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The Brethren - John Grisham

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Author: John Grisham / Genre: Crime / Thriller

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      14.01.2010 21:08
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      A great page turner that's a 2-4-1 on stories

      I'll start by saying that I am not a reader and this is the first book I've picked up in years: I saw it on my mother-in-law's bookshelf and asked to borrow it. I thought I'd give it a go because it's my genre, it's not available as a film and is written by a lawyer (I myself have studied law). When I started out I expected that I would read a couple of chapters then get bored/lured by electronic entertainment...TV, Xbox, Wii and so on.

      This book is about three ex-judges (the Brethren) doing porridge in a minimum security prison. These judges did not know each other previously but quickly became acquainted and the story starts after they have served some time, become friends and cooked up a money-making scheme together. They place personal ads in gay magazines and then enter into a series of correspondence posing as a young gay man. They then blackmail the writers with knowledge of their true sexuality. It is a hit and miss scheme earning them a tidy sum of money with nobody any the wiser... that is until they land a big fish. The big fish they hook is a very powerful man and his life is a story within a story.

      For a non reader this is a good book as it has short chapters and the two seemingly separate stories help keep the interest levels up. I was very surprised when this book did not meet my expectations: it vastly exceeded them. There is something about Grisham's writing here that just keeps you hooked and wanting to find out more. I was even switching off the TV so that I could find out more about Yarber, Beech and Spicer and their latest prey: Aaron Lake. The story gets you involved with the characters without giving too much back story to be boring in. The one downside to this story is the ending - although interesting it did not quite come up to the same standard as the rest of the book - but then that could just be down to the fact I didn't want the suspense to end.

      This book isn't humorous nor emotional it's a thriller and does exactly what it should do - keeps you on the edge of your seat and keeps you turning those pages.

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      22.04.2009 23:03
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      Grisham has done it again

      I must admit, I am a John Grisham fan, and with "The Brethren" he has done it again. This was a thoroughly good read, and very hard to put down.
      The main part of the story begins in a minimum security prison named Trumble, with three former judges who are now inmates themselves. Somehow, they've managed to create their own little business in jail, helping the other prisoners with appeals and legal advice - at a price. And dispensing justice in the jail - it's minimum security so they don't want any jailhouse brawls going on to mess it up. That suits the warders fine too, makes their job easier, after all.

      These three are known collectively as "The Brethren"and this story is about them, and a nice little scam they cook up from within the walls of their confinement. Well, they've nothing to lose, they're already in jail - right? Life outside may have fallen into a hole but now these three are planning their freedom, and do not intend to spend the rest of their lives as paupers, once they get out.
      At the other end of the scale is Aaron Lake, suddenly whisked into the spotlight as a serious contender for the next presidential election. Where did he spring from? And where is all his money coming from? What is Aaron Lake's secret? And how does it involve the Brethren?

      Ah - well you're going to have to read the book for the answers to those questions - but don't worry, you'll find it an enjoyable escape. Grisham knows how to pace a good story, and how to weave the tale. I must admit - I expected something different at the end. I mean, when you're dealing with con artists against con artists, who knows what to expect. Shady dealings, at the very least, I think.
      Good for curling up on the couch with. He's done it again!

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      13.06.2002 01:35
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      This was the first Grisham book i read. I picked it up on a ferry on my way to france a year and a bit ago and was instantly hooked. I spent the first two weeks out there just constantly reading this book much to my girlfriends annoyance. The way Grisham writes just draws you in he gets you hooked on the characters and what there doing. And when the books over you still want to keep Reading. Basically the book revolves around three ex Judges who go to jail for various reasons, where they meet a form a Brethren. With the aid of some outside help they manage to runa scam entraping closet Gays into writing to them as they are pretending to be young guys. They use any information they are sent to extort money out of the person or else they will send the letters to his wife and members of the community. One of the men who responds is the preident and the rest of the book is basically the atempts to stop this information getting out. My favourite characters in this book have to be the three Brethren who are running the scam from inside prison and manage to snare i think its the president. A must read for anyone who likes a good read and whos got time because once you start you wont stop

