cultural assimilation and learning a foreign language. As surprising as the juxtaposition of these story components may be, Grisham has pulled it all off quite effortlessly. It's not a combination that will work and be of interest to every reader but I found it thoroughly enjoyable and charming at the same time as it was exciting.

THE BROKER is a fine addition to Grisham's already excellent and well-stocked body of work. Highly recommended.

Paul Weiss

What did you think of this review?

Fun to Read
Post a Comment
More The Broker reviews
Quick Tip by . October 02, 2010
More than just an enjoyable spy vs spy thriller with the legal sub-text for which Grisham is so well known. As difficult as this might be to believe, it is also a charming romance and a well done travelogue on the city of Bologna. This odd juxtaposition of styles may not work for everybody but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Quick Tip by . September 30, 2010
A powerful thriller that says a great deal about the power and misuse of power in the CIA combined, as difficult as this might be to believe, with a rather charming travelogue of the city of Bologna! Go figure!
review by . September 15, 2008
The Broker
1. Choose a European country for your next vacation. Pick a nice little town with a rich history, nice people and great food.     2. Throw a dart at the country map, with your eyes open, as many times as it takes to hit the aforementioned town.     3. Buy a Michelin Guide and use it as material for 90% of the book you're going to write.     4. Go and see for yourself if the guide is accurate - take your time, avoid the mistake of eating …
review by . April 01, 2005
Fast-paced, intriguing thriller that is hard to put down!! At the center of the tale is of course a wayward lawyer; in this case, it's Joel Backman--a Washington lobbyist whose greed for power, money and women is legendary. Backman gets his hands on a computer software written by a few brilliant young men that is able to control spy satellites that are orbiting the earth--satellites whose existence to this point had been completely unknown. When Backman decides to represent his clients in their …
review by . June 01, 2005
It used to be that I really looked forward to a new Grisham novel. Action-packed legal thriller, life and death situations, etc. But then after a few books, the writing seemed to get somewhat uneven and I didn't quite know what I'd get each time I started a new one. John Grisham's latest, The Broker, ended up being one of his better ones of late. I really enjoyed it.    Joel Backman, aka The Broker, was a high-powered player in the Washington scene until he took the fall for …
review by . February 22, 2005
I've found John Grisham to be uneven. Sometimes he is a fun read; sometimes I just give up and move on.     In "The Broker," Grisham is near the top of his form.     In a tale filled with sleazy characters, Joel Backman is no better or worse than the President of the United States who, at the urging of his corrupt advisor, pardons Backman. Backman is a guest of the government, sitting in solitary with years to run on his sentence. Suddenly he is offered a …
review by . January 17, 2005
Joel Backman, ex-lobbyist and Washington power broker doing time in a Federal prison is pardoned after only six years of a twenty-year sentence by a one-term president at the behest of the CIA, hours before the inauguration of the new president. The theory is that many influential people want Backman dead (the Saudi's, the Israeli's, the Chinese, the Russian's...), that eventually one of them will take him out and the CIA will be privy to some long sought after information. Thus, the ex-power broker …
About the reviewer
Paul Weiss ()
Ranked #15
   A modern day dilettante with widely varied eclectic interests. A dabbler in muchbut grandmaster of none - wilderness camping in all four seasons, hiking, canoeing, world travel,philately, … more
Consider the Source

Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.

Your ratings:
rate more to improve this
About this book


Before he was sent to federal prison for treason (among other things), Joel Backman was an extremely powerful man. Known as "the broker," Backman was a high roller--a lawyer making $10 million a year who could "open any door in Washington." That is, until he tried to broker a deal selling access to the world's most powerful satellite surveillance system to the highest bidder. When caught, Backman accepted prison as the one option that would keep him safe and alive, since the interested parties (the Israelis, the Saudis, the Russians, and the Chinese) were all itching to get their hands on his secrets at any cost. Little does he know that his own government has designs on accessing that information--or at least letting it die with him. Now, six years after his incarceration, the director of the CIA convinces a lame duck president to pardon Backman, and the broker becomes a free man--and an open target.

The Broker marries the best of John Grisham's many talents--his ability to immerse himself in the culture of small town life (in this case, Bologna, Italy), and his uncanny mastery of the chase. The first half of the book focuses on Backman's transformation from infamous power broker to helpless victim in his own game. Upon his release from prison, Backman is taken into "protective custody" and whisked off to Italy where he is assigned a new identity, and a tutor to help him blend in. Sure he is on the run, but some readers may feel ...

view wiki


ISBN-10: 0385510454
ISBN-13: 978-0385510455
Author: John Grisham
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
Publisher: Doubleday
Polls with this book
First to Review

"The (Pawn) Broker"
© 2015 Lunch.com, LLC All Rights Reserved
Lunch.com - Relevant reviews by real people.
This is you!
Ranked #
Last login
Member since