Five rare, handwritten manuscripts of F. Scott Fitzgerald are stolen from the Princeton University Library. The insurance company that has insured the manuscripts for twenty-five million believes they are now in the hands of bookseller Bruce Cable on Camino Island, Florida. They hire Mercer Mann to spend the summer on the island and infiltrate the writer’s community and hopefully learn more about Cable and the manuscripts. Mercer is three years past due on a promised second novel and has been laid off from her teaching job with piles of student debt. She has part ownership of a cottage on Camino Island, which belonged to her late Aunt Emma. The job is a perfect fit.
I haven’t read a Grisham novel in a few years, so maybe I don’t remember how he writes, but Camino Island felt off his beaten path to me. Maybe I’ll have to re-read one of his earlier books to see if I remember correctly. First, it’s not a legal novel; second, it’s a slow-paced, relaxed, summer-vacation story (not a lot of tension or action); third, it has more “tell” than “show,” with several chapters that seem more like back-story than story. Despite all that, I did read the whole book and enjoyed it.
Here’s where my content editing got in my way and almost kept me from continuing reading:
Chapter One, 37 pages, tells us about the heist of the manuscripts. The details of how it was accomplished are interesting, but it’s almost all “tell” and could be eliminated or shortened, maybe even incorporated elsewhere in the book.
Chapter Two, 21 pages, is a character sketch of Bruce Cable. This chapter is covered in other ways in the rest of the novel. It could definitely disappear.
You could start the book at Chapter Three, page 59, and not miss anything except possibly the details of the theft.
This review sounds very critical, but I did enjoy the read. I guess that gives credit to the author’s writing. And I liked the way it ended.