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        16.03.2002 21:37
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        I first got into Grisham a few years ago and I am slowly but surely getting through his books. The ones I have read have normally been quite pacey and a can't put down type of book due to the complex stories and thrilling action. For those of you that have never touched a Grisham book (are there such people?), he specialises in law stories. So the plots in a basic format tend to be good lawyer fighting justice or seeking fufillment or bad lawyer trying to work the system. The Brethren is somewhat different. I don't know quite what it is really.... there still is a fair amount of pace in the story....it just seems to lack lustre. Now this could be that my life has been so busy that reading fell down my priority list but this book, I actually read over 6 months and I could take or leave it, whereas I am normally glued to Grisham's books. Basic Plot Three judges have one way or another ended up in jail and they are all in a low security state prison with long sentences. Over the years they have been allowed to set up a mock court to help settle petty disputes within the prison and hence they are known as the Brethren. Now these are corrupt but smart men, so it will hardly surprise you to hear that they devise a crafty plan to extort money from gay men, (who are reeking with money.) Now it just so happens that they stumble on one innocent victim who is a congressman, running for president. The brethen are oblivious to this at first but along the way they find out. Unfortunately for the brethen the CIA find out about their scam and they of course get busted. But is this really unfortunate or a stroke of luck? Comment. This book does have pace but as I have said earlier it lacks something. The first few chapters seemed a chore to me as it jumps about a bit. Grisham does not waffle at all but I found myself struggling with this book. I did find however tha
        t the insight into a presidential election and US politics seemed to be quite plausible. You may even be able to find comparisons with real life. Despite my critique of this book, I did enjoy the read and would still reccommend the book. There is still pace and a complex plot with lots of twists.

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          18.08.2001 03:31
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          Since first reading John Grishams The Client I have been addicted to his books, and The Bretheren was a classic. A tale of a corruption, politics, deception and pure genius where a simple congressman gets taken into a polical journey so unbelievable you yourself start to question the american system. Three convicted judges bribe the innocent out of thousends of dollars. only to find that one of their "victims " was soon to become the president of the United States. Can the CIA protect the future president?, Will the three judges get away with their scam? only you can find out! This clever novel will keep you at the edge of your seat for hours, occaisionally It was somewhat confusing as to where the story had moved on to but all in all a really great read. 10/10 again John.

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            19.07.2001 00:13
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            We've all seen no end of John Grisham books turned into films with Harrison Ford in them. They are half decent films, so I thought I'd give one of his books a go - especially as tesco are selling them at £3.84 a pop. Well, cue great disappointment. First, the quality of writing is close to appalling, may be not in content but in style. Its real tabloid stuff, so easy to read, but... perhaps it's becuase the publisher couldn't even be bothered to run a UK spell checker over it so we get "gray" and "...or" etc. And it is full slang - not in the speech, but in the descriptive text. Nonetheless he does describe reasonably well, and this story has a couple of notionally separate stories that are bound to clash headlong (it tells you on the back cover). But the settings are fairly absurd - the CIA rigging a presidential nomination for a president that will double arms spending - perhaps this isn't so absurd given the petrol / gas lobby funded Bush. A congressman is selected by the CIA and has the most lavish election campaign in history funded. The other half of the story is three judges now in prison dispensing justice - its an open prison so its tame stuff. They also start a scam by searching for gay men through wanted ads and then blackmailing them. Of course, it is obvious that our president elect wil be caught, even though he is a widower. Wouldn't be a story if he didn't swing both ways. So, the scam builds as they realise who they have caught - this is about 3/4 of the way through the book, so the reader thinks it may hot up, with twists and turns aplenty. But no. Look away if you don't want to know the result, but it has to be the tamest ending since i read Noddy as a child. They ask for $2 million - and they get it, and get out of jail and...er.. that's it. It is so profounding and irritatingly disappointing, that I hate this book. It showed reasonabl
            e promise, simplicity of the writing style aside 9and that coudl eb construied as accessibility), but i won't read one of his books ever again, even at £3.84. And this must be quite a good one of his, or there must be Grisham fans aplenty out there as this book got an 87% rating before I dropped it down a notch or two. Nothing to recommend it, and i can't see Harrison Ford playing the lead man.

