The Florida Bar
The Florida Bar Journal
April, 2017 Volume 91, No. 4

Page 60

The Whistler
by John Grisham
Reviewed by David Mandell

John Grisham visits Florida in The Whistler. The book takes readers on a wild ride through the state, and it starts fast. Two lawyers for the Florida Bureau of Judicial Conduct, Lacy Stoltz and Hugo Hatch, leave Tallahassee to meet a mysterious complainant who boasts that he has explosive information. Unlike typical complaints from bitter litigants, this may shake the judiciary. He brings Stoltz aboard his boat in St. Augustine and starts. Once a Pensacola lawyer, he invested in questionable deals, becoming ensnared in a RICO case ending in a prison term. Reinstated as a lawyer with a new name, Greg Myers, he has a remarkable story. A gang has manipulated a small Native tribe, the Tappacola, into building a lucrative casino. The casino’s opponents met a gruesome fate. Son Razko was murdered. His ally, Junior Mace, sits on death row, convicted of murder. Every legal challenge to the casino failed and eminent domain cases seizing land for an access road were all decided against the owners.

Myers tells Stoltz that the cases have one common element — presiding judge, Claudia F. McDover. Myers says that in return for siding with casino proponents and putting Junior Mace on death row, McDover has become rich. Myers claims that he has a reliable source but cannot provide a name. Their motive is not pure. They seek a reward under the whistle blower statute. Stoltz and Hatch return to Tallahassee and start to investigate. Under strict time limits, two lawyers with no training as criminal detectives must solve several mysteries. Is an innocent man on death row? Has a sitting judge been corrupted by casino wealth? Are they being used in an enrichment scam by a disbarred lawyer?

The action never stops. Stoltz and Hatch travel through Florida’s underworld. The villain, secretive Vonn Dubose, is on the chase. He aims to end the investigation, regardless of what it takes. Stoltz and Hatch are hunted down through a rural road, homes ransacked, and witnesses hidden in cheap motels. Bureaucracy leaves them on their own. The FBI says the bureau has more important things to do. The director of the gaming commission says his hands are tied. Meanwhile, Myers disappears, leaving Stoltz and her overbearing brother to rescue his girlfriend, and protect his source before Dubose’s gang finds them. Along the way, Grisham creates several memorable characters. When confronted with the ethics complaint, Judge McDover hires a famous trial lawyer, Pensacola’s Edgar Killebrew, who reminds Stoltz that he lives in the courtroom. His associate, Ian Archer, refuses to shake hands.

Grisham has been writing legal thrillers for more than a quarter century and still manages to come up with stories that are difficult to put down. For Florida lawyers, The Whistler will be especially fun reading as so many of its sites are real and familiar. The book only takes a few hours to read and is well worth the trip.

David Mandell is a member of The Florida Bar.

[Revised: 03-27-2017]