Now that Grisham is a world-class writer he no longer feels himself bound to deliver a world-class thriller. He indulges himself in his personal preferences instead : A deeply felt admiration for everything Italian, like food, fashion, language and, as he himself confesses in the “authorīs note”, Bologna. On the other hand he has a very strong feeling of hate and disgust for the present American president .
So how can he write a story around all that? He first throws his middle-aged hero Joel Backman, a ruthless and powerful lobbyist, into prison, because a mega deal with an electronic satellite system has gone wrong. Then the loathsome presidentīs days are over and the CIA presses him to pardon Backman as one of his last actions in office. Itīs all conveniently mysterious as the reader is left in the dark about the CIAīs reasons. But no problem, Backman is hidden away in Bologna which gives Grisham ample opportunity to share his above mentioned love with his readers. We can learn Italian together with Backman, explore the streets of Bologna and its restaurants. Grisham also provides middle-aged, but beautiful Francesca as a language teacher. Superfluous to say, that her husband lies dying, which adds a caring touch.
What about the big plot? Ah yes, in the end, Backman outwits them all: The Mossad, the CIA, the Chinese. And after a short episode in Washington a wiser Backman returns to Bologna and Francesca.