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              25.05.2001 23:02
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              Didn't John Grisham used to write cracking thrillers that you couldn't put down? The Firm, The Pelican Brief, The Client, The Rainmanker, The Runaway Jury (my favourite) to mention a few. His last book, The Testament, was nothing short of just a novel sized advertisment for Christianity. I'm not anti-chrisitan, I'm just against novelists who thinly veil an agenda under the guise of a thriller. Which brings me on to The Brethren, which when I started reading it, made me a little worried as it seems somewhat homophobic, but I persevered. The character developement is good, but everything that Grisham builds up is just completely obliterated with the most quickly contrived ending of all his work. It is almost as though he got bored and had already thought of the beginning to his next book and just could not be bothered to finish this one properly. I have already purchased his new book and I will always give the benefit of the doubt, but the time may come when I might have to say "I couldn't put it down, mainly because I never picked it up."

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                18.05.2001 02:15
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                Having been bored on a hot summer's afternoon, I decided to sit down in the garden with a book by one of my favourite authors- John Grisham. I was reading his latest offering- The Brethren. Although it got off to a slow start, after the first hundred pages or so, I just couldn't put the book down, I was addicted! The Brethren tells the story of the perfect scam that three prisoners run. They hunt out rich men that are hiding the fact that they are gay, and extort money from them. The prisoners stumble upon a secret that could wreck the whole of the US Government- a presidential candidate that hides the fact that he is gay, and is in line to win. The story follows the attempts of the presidential candidate's spin-doctors to avert the 'terrible' secret from becoming common knowledge, and an elaborate scheme to try and trap the prisoners, without them ever knowing who their victim was. As with all stories, there are twists and turns along the way, and Grisham's strong writing skills shine through. He keeps the reader gripped right up until the very end.

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                  18.04.2001 21:42
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                  As a big John Grisham fan I was quite disappointed when I started to read the Brethren. Usually his books have me itching for more from the first chapter but it wasn't until half way through the book that I began to get really interested. The basic plot is that three judges set up a scam to entice gay men who haven't "come out" to write to them in prison. They then extort money from these men, threatening to tell their wives/family if they do not pay the money. Somehow the three judges manage to ensnare the future president and the story then concentrates on his aide's efforts to stop the secret leaking out. This is not a typical John Grisham novel, it is based much less in the legal world than his others, the lawyer in this story is not a strong character and the story doesn't centre on him. I thought that the story of the presidential elections distracted the reader from the main plot and wasn't really necessary. If my expectations hadn't been so high I would have probably really enjoyed this book. As it was I was expecting something completely different and ended up a little disappointed. Still worth a read though.

