Camino Ghosts by John Grisham

Reviewed by Wendy Lipke

Camino Ghosts is the third book in the Camino series by renowned writer John Grisham – Camino Island (2017), Camino Winds (2020). At the centre of all that happens in these stories is the local bookseller, Bruce Cable. In Camino Ghosts as well as in his usual role Bruce is the fake minister officiating at a beach wedding. Why the reader needed to be told that he was fake in two consecutive paragraphs I do not know.

As well as selling books, Bruce appears well connected in the literary world and in this latest book, it is he who prompts the female writer, Mercer Mann, to research the story found in a self-published document about a nearby island which has remained deserted for many years. ‘I have a story, Mercer. Maybe the best I’ve ever heard’ (80). This island has now fallen under the eyes of high-rolling developers from down south. However, there is an eighty-year-old resident on Camino who believes she owns the island. But there is not a shred of evidence to prove that is true.

The first chapter in this book has the reader jumping from a beach wedding and planned honeymoon in Scotland, the handing over of a thin history book, The Dark History of Dark Isle, to the capture of Africans for the slave trade. Here the storyline follows a young nineteen-year-old mother, Nalla, across Africa to the ship which would become wrecked just off the coast of America with very few survivors. Nalla was washed ashore where she joined runaway slaves who had settled on the tiny island.

There is a lot to take in as the reader becomes familiar with each of the many characters, their unique personalities and histories while switching from past to present and back again.

The reader learns that Dark Isle is said to be cursed: drownings, disappearances and hauntings have been the fate of intruders, especially those who are white.

Many people are against this development going ahead but the developer has many resources and the backing of influential people. To Lovely Jackson, Dark Island is where she was born and where all her ancestors are buried. It is a place of black history, and she is determined to make sure this is not lost, especially to a casino. Lovely is the descendent of Nalla, the African slave who washed up on the island many years ago. To help her in her quest are Steve Mahon, a pro bono environmental lawyer, and Mercer Mann, a floundering novelist and many others who become drawn into this group along the way.

This story follows the court case between the developer and Lovely over ownership of the island, which Lovely left during her teenage years.  Throughout the lead up to the trial and the trial itself much of the history of the island is revealed.

The goings on during the trial highlight vested interests by those who should be impartial, and the lengths and deviousness of the parties to achieve their own goals. Personal beliefs and interests have much influence on decisions being made.

The ghosts in the title of this book are the runaway slaves and shipwreck survivors who inhabited the island. The curse placed there and the strange occurrences that happen on and around Dark Island certainly add depth to the story. This book also adds information about the writing and publishing industry and within the story itself there are several authors as well as the book seller.

John Ray Grisham Jr. is an American novelist, lawyer, and former member of the Mississippi House of Representatives, known for his best-selling legal thrillers. He has written 37 consecutive number-one fiction bestsellers, and his books have sold worldwide.

Camino Ghosts


by John Grisham

Hodder & Stoughton / Hachette Australia

ISBN: 978-1-529-34251-2

$34.99; 304pp

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