The Florida Bar

Florida Bar Journal

Camino Island

Book Reviews

by John Grisham

Sooner or later, all famous people land in Florida, besot by sunshine and a tempting tax code. John Grisham, the legal literary star, is no exception. He now owns a patch of sand on Amelia Island, the setting of Camino Island, recently published by Bantam Books, a division of Penguin Random House.

Grisham, the Arkansas native and Mississippi State grad who earned his law degree in Oxford at Ole Miss, served six years in the Mississippi House of Representatives. He originally wanted to be a tax attorney, but practiced criminal law for nearly a decade before gripping the legal limelight with his first bestseller, The Firm, the top novel of 1991. The book has sold more than 7 million copies and was a feature film starring Tom Cruise.

Grisham has written more than 30 novels across several literary genres, including sports fiction and comedic fiction, but most of his work camps in criminal fiction. Camino Island is a clever legal thriller about an incredulous heist of the F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts at Princeton. Readers are plunged into the dark world of art thieves and dealers in forgeries and stolen valuables like rare books.

The crime scene commences in New Jersey with stops in the Poconos, Rochester, Chapel Hill, Asheville, Knoxville, Memphis, and Tallahassee before parking by the Atlantic on Amelia. There are forays to New Orleans and France, but most of the action occurs in the antebellum town of Fernandina Beach at Bay Books. The fictionalized independent bookstore is modeled after Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, complete with balcony, oriental rugs, quirky rooms, magnetic owner, and endless stream of author events.

Camino Island offers a crash course on bookselling and abundant commentary on the literary scene. Grisham describes book tour pratfalls and writing pitfalls all the while referencing modern and classic tomes. He name-drops authors throughout including his friend, Scott Turow, who wrote the venerable One L.

There’s no courtroom drama in this story, although FBI agents and U.S. attorneys frequently appear in Trenton and Jacksonville. The breezy plot twists and turns like live oaks over A1A, making it an entertaining beach read for attorneys this summer. In fact, it’s the perfect book to pack for the Tax Section’s Organizational Meeting at the Omni on Amelia Island this Fourth of July.

Mary Bebout is a member of The Florida Bar’s Tax Section and an attorney with Dean, Mead and Dunbar.

Bar members may submit book reviews of approximately 500 words for publication in the “Books” column. Reviews must be written by Bar members.  The books must be related to law, but may be practical, esoteric, entertaining, or fiction.

Book reviews may be emailed to [email protected].