The WhistlereBook - 2016
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A high-stakes thrill ride through the darkest corners of the Sunshine State, from the author hailed as “the best thriller writer alive” by Ken Follett
We expect our judges to be honest and wise. Their integrity is the bedrock of the entire judicial system. We trust them to ensure fair trials, to protect the rights of all litigants, to punish those who do wrong, and to oversee the flow of justice. But what happens when a judge bends the law or takes a bribe?
Lacy Stoltz is an investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct. It is her job to respond to complaints dealing with judicial misconduct. After nine years with the Board, she knows that most problems are caused by incompetence, not corruption.
But a corruption case eventually crosses her desk. A previously disbarred lawyer is back in business, and he claims to know of a Florida judge who has stolen more money than all other crooked judges combined. And not just crooked judges in Florida. All judges, from all states, and throughout United States history. And now he wants to put a stop to it. His only client is a person who knows the truth and wants to blow the whistle and collect millions under Florida law. When the case is assigned to Lacy, she immediately suspects that this one could be dangerous. Dangerous is one thing. Deadly is something else.
Praise for The Whistler
“[A] main character [who’s] a seriously appealing woman . . . a whistle-blower who secretly calls attention to corruption . . . a strong and frightening sense of place . . . [John Grisham’s] on his game.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“[John Grisham is] our guide to the byways and backwaters of our legal system, superb in particular at ferreting out its vulnerabilities and dramatizing their abuse in gripping style.”—USA Today
“Riveting . . . an elaborate conspiracy.”—The New York Times Book Review
Baker & Taylor
Lacy Stoltz, an investigator for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct, takes on a case involving a corrupt judge, a Native American casino, and the mafia when a previously disbarred lawyer approaches her on behalf of a client who claims to know the truth.
A follow-up to the highly successful Rogue Lawyer combines the author's signature legal savvy and high-suspense storytelling in a latest thriller that pits an unforgettable cast of characters against unexpected twists and turns. By a #1 best-selling author.
From Library Staff
From the critics
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St. Augustine was billed as the oldest city in America, the very spot where Ponce de León landed and began exploring. Long on history and heavy on tourism, it was a lovely town with historic buildings and thick Spanish moss dripping from ancient oaks.
As lawyers, they valued their time. As investigators, they had learned patience. The two roles were often in conflict.
I’m legit, or as legit an any ex-con can be, and every word I’m saying is true.”
And the story I can tell you involves more dirty cash than all the others combined. It also involves bribery, extortion, intimidation, rigged trials, at least two murders, and one wrongful conviction. There’s a man rotting away on death row an hour from here who was framed. The man responsible for the crime is probably sitting on his boat right now, a boat much nicer than mine.
“Ever hear of the Catfish Mafia?”
“When do we get his name?” Hugo asked. “You’re assuming it’s a male.” “We’re not assuming anything.” “That’s a good way to start.”
“So, your story involves organized criminals, Indians who own casinos, and a crooked judge, all in bed together?” “That’s a fair summary.”
He needed more staff but there was no money. His six investigators—four in Tallahassee and two in Fort Lauderdale—were working an average of fifty hours a week, and almost all were secretly looking for other jobs.
Once a heavy smoker—a good portion of the smoke-stained windows and ceilings could be blamed on her—she had been battling lung cancer for the past three years but had yet to miss a full week of work.
“So this guy’s a crook?” Geismar asked. Hugo said, “He’s certainly a convicted felon, but he’s served his time, paid his dues, and is now an upstanding member of our bar, same as the three of us.”
There was once a Dixie Mafia, a Redneck Mafia, a Texas Mafia, all similar gangs of thugs. It looks like most of them were long on legend and short on criminal efficiency. Just a bunch of Bubbas who liked to sell whiskey and break legs. Not one word anywhere of a so-called Catfish Mafia, or a Coast Mafia. Not to say it doesn’t exist, but I found nothing.
At thirty-six, she wondered every day if she would ever hold a child of her own. She didn’t have the answer, but as the clock ticked she worried that her chances were getting slimmer.
The tribe was violently split over the issue of casino gambling. The opponents were led by an agitator named Son Razko, who was a Christian and opposed gambling on moral grounds. He organized his followers and they seemed to be in the majority. The proponents of the casino promised riches for all—new homes, lifetime pensions, better schools, free college tuition, health care, the list went on and on.
“Where’s the corruption?” Lacy asked. “Everywhere…”
We are dealing with sophisticated crooks who have excellent lawyers.
Xxyyzz sold her soul to the devil to get elected and she’s been getting paid ever since.
