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You Won’t Cut This Cable
Camino Winds—by John Grisham (Doubleday, $28.95). This novel by the foremost man of letters from Mississippi since William Faulkner takes up where a previous gripper, Camino
Island (Bantam, 2017), left off. The most interesting character in both of these well-constructed, can'tput-'em-downers is Bruce
Cable, an independent bookstore owner. A lover of rare books and manuscripts and an imaginative and tireless marketer who takes delight in promoting promising writers and in doing all he can to make sure established authors sell multiple hundreds of their latest works at festive book signings and readings, Cable is a prodigious reader and man of high taste. He also has a rather roguish side that enables him to charmingly seduce attractive women. PC he is not.
In Camino Island, priceless handwritten manuscripts of F. Scott Fitzgerald have been ingeniously stolen from Princeton University's legendary library. Who pulled off the heist and, more to the point, how are these manuscripts going to be fenced? Authorities, not without reason, suspect that Cable is somehow involved. To get the goods on him, they recruit Mercer Mann, a young woman who years before had spent time on Camino Island with her grandmother, Tess. Mercer is a novelist who has ostensibly returned to her grandmother's house to finish her second book. Her real task is to get to know Cable and use their budding friendship to gain critical information about where the manuscripts are. After plenty of pulse-raising situations, the items are recovered, while Cable ends up doing well for himself. He and Mercer actually do become close friends. And Cable turns out not to be the total fiend we originally suspect he is.
Only a novelist of Grisham's talents could plausibly pull off such a tale.
In Camino Winds we find Cable deciding to remain on the island, even though a brutal hurricane is bearing down. Nick Sutton, a college kid and summertime worker at Cable's bookstore who has read hundreds of whodunits, also refuses to evacuate. The storm savagely mauls the island, and 11 of the stay-behinds are killed, including a lawyer-turned-novelist, Nelson Kerr. After the storm Cable and Nick visit the place where Kerr lived and conclude that he was no casualty of Mother Nature but was instead probably murdered. With hundreds of mysteries animating his mind, Nick even theorizes about what weapon was used to kill him.
Kerr had been a rising, high-powered lawyer in San Francisco but became a whistleblower when he learned that an executive at a defense company—one of his firm's clients—was selling classified information to the North Koreans and the Iranians. While the feds gave Kerr a reward for what he uncovered (much of which was promptly lost to taxes and a nasty divorce), his legal career as a highincome earner was over. Who wants to hire a “snitch” as a lawyer?
Kerr subsequently relocated and wrote a couple of successful spyand-international-intrigue novels, demonstrating his budding talent. But nothing in those warranted his being killed. Cable and Nick figure he must have been working on something new.
While Kerr's death turns out not to have been accidental, the local and state police's pursuit of a perpetrator is lackadaisical. Against his inclinations— after all, he'd be putting himself in mortal danger—Cable is drawn into unraveling the truth.
Kerr had indeed been examining a hideous scandal: Certain nursing homes were cheating Medicare out of hundreds of millions—if not billions— of dollars.
In both of these irresistible reads Grisham introduces readers to memorable characters whom he capably brings to life. And in Camino Winds he raises disconcerting questions about how many of the places in which we place—or dump—the elderly are managed.