Tuesday, May 14, 2019

A Young Writer Accepts an Interesting But Potentially Dangerous Assignment on Camino Island

When a gang of clever thieves breaks into a vault deep in the bowels of the Firestone Library at Princeton University, the prize is five original manuscripts from the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald, including The Great Gatsby. The collection is priceless, and the problem, of course, is how to safely dispose of it while making a fortune in the process.

Naturally, Princeton would very much like to have the manuscripts back, and the initial F.B.I. investigation into the thefts yields some results but not the manuscripts themselves. Another agency, which is never named, is also searching for the manuscripts. They represent the insurance company that's going to have to fork over $20 million if the manuscripts are not recovered safely.

Naturally, they'd prefer not to have to do that, and the agency they've retained does not have the scrouples or the limitations of a law enforcement agency. The company convinces Mercer Mann, an English instructor who has just lost her college teaching job, to aid them in the search. Mercer has published one well-received novel, but is suffering from a serious case of writer's block brought on by the pressing obligations of her huge student loan debt. Her potential employer offers to pay her handsomely and to pay off the student debt, an offer that Mercer ultimately cannot refuse, even though she has reservations about the job she's being asked to do.

Mercer's employer points her at a very successful bookseller named Bruce Cable on Camino Island in Florida. The company believes that Cable, who is rumored to sometimes traffic in stolen novels, might be in possession of the Fitzgerald manuscripts. Mercer used to visit her aunt on the island and still has a partial interest in her aunt's home there. As a novelist, she should be easily able to penetrate Cable's inner circle and hopefully discover if he has the manuscripts and where he might be hiding them. But this may not be as easy as it sounds.

This is a reasonably fun read and I particularly enjoyed it for all the insights into the writing and book selling businesses. It's certainly not among Grisham's better books--the suspense is not nearly as heart-pounding as it is in The Firmor The Runaway Jury, for example, but it's an easy way to lose a summer afternoon.

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