The boys from Biloxi by John Grisham

cover image

Two families, who start their lives in similar circumstances in Biloxi, Mississippi on the Gulf of Mexico, end up in very different positions because of the choices they make. One family, the Falco’s, end up mired in corruption and involved in illicit activities and running establishments that enable prostitution and gambling to line their pockets. Their life is complicated by greed, and power is exercised with no regard to the law. The other family, the Rudy’s, maintain their church attendance and work hard to eventually work in the legal world, upholding law and order and trying to change the reputation of the community that is their home. Their life is not perfect, but their desire is to see the bad reputation and grimy behaviours of their town wiped out and the coast ‘cleaned up’. Their two sons, Hugh Falco and Keith Rudy, grew up playing baseball together, but the passage of time and the different paths of their lives and their climbs to success, leads them to be on opposite sides of the courtroom in a case that involves murder. The political wheeling and dealing of legal and illegal activities are woven into the story and there is an inevitability of this good vs evil saga. The showdown in the courtroom is coming.

Grisham manages to pull the reader along into the grimy world of organised crime without getting his hands dirty in the process. Written with a somewhat spare, almost documented and non-judgemental style, this initially feels like we are being given a briefing of the record of a legal situation and court case from the very beginning of its history. Sentences are short and devoid of imagery, characters are described but we do not connect to them or warm to them. The boys from Biloxi lacks the narrative flair and tension of many crime novels, but at the same time the lean exposure of the plot’s complexities gives it a journalistic feel and an inescapable pull. Interestingly, Grisham has also spared us the worst of the awful and grisly detail of the illegal activities, and even the language use (with barely a swear word in sight) has been pared back so that we are on the outside looking in, but without the stench of the evil cesspit in our faces. This makes it an interestingly different story. But the complications of the nefarious world of crime bosses and also the US legal and political world and its machinations are revealed in an intriguing way.  It isn’t nice, but it is compelling. This is for lovers of legal crime dramas, 16+- adult readers.

Themes: Organised Crime, Legal drama, Illegal activity, Gambling and prostitution, Murder.

Carolyn Hull