Book review: Grisham explores different types of characters in ‘Camino Island’ |

Book review: Grisham explores different types of characters in ‘Camino Island’

Katie Davidson/For Steamboat Today

'Camino Island," by John Grisham

A different type of character for John Grisham fans is what initially piqued my interest in this book. I know and love this author for his hard-nosed, gritty protagonists, and we have a whole different, yet likeable, world here.

The world of writing is explored in this book about writers, for writers and for collectors of manuscripts. There’s also an underbelly to the manuscript part, as in stolen paintings; there are those who purloin original manuscripts, as well.

The main protagonist is Mercer Mann, a woman who published a book at a young age but is having difficulty finding her muse again. When we meet her, she is teaching at University of North Carolina Chap Hill, but her position has been, officially, deleted. She’s understandably worried about her seemingly insurmountable student debt, as well as a place to even live.

She has placed an ad for a job online and receives an offer which seems too good to be true. The job entails her starting and finishing her next book on the island where she had spent wonderful summers with her grandmother. Elaine Shelby is the woman making the job offer on behalf of a mysterious employer who is offering her not only that chance, but has also offered to pay her $100,000 and pay off her student loans. Mercer is to cozy up to the man who owns a bookstore in the town of Santa Rosa, on Camino Island, but there's a pinch.

The owner of Bay Books, Bruce Cable, has come by his love of rare books semi-honestly, through his father. He is suspected of having five of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s original manuscripts. The manuscripts had been stolen from the Firestone Library at Princeton University some months earlier. Two of the perpetrators had been caught very soon after the robbery but were saying nothing. The underworld of stolen goods had not been forthcoming, but Bruce Cable’s name was known in the book world — not only for his store, but also for his collection of very rare books.

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After some hesitation and soul-searching, Mercer decides to go to Camino Island, returning to the cottage in which she had spent many happy summers with her grandmother, Tess; Mercer hadn’t been back since Tess died some years ago, but she is still part owner.

Her “cover” is to be exactly who she is: a published author looking for inspiration for her next novel while getting to know Bruce Cable and (hopefully) some of his secrets.

Being a book lover, I enjoyed this story. I enjoyed the gaggle of other writers and their interactions, and I enjoyed Bruce’s charisma, as well as that of his wifer.

I was never sure where Elaine came from — perhaps the insurance company who covered the Fitzgerald loss. The FBI enters into the book almost as an aside.

John Grisham fans have a different facet of him to peruse in this.

Katie Davidson is a bookseller at Off The Beaten Path.