is a mystery novel by best-selling author John Grisham. It follows an investigation into the heist of five rare F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from the Firestone Library at Princeton University. Though Princeton claims to have sent out an elite team to track down the manuscripts, the book follows main character Mercer Mann, an out of work novelist with writer's block who is desperate for purpose in her life. Mann is hired by a mysterious woman to track down the inner circle of a book dealer on Camino Island in Florida, whose sleepy resort town bookstore might be a front for more nefarious black market dealings.
The novel begins when Mercer Mann, an aspiring young novelist and out of work adjunct professor recently laid off from her teaching job, is approached by a mysterious woman. It has been months since a notorious heist has been in the newspapers – the Firestone Library at Princeton lost five rare F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts, which were insured for $25 million. The woman who approached Mercer claims to work for the investigative department of the insurance company that is paying out on the books. She tells Mercer that they need someone to take a look at a man named Bruce Cable, a known rare books dealer on Camino Island in Florida. Because Mercer has a family cottage on the island and knows books, she is the perfect undercover operative to check in on Cable.
Mercer is hesitant to do this kind of work, but she agrees for money and a sense of purpose. She goes to Camino Island, and soon falls in with a group of writers living in the area. As a novelist herself, Mercer feels comfortable there, and when she eventually meets Cable, she admires him. He is a small bookstore owner on the island, and he supports the work of young and aspiring authors. Mercer wonders how someone so charismatic and kind could buy stolen books.
Mercer soon gets close to Cable. Though Mercer is married and knows that she has no interest in having an affair, Cable tells Mercer outright that his marriage is open, and that his wife has no aversion to him sleeping around. Cable gives Mercer some advice on how to improve her writing, and teaches her about the rare and valuable books market. She shows interest, and soon he reveals more and more of his secrets to her.
Finally, one might, Cable shows Mercer one of the stolen Princeton manuscripts. She is devastated that Cable really is the criminal who bought the stolen goods, and tells him that she wants nothing to do with the stolen property. When she returns home in a daze, she doesn't know whether or not to turn in her friend. She knows that she promised her boss intel, but she also doesn't want to send someone she cares about to jail.
Mercer does end up reporting Cable, but he is one step ahead of her. He sends the manuscripts out of the country and negotiates a backroom deal with Princeton, agreeing to sell the books back to them for much more than they were worth. Around this time, blood found on the scene reveals the names of the perpetrators of the crime – the manuscripts were stolen by an ex-military squad looking for money. The criminals are arrested, and Cable narrowly avoids going to prison for buying stolen goods.
John Grisham is a best-selling author of crime and mystery novels, as well as thrillers. Grisham has written one novel a year since 1988, when he published his first book, Time to Kill
. He was trained as a lawyer, and studied at Ole Miss. He is a born and bred southerner, and practiced law for ten years in the south before he began writing as a hobby before work each morning. He was initially inspired to write crime novels after hearing the testimony of a twelve-year-old girl during a rape case. Since then, he has stopped his law career to become a full-time writer, and he splits his time between Mississippi and Virginia.