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                  23.03.2001 01:46
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                  Well, a Grisham novel, could that not be summed up in a couple of lines, Conspiracy, Good (little) Lawyer, Bad (Corporate) Lawyer (or Bad Law), good guy wins out in the end? Not this one, I have not been a fan of Grisham's latter novels, finding that the majority to follow the formula outlined above, I was tired of this and Grisham?s unoriginal subject matter, always taking a popular subject that the population of the world seemed to think was unfair on them (the smoking lobby, the medical insurers etc) he had a point but it was populist. There is nothing wrong with being populist, but their needs to be some originality too and contrary to Mr Grisham's views not all big city lawyers lack morals, I should know! But, finding this book half price, I purchased it and read it, well devoured it! PLOT Three judges, the Brethren are serving time in a federal prison in sunny Florida, these men have been disgraced, lost their social standing and have little to look forward too. To amuse themselves in Prison they have a few hobbies; the first acting as a Prison court to settle petty prison disputes; the second practicing law without a licence (and charging for their work) and the third running a financial scam to extort money from rich gay men fearing that they could be outted by the Brethren. Oh yes, these old judges pose as young gay men in rehab looking for pen pals! One Congressman, Al Lake, an unknown from Arizona, but with a presidential race in the offing and an offer from the CIA to run with limitless funds, the CIA think that Al has no skeletons in his closet that he is a saint amongst the dirty world of Washington politics, is he? Will he get a nomination for the presidential race and will he win? What would the CIA be prepared to do, to have a president that owed them everything? So begins the Brethren and yes the two separate plots merge as Al contacts the Brethren's little scam wanting a young gay pe
                  n pal and the CIA are in the dark. The plot and pace thickens, everybody is dirty, everybody has their own selfish motives and will anybody truly win and have what they want without having to look over their shoulder? STYLE Grisham as always writes in a pacy way, there are no meandering descriptions or clever use of language; he uses the minimum number of words to convey the story and the tension between characters. Certainly this is no bad thing, but as with all commercial thrillers is means that the book can lack a little bit of depth, motives are kept simple and characters a little one dimensional. However, it is for the plot rather than the characters that you read a Grisham novel and the absence of lawyers as the central characters is refreshing. (Although there are lawyers in the plot.) But, Grisham crafts a great plot and writes in such a smooth style that the book is very easy to read and ideal to take away to a nice beach and relax with. MESSAGE Is there a message to this book? Well, buying the Whitehouse that is certainly a contentious and current issue in the States, is it the candidate with the most money that wins? Grisham thinks so and in this book he is certainly pushing for a limit on campaign spending. As per usual with a high percentage of Grisham books the CIA is the dark shadow, the organisation that can control everything in America. Now as neither Mr Grisham or myself have worked in the CIA at top level I am not sure that this is an analysis based on fact, rather than a popular ploy to sell books. The CIA are feared in the States and a lot of people think that this organisation wields the real power. (I worked in the States for a while and so have some idea of how the CIA is perceived.) Grisham has the CIA in an operation to buy their own president, and the Al Lake, appears to have an uncanny resemblance to George Bush! What could he be saying? To make the affinity even more comp
                  lete the democrat candidate is the current vice president! Hmm spot the similarities? There is also a swipe at low security prisons, with Grisham portraying the Florida prison as more of a fancy holiday park, with top line facilities, lax security and very little punishment element to having committed a crime. Except take away a man?s liberty and you take away the man. What is nice is that part of the book centres upon how lonely and isolated gay men in positions of power are. They cannot come out, yet they live a lie and are desperate to escape. For gay communities everywhere it is good that this issue has been pushed out like this by such a popular author, with global appeal. But, to be honest there is not a great deal of thoughtful depth to the book, just a good plot of suspense about powerful men, with few morals and a desire for something, whether it be money, the presidency or exerting maximum influence over the planet. There are no heroes in this book, all the characters are tainted and I found that refreshing in a commercial thriller. Part of me feels that Grisham writes for Hollywood, but all the same this is a good thriller. SUMMARY If you want an easy to read book, that will get you hooked, then Grisham is your man and of his recent books the Brethren is the best that I have read in a long time. As said, it is an ideal Beach read. But when will Mr Grisham get tired of his conspiracy theories? I have heard that the Painted House is a break from this and I will read it with interest. The only real gripe is that the book ends abrubtly and in rather a unsatisfactory way, but this is true with a lot of thrillers, when do you end, unless everybody is dead!

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                    28.02.2001 21:47
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                    If you can get past the first 50 tedious and somewhat confusing pages you will be rewarded with a decent plot and Grishams inimitable style. I have read all of JG's work and seen all of the film adaptations to boot, so it is safe to say that I am a bit of a fan of his writing. This book seems to break the mould of his usual courtroom drama's and to me this is a shame as these are what he does best. There are two storys interwoven in the novel - one of Aaron Lake's presidential campaign and the other being three judges ( The Brethren) locked up in a minimal security prison who are blackmailing gay guys who have answered their personal ad and thretening to 'out' them unless they pay extortionate sums of money to them. As you can probably guess Aaron Lake gets mixed up in all of this and when the brethren find out how much they could make out of him the blackmail demands skyrocket. Although very cleverly written the story is a little too farfetched to be believable ( should make a good movie then...) and the beginnning is extremely slow, although the pace does quicken towards the end. You need to really concentrate on this book to enjoy the full impact of the storyline as it is quite hard to follow in places. The ending is surprising to say the least ( i suppose in support it is not predictable) but I feel that it could have been handled better as it was pretty disappointing. I won't spoil it for those who want to read it themselves but for three characters than you never really get close to , it does work out pretty good for them. In my opinion this novel is not nearly as good as The rainmaker (my favourite) but it is an adequate way to pass a sunday evening. His new novel 'A painted House' - available in hardback at the moment ( which I haven't read) seems to digress even more from his typical courtroom genre but I will read and review once the paperback comes
                    out ( too stingy to buy the hardback!!!) Happy reading!

