First my grandma recommended Camino Island to me, then my MIL recommended John Grisham’s podcast, which follows his book tour for Camino Island, to me, and finally I took the hint from the universe and read Camino Island. I even bit the bullet to buy it since the wait list at the library was 50+ people deep and this story was becoming irresistible to me the more I heard about it. This was the first Grisham book I’ve read aside from Skipping Christmas (I know – what the heck?) but it won’t be my last, especially now that I know he lives in Cville and I have better odds of running into him than ever before. (#wishfulthinking #canwebefriends?)
Camino Island tells the story of the original F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts being stolen from Princeton’s Fireside Library vault and how they – and the culprits – are hunted across time and space. After opening with the crime and the criminals involved, we get to know Bruce Cable, a highly successful and affluent bookseller on Camino Island. Along with his wife, who deals in rare French antique furniture, he keeps a merry gang of authors in rotation for book signings, dinners, and other rendezvous around town. As you’d imagine, Bruce is incredibly charming, well dressed, and rich considering he’s a bookseller, but – as Grisham notes in his podcast – “It’s fiction.”
Mercer Mann, an aspiring novelist, is tapped to spy on Bruce and his bookstore in order to further the mission of recovering Fitzgerald’s manuscripts. She moves to the island and works on her novel while also working her way inside Cable’s small inner circle. Even though this story takes place in modern day, some of the scenes and aspects of their lifestyle remind me of the golden era in Paris 1920s, where Hemingway and Fitzgerald and their gang lived the dream. Perhaps that tone and imagery is appropriate, given the subject matter of the stolen manuscripts.
Grisham does a phenomenal job keeping readers in suspense while also letting them enjoy the ride. This is the perfect book to take on a long weekend to the beach (let’s be honest, nothing makes me want to be at the beach more than reading about the incredible seafood, long morning walks, and oceanside views). It’s not a legal thriller or heavy crime novel even though it is built around a crime from the start. It’s the perfect mix of intrigue, seedy characters, and people you want to be friends with – even if they don’t turn out to be who they seem.
Now the hard question: Which one of Grisham’s novels should I read next?
Stats: 306 pages
Rating: 3.75/5 stars
Recommended for: Fans of Grisham, the Fitzgerald era, or in the mood for a relatively light but suspenseful book.
Up next: The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly