By John Grisham (Doubleday, 340 pages, $28.95)
At the federal prison camp near Frostburg, Md., there's plenty of time to think. And that's a good thing for Malcolm Bannister, an ex-attorney unwittingly ensnared in a federal racketeering case that landed him a 10-year sentence. Although Bannister is guilty of nothing more than naivete, he's serving his time quietly, working as a jailhouse lawyer, and spending a lot of time trying to conjure his own get-out-of-jail-free card. When a federal judge is murdered at a remote lakeside cabin, leaving behind two bodies and a very empty safe, Malcolm has an ace in the hole. He knows who killed Judge Fawcett, and he knows why. In John Grisham's "The Racketeer," not much is as it seems. The imprisoned "racketeer" is likable -- and not guilty. The dead judge -- and much of the federal prison system -- is guilty of many things. The book, already a New York Times bestseller, delivers exactly what readers have come to expect from Grisham: a clever, page-turning legal thriller that is always looking out for the little guy.
COLLEEN KELLY, MOBILE AND SOCIAL MEDIA EDITOR
BENEATH THE ABBEY WALL
By A.D. Scott (Atria, 340 pages, $15)
"Beneath the Abbey Wall" is the very best kind of mystery: confounding. Set in a Scottish town in the 1950s, it's rich in atmosphere and colorful characters -- primarily newspaper people, perhaps the most colorful of all colorful characters. When Joyce Smart, the business manager of the Highland Gazette, is found murdered -- stabbed to death on the cold stone steps of a church porch -- the Gazette staff is thrown into turmoil. McAllister, the editor, retreats to the bottle; Don, the deputy editor, breaks down and is later arrested for the crime; and Joanne, the chief reporter, tries to hold things together but ends up falling apart when she meets a handsome stranger who has come to research his roots. Throw in some glens and bens, some intriguing Travellers with secrets, and a whole lot of twists and turns, and you have a great, intelligent read. I was confident I knew who did it, and then I wasn't, and then I was, and then I wasn't. Like I said, the best kind of mystery.
LAURIE HERTZEL, BOOKS EDITOR