#1 New York Times bestselling author John Grisham returns to Mississippi for his latest legal thriller, The Boys from Biloxi, churning out one of his best standalone novels to date.
12-year-olds Keith Rudy and Hugh Malco used to be the best of friends. Having grown up together in the Gulf Coast city of Biloxi, Mississippi, the two young men were both baseball stars, dominating Little League with dreams of playing in the Major Leagues one day. That would never happen, though, and as fate would have it—they soon find themselves, and their families, on opposite sides of the law . . . and the courtroom.
Hugh Malco’s father became the boss of the Biloxi criminal underground. Hugh, having spent his formidable teenage years observing his father, found that he too enjoyed the nightlife, living it up in his father’s nightclubs, embracing everything that life had to offer. Meanwhile, Keith Rudy spent his life walking in the opposite direction. Instead of accompanying his childhood friend down the road of crime and greed, he followed in his father’s footsteps and went to law school. Lance Rudy is considered a legendary prosecutor in those parts, so for Keith, it means he has big shoes to fill if he’s going to ever outgrow his old man’s shadow.
In many ways, what Grisham delivers here, isn’t so much a story of Good vs. Evil, but rather a look at how two people with similar starts—both descended from Croatian immigrants, in this case—are ultimately pulled down such different paths. In some ways, it was foreshadowed at the beginning. Both boys were star ballplayers but on opposite teams, and eventually, in their mid-thirties, both Keith and Hugh are on opposite sides of the conflicts plaguing their small Mississippi town. Hugh, having learned from his father, profits off of the rampant gambling, prostitution, and drug usage. Keith, on the other hand, is hellbent on finishing what his father started by finally cleaning up the streets once and for all. And that pits both boys and their families against one another in a dangerous battle that, one way or another, will have unforgivable consequences.
Admittingly, this is not Grisham’s fastest novel in recent memory. And while some will no doubt measure pacing as a defining trait for classifying a book as a “thriller,” to simply dock points for this being more of a slow-burn story feels unfair. There are a lot of backstories to clear here, but every sentence adds to the overall conflict and war between the two families, and for that to work—for readers to feel connected and a part of both Hugh and Keith’s journey—Grisham takes the necessary time to frame his setting, conflict, and cast perfectly, all leading to a riveting courtroom showdown, where the author has always excelled.
John Grisham delivers a magnificent story told from two sides of the law while mixing in messages of hope, greed, loyalty, and the difficulties of growing up. The Boys from Biloxi is as powerful as it is memorable. It’s also one of the author’s best books (outside of his Jake Brigance series), leaving very little doubt that after a couple of misfires, John Grisham is once again back on top, right where you’d expect the King of the legal thriller to sit after such an illustrious career.
Author: John Grisham
Pages: 464 (Hardcover)
Release Date: October 18, 2022
Real Book Spy Rating: 8.75/10
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