SIDEBAR Fall 2017 - 28



The Whistler
by John Grisham
Review By Jules J. Mermelstein, Esq.

Edition reviewed: Kindle, ISBN-13: 978-0385541572,
$9.99 from Amazon, 386 pp., Random House LLC.


or fans of John Grisham, it will
not come as a surprise that his
novels revolve around the law and
contain violence. It will also not come
as a surprise that Grisham is a master of
When one of the main characters in
The Whistler assures another character
of the safety of the main character's
profession by stating that if she ever felt
the need to carry a gun in her profession,
she would find a different one, the
knowledgeable reader cringes, thinking,
"she'd better find another profession."
This novel is classic Grisham. It
involves dishonest land development, a
dishonest judge, lots of money changing
hands, threats, murder, an organized
crime outfit, snitches (both truthful
and not), whistleblowers, RICO,
investigations with Indians (including
some Indian law), and a casino at the
center of the action. Although it is late
to suggest this as a great beach read, it
is a great read for whenever you want to
decompress from your job and be happy
it is not as stressful as the jobs Grisham's
characters have.
Although one of the main characters
is the heretofore mentioned dishonest
judge, Grisham makes sure people do not
assume the worst about judges. Indeed,
in describing one of his characters, an
investigator for the Florida Board on
Judicial Conduct, he has the narrator say,
"Lacy was forever grateful that almost all
judges were honest, hardworking people
committed to justice and equality."


Indians owning casinos, with no
oversight if they are on tribal land, is an
issue in The Whistler. Grisham is able to
summarize the issues surrounding Indians
owning casinos in one short paragraph:
There are 562 recognized tribes in
the U.S., but only about 200 operate
casinos. There are approximately 150
additional tribes seeking recognition,
but the Feds have grown suspicious.
New tribes face an uphill battle getting
recognized. Many critics claim their
sudden pride in their heritage is driven
solely by the desire to get into the
casino business. Most Indians do not
share in these riches and many still live
in poverty.
The Whistler also goes into detail
about the running of an organized
criminal business. This includes the
decision-makers, the middle managers,
and the grunts. It informs about the
flow of information and advancement
possibilities. There is some, possibly a
little too much, information about the
laundering of money. Along with this are
descriptions of hiding bribe money in
items other than cash, and the hiding of
the identities of real estate owners by use
of offshore corporations.
There was an interesting, obvious, and
surprising mathematics error. The fictional
tribe in the book, which distributed
profits from its casino to all members
of their tribe, had a rule that one had
to have at least one-eighth ancestry in
the tribe to be considered a member.
One of the characters in the book had a
grandmother who had one-half ancestry.

The grandfather had none, which made
the character's mother one-quarter. The
character was upset because she could
never track down her father, who her
mother said was one-half ancestry. The
character maintained that if she could
track her down, she could prove she was
one-eighth and therefore a member of the
tribe. In this reviewer's calculations, the
character's mother's one-quarter ancestory
is enough for the character to be at least
one-eighth, regardless of her father's
The Whistler shows dishonest and
honest lawyers, judges, and witnesses. It
shows guilty and innocent defendants.
As pointed out near the beginning of
this review, Grisham takes pains to point
out that most judges are honest and
includes dialogue in which one judge says,
"A stable society is built on notions of
fairness and justice and it's left to judges
. . . to make sure all citizens are protected
from the corrupt, the violent, and the
forces of evil."
Grisham manages to produce yet
another novel involving corruption in
the legal profession while demonstrating
lawyers who are hard-working and honest
public servants and, thereby, to avoid
besmirching our whole profession.
This is an exciting novel, well worth
the read. This reviewer would not be
surprised to see The Whistler turned into
a blockbuster movie. In my mind, I've
already begun casting. Let's see, Robert
De Niro, Julia Roberts, Elizabeth Hurley,
Keira Knightly.

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