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                      05.01.2001 21:40
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                      John Grisham breaks a little with his usual style here mixing in a little Tom Clancy style politic in a fantasic story. Reading it on the train makes me almost wish for delays so I can keep reading (although I don't really need to wish for delays!) it is that good a read. I'll try not to spoil it too much for those of you who are going to read it, but this is what the book is about... The book revolves around 3 judges convicted of various offences, who are locked away in a federal minimum security prison. Whilst in there they spend their time resolving disputes among other prisoners, until one day they decide to embark upon a mail scam. Basically they try to ensnare gay men who lead double lives (i.e. are married with kids..) and then blackmail them out of tons of cash. In the other, seemingly non related to start with, plot. The CIA have decided that the US is not the power it once was, and they want to do something about it. And of course they decide to 'fix' the next election. They pick a candidate, a straight-laced widower from the middle of nowhere, and launch him on the campaign trail with the message "The US needs to boost it's military" The CIA aquire loads of money for their candidate to run his election with. They also 'arrange' for incidents around the world that will scare the public into believing that the US military is too weak to act any more. All is going well and the CIA's candidate is well in front in the polls etc... until, of course he turns out to be gay on the side! The CIA director is not happy about this and has to track down those responsible for the scam and prevent them damaging their election plans.... I won't spoil the end for you cos otherwise you may as well not read it! But as I say, a superb story, well written and without the mid book boredom that has seemed to creep into Grisham's more recent offerings. The best since Rainmaker.

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                      25.11.2000 19:18
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                      The Brethren, similar to other Grisham books hooks the reader with a clever and interesting opening to the book. The book opens in a low security prison where three ex judges reside. The inmates know them as The Brethren as they have a weekly court where the inmates put their cases forward for any disputes. The Brethren’s decision is final. The Brethren have a lot of time on their hands and start trying to look into other ventures to build up a reasonable sum to enjoy when they have been released. The most successful scam has been to place ads in gay magazines to entice wealthy men, when they are hooked they blackmail the victim for their silence. The scam is working very well until the wrong man answers their ad. It is election year in America, a new squeaky clan candidate has come to the fore. There is nothing in his background for the opposition to pick up on. The candidate starts acting strangely, collecting and delivering mail to a PO Box in the middle of the night. The CIA are constantly monitoring his movements and soon realise that their candidate has a secret to hide. A secret which could potentially destroy their carefully manipulated campaign. The Brethren soon realise that they have hooked a bigger fish than they could ever had hoped for. This starts to make the Brethren dream of an early release or bigger opportunities for their silence. This is similar to recent Grisham work where a potentially excellent storyline was not fully followed through. The ending to the book seems very abrupt and many of the characters are introduced and then never heard of again. It appears that the book was finished to meet a deadline rather than written to a conclusion. Overall I would say this book is average, a Grisham fan would probably enjoy the book except the ending but I don’t think many new fans will be won over.

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                      06.11.2000 23:13

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                      Grisham has become a staple of my reading not because he writes great novels, but because he writes readable books that aren't very challenging to ones points of view and he writes them frequently which allows me periodic breaks from more serious reading. This book is the perfect example. An easily told tale that is fast paced and not at all thought provoking. I'm glad he broke his formula after Street Lawyer and the last two books have been definite improvements. While not nearly the book A Time to Kill is, its clearly better than his anti-death penalty crusade of The Chamber. Of the highs and low of Grisham's works, this one fits in the middle, thus three stars. He'll probably sulk all the way to the bank with his studio check. This like almost all his recent books read more like a screen play than a novel. I wish he would show the talent that wrote A Time to Kill Again.

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                      16.09.2000 02:10

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                      John Grisham’s latest novel takes the reader to the world of Trumble, a minimum-security federal prison, holding three former judges amongst others. They are working on a mail scam, with the money pouring in. However, the scam goes wrong and a person on the outside, a powerful man, is caught up in it. This person is so powerful; life is about to become very interesting for the judges. It seems that Grisham is leaving the world of the crusading lawyer now and branching out into different things, though still keeping a grip on the legal world. This book is an incredibly easy read. The plot, whilst fast and clever, is not particularly complicated and you will find yourself flying through the pages, anxious to see what happens. The characters are interesting. Whereas in most novels there is a hero, there is no-one in this novel that is not involved in criminality or disrepute in some way. The ending is a bit of a surprise and not what I had expected. It’s an adequate ending and ties in well with the rest of the book, leaving a satisfied smile on your face when you finish it. This book stormed to the top of the best-seller lists and deserves to be another success for Grisham. I can smell movie rights already.

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