Camino Winds – John Grisham

When Hurricane Leo threatens Florida’s Camino Island, the Governor is quick to issue an evacuation order. Most residents flee but a small group of diehards decide to ride it out. Amongst them is Bruce Cable, proprietor of Bay Books in downtown Santa Rosa.

The hurricane is devastating: homes and condos are levelled, hotels and storefronts ruined, streets flooded, and a dozen people are killed. One of the victims is Nelson Kerr, a friend of Bruce’s who wrote timely political thrillers. But evidence suggests that the storm wasn’t the cause of Nelson’s death – he had received several mysterious blows to the head.

Who would want Nelson dead? The local police are overwhelmed with the aftermath of the storm and in no condition to handle the case. Bruce begins to wonder if the shady characters in Nelson’s novels were more fact than fiction. And somewhere on Nelson’s computer is the manuscript of his new novel – could the key to the case be right there, in black and white? Bruce starts to look into it and what he finds between the lines is more shocking than any of Nelson’s plot twists – and far more dangerous.

Seeing the sequel to Camino Island out in paperback, I decided to grab it despite my friend Maxine’s brutally honest assessment about her reading of it – “it’s shit” –  when it first came out in hardback.  This almost stopped me but curiosity is a powerful thing and I had just been paid.

It’s hard not to agree with Maxine’s assessment of the novel, and I won’t even bother trying.   It was a big letdown, aside from the beginning which retained the feel of the first book with familiar characters and their bookish banter.

Camino Winds quickly gets rid of most of the established characters, and with them goes a lot of what made the first book so enjoyable;  the talk of books, publishing, buying, and the opinions of other writers, that was bliss. There is a lot less of all of the above in Camino Winds, and the only noteworthy character addition was student Nick, who wasn’t particularly interesting or likeable.

Grisham chooses to write his characters in a very strange way, at one point a number of people show little interest in the recently discovered corpse of someone they know, which went a long way to diminishing my interest in them.

Some odd phrasings littered the text as well, these didn’t feel like natural speech, it was jarring.   I found myself rereading some paragraphs wondering why certain lines hadn’t been cut before publication. The word chainsaw, written as chain saw stressed me out as well.

There were a lack of surprising plot twists, and the hurricane storyline could well have been left out altogether.  I did find part of the book moderately interesting, especially as it was a beach read and so kept its pace up and allowed me to rush through it.

The one thing to take from the book, as the plot unfolded was the discovery of what the reason was for Nelson Kerr’s slaying which did have some interesting, if grim speculations, and so my reading wasn’t a total loss, and for that I am grateful.

I was forewarned about this book before going in but had to read this due to my enjoyment of Camino Island, it’s definitely a huge step down from the first book and I will be wary if there are further books in the series.  This is one for completeists only.

11 Replies to “Camino Winds – John Grisham”

  1. I used to love Grisham’s writing but haven’t read any of his books for ages. The more recent ones seemed to be the same book just with different covers. Hey ho, probably just as well, given all the other books I need to read.

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    1. I find that with authors, sometimes they need to be left alone so other authors can breathe. I have only dabbled in grisham and apart from The Last Juror, most have been non legal stuff. Playing for pizza was enjoyable. I read half of it in a pub once, when a friend was late.

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  2. Let me recommend a book to you (as Monty Python says, “And now for something completely different”) to soothe your wearied soul and perk up your curiosity again. I just started Geraldine Brooks’s book “The Secret Chord,” which is all about a section of Biblical times, with the first few chapters at least written in the voice of King David’s main prophet. Not a Bible fan or historian? You don’t have to be–the names are even modernized a lot. You’ll perhaps remember the Canadian songwriter Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah,” of which the first lines are: “I heard there was a secret chord/That David played and it pleased the Lord…” Well, I don’t know if that’s where this author got her title, but it’s a fantastic read so far, very deep and yet compelling, without draggy moments (again, so far). That should take you far away from “Camino Winds”!

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    1. I love a good book recommendation! I shall keep an eye out for this one, especially as you mented Monty Python, I started watching The Holy Grail with Amelia, she was less amused than me but I’m working on it.

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  3. Another reason not to attempt another Grisham novel. I read 3 chapters of The Rooster Bar and threw it down in disgust. “Boring” doesn’t even begin to describe it. Thanks, Ste, for saving me time and $$$ 😀

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    1. I read the bad books so you don’t have to! I’m not inclined to read another but if another Camino novel does come out I would be interested to see if it goes back to its bookish roots.

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  4. Great review! I’ve never read Grisham, but it sounds like the pressure to produce has reduced quality, in general. And if editors just rubber stamp books, well, things spiral downward.

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    1. My experiences with Grisham have been hit and miss. It does make me wonder how much the fan pressure to write contributes to the quality of the work. It also riases the question on how muh influence an editor has on someone who is guaranteed to bring in the money, no matter what.

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