John Grisham writes about the corruption that often seems rampant in our culture, and that seems to arise from the dark side of humans, tempting people to break laws and then to defend their behavior physically by intimidation and even murder, if necessary. In this book The Whistler we begin with an unidentified whistle blower. Whistle blowers have been learning to remain anonymous because the information they share is not information someone (or some group) wants shared. In this case the people who would like to silence the whistle blower are criminals so we see the need for secrecy, but how the two parties (info providers and info recipients) react is often less clear cut.
There is a go-between in this case, a guy who has no known address (lives on a boat) and has a fake name and basically lives off the grid. He relays the information from the whistle blower to Lacy and Hugo who work for Board of Judicial Conduct for the State of Florida in St. Augustine. Lacy and Hugo are tasked with investigating complaints about judges. They are not detectives or law enforcers and are not used to dealing with dangerous criminals or even equipped to do so. But this time the judge in question is entwined in a web of some complexity. There is a criminal gang involved, a Native America tribe, a ton of expensive and profitable development, and a casino on Indian land that is a gold mine once all that nearby development is in place.
But everyone is holding his/her cards close to the vest. The whistler wants to be protected before offering data that would prove that a corrupt judge is at the center of this web. The off-the-grid go-between has had dealings with this gang before, and although the gang is mainly interested in building things, raking off profits, accepting protection fees and off-shoring lots of laundered cash, the gang does not mind knocking someone off if it becomes necessary. In fact at least one person we have come to like does get killed and Lacy almost dies. As usual John Grisham puts himself and us at the intersection of human greed and human corruption.
Exactly how corrupt is the Honorable Claudia McDover? Is she worth taking down? Lacy is definitely in way over her head and even before she has any real proof to go on there is a target on her and her partner. This is one hot case for a pair used to going after small time judicial misconduct.
John Grisham, while he does not suck us in quite the way he did in his early books, still gives us a thriller that manages to cover both whistle-blowing and the human love affair with money however it is obtained. It is perfect for a weekend when TV is a wasteland, as it is most weekends, and if you like Grisham’s book you should enjoy The Whistler.