In America, Indians don’t pay taxes on casino profits. The Tappacola didn’t want to share. The county felt jilted, especially after going to all the trouble of building a spanking-new four-lane highway that runs for over seven miles. So the county pulled a fast one and convinced the state legislature to allow it to collect tolls on the new road.
“So to summarize the case so far, our target, Judge Claudia McDover, takes bribes from thugs, skims casino cash from the Indians, and somehow launders the money with the help of a very close friend who happens to be an estate lawyer.
Only California had more men on death row than Florida. Texas was a close third, but since it was more focused on keeping its numbers down its population was around 330, give or take. California, with little interest in executing people, had 650. Florida longed to be another Texas, but its appellate courts kept getting in the way. Last year, 2010, only one man was lethally injected at Starke.
Each prisoner was kept in solitary confinement for twenty-three hours a day. The other hour was for “recreation,” a chance to walk around a small, grassy area and look at the sun. Each cell was six feet by nine, with a nine-foot ceiling. Each bed was smaller than a twin-size and just inches away from a stainless steel toilet. There was no air-conditioning, no cellmate, almost no human contact except for the usual chatter from the guards at feeding time.
Imagine being a kid and your mother gets murdered. Everybody says your father did it and they send him to death row.
When a Tappacola turns eighteen, he or she qualifies for a lifetime pension of $5,000 a month, and that might go up. It’s called the dividend. Even me, sitting here on death row, I’m collecting the dividends.
Every Tappacola gets free health care, free education, and college expenses if he or she wants it.
His hesitancy suggested he was struggling not with the truth but with which version of it.
“Depends on how hard you dig.”
Over the years they had settled into a civilized relationship of mutual distrust, with each playing a well-defined role.
Diamonds and jewelry are especially easy to smuggle out of the country. Cash can also be shipped by regular overnight parcel delivery to anywhere in the world, especially the Caribbean.
Bribes really weren’t necessary in their part of the country. Take any form of growth, from high-end gated communities to low-end shopping centers, fix up a slick brochure filled with half-truths, label it “economic development” with the promise of tax revenue and jobs, and elected officials reached for their rubber stamps. If anyone mentioned environmental issues, or traffic or crowded schools, they were dismissed as liberals or tree huggers or, much worse, “northerners.”
The idea of an extra unit had been perfected by a legendary Florida developer nicknamed Condo Conroy. In the rush and fury of throwing up an ocean-side tower, plans were modified on the fly, walls moved here and there, and the result was an extra condo the zoning board knew nothing about.
I’d rather steal money than earn it. You, on the other hand, were pure, but the ease of your conversion to the dark side was astonishing.
The truth was that, at the age of thirty-six, Lacy was content to live alone, to sleep in the center of the bed, to clean up only after herself, to make and spend her own money, to come and go as she pleased, to pursue her career without worrying about his, to plan her evenings with input from no one else, to cook or not to cook, and to have sole possession of the remote control. About a third of her girlfriends were young divorcées, all scarred and wounded and wanting no part of another man, not for the moment anyway. Another third were stuck in bad marriages with little hope of getting out. And the rest of her girlfriends were content with their relationships and either pursuing careers or having children.
In Florida, we have entered into treaties with all casino operators, and this allows us to collect a small tax on their profits. Very small, but it adds up. There are now nine casinos and they are all doing quite well.
“Native American” is a politically correct creation of clueless white people who feel better using it, when in reality the Native Americans refer to themselves as Indians and snicker at those of us who don’t, but I digress).
BJC was down to its last six investigators. Seven, in a state of twenty million people, with a thousand judges sitting in six hundred courtrooms and processing a half a million cases a year.
As a sovereign nation, the Tappacola make and enforce their own laws, with no real regard for outside interference. The tribe has a constable who operates much like a county sheriff, and a full force of cops, all apparently well trained and equipped.
The casino has lifted us out of poverty and given us nice things, so that’s a positive, a big one. We are healthier, happier, secure. There’s a certain satisfaction in watching outsiders flock in here and hand us their cash. We feel like we’re finally getting something back, perhaps a bit of revenge.
“If life is more prosperous, why aren’t there more children?” “Stupidity. The council is dominated by idiots and they make bad rules. When a woman turns eighteen, she is entitled to the monthly check, which has been $5,000 for many years now. But if she marries, then it’s cut in half. I get $5,000; my wife gets $2,500. So, more and more of our young women frown on marriage.
This is Indian land, Ms. Stoltz, and all the rules that govern an orderly society, all the things you believe in, simply don’t apply here. We govern ourselves. We make the laws. Neither the State of Florida nor the federal government has much say in what we do, especially when it comes to running the casino.
A formal complaint has been filed alleging some bad behavior by a circuit court judge. It involves a developer who’s apparently in bed with a tribe and its casino and a judge who’s sharing in the profits.
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