You guys know that I’m a big John Grisham fan. I have first editions of every Grisham book from The Client forward and if I ever win the lottery I’ll go back and buy first editions of A Time to Kill, The Firm, and The Pelican Brief. Not that those books are worth millions of dollars, but those would be the only items that I would actually purchase with lottery money. I’d just rent a house on the beach for the summer, and let someone else worry about hurricanes, and flood insurance, and snowbirds and whatever. Plus, if I owned just one house on the beach, I’d probably feel obligated to stay there instead of venturing off to other destinations. I’d suffer from a severe case of FOMO, and no one needs that when they’ve got lottery money in the bank.
I received The Whistler (a first edition) for Christmas, or my birthday, it’s kind of hard to keep the presents and the occasions straight, and I finished reading it earlier this week.
For as long as I can remember, we have vacationed at least once a year on the Florida Panhandle, specifically in the area between Destin and Panama City. I watched as the views of the ocean from the car became fewer and farther between, and while older establishments on the north side of the beach road were torn down and replaced with new money progress. The Whistler is set in this area, and there are parts of the story that occur in Mobile, Foley, Valdosta, and even Highlands, North Carolina – all places that I’ve actually visited in the last year. For me, the setting is really the high point of the book.
The book contains all of the characters we’ve come to expect in a Grisham novel. There is a judge, an attorney (or five), a jail house snitch, a floozy (or two), a sleazy developer, a wayward sheriff, and a corrupt Indian chief. Well, the corrupt Indian chief may be a new one, but the other characters are recognizable. All likable. All believable.
What the book misses is a signature moment. There is no moment when Abby McDeere runs from her bugged house. No moment where it was apparent that an innocent man was about to be put to death. No “now imagine she’s white” moment.
I’ve read every Grisham book, and the details of each tend to blend with the specifics of the others, but I don’t recall a Grisham book that left me, at best, just okay with the ending.
Don’t get me wrong. For me, Grisham has set a very high bar for his work. The Whistler is a good piece of literature, but it lacks the suspense – or, more accurately, the level of suspense – that we’ve come to expect in Grisham’s books. It is still a very good read and, probably, provides a very good behind the scenes look at how all of those strip malls and high rises took over the panhandle.
Read it. Enjoy it. Just don’t expect the suspense meter to increase as the chapters pass.