‘The Boys From Biloxi’ by John Grisham – Book Review

A Sprawling Epic That Slowly Meanders Through It’s Plot

John Grisham has a knack for creating compelling worlds and the seedy costal city of Biloxi is a character unto itself here. You really get a sense of the scale, the seemingly unending array of gangsters and crime filtering through the strip, along with the players on both sides of a conflict that bubbles up to an explosive finale worth sticking around for.

The Boys from Biloxi is a sprawling epic, depicting the rise and fall of Biloxi and the inhabitants within the city who keep things ticking over – or attempt to tear it down. At the center of the bubbling conflict are two childhood friends with very different trajectories in life. Keith Rudy and Hugh Malco couldn’t be more different, despite their shared love for baseball.

Keith’s father, Jesse Rudy, believes in righteous justice and does whatever he can to try and rid the Strip of the gangsters that have made a lucrative profit for themselves through a heady cocktail of drugs, prostitution and illegal gambling. Hugh’s father, Lance Malco, oversees a good chunk of this criminal empire, well-known as part of the Dixie Mafia – and not to be messed with. Hugh soon finds himself enamored with the glory and intoxicated with the idea of making a quick buck, helped along by Lance’s right-hand man, Nevin Noll.

When Jesse Rudy promises to clean up the coast, and Keith works his way through law school to follow in his father’s footsteps, an inevitable showdown between the mafia and Rudy’s family ensues – one destined for the courtroom.

On paper, The Boys From Biloxi has a solid premise and from a purely superficial perspective, the cover is absolutely gorgeous. The writing is doubly so, with lovely prose that sweeps through the years, broken up into four different parts across the 454 pages. The first part however, is extremely long-winded and bogged down in exposition that could so easily have been reduced by a good 60-70 pages. In fact, there are parts here that feel like they’ve been ripped from a Wikipedia page!

Essentially, this whole first part shows the sweeping history of Biloxi, introducing a whole array of characters that are inconsequential to the story; the grandfathers of our main characters who build the foundations for our central cast to ease into. There’s also an abundance of long-winded descriptions for different sports too, with a solid 4 page description of a boxing match and another 3 page description for baseball. While well-written and interesting, it feels like unnecessary fluff and adds absolutely nothing to either plot or character development. Sure, one could argue that the boxing is a way of conveying a “never say die” attitude, but it feels like a stretch, given it’s never referenced or mentioned beyond these early parts outside of a call-back flashback late on with Keith, long after the dust has settled.

The rest of the narrative actually progresses quite well, and there’s a solid 150 page chunk here that’s absolutely gripping and a proper page-turner. I found myself reading late at night, desperate to find out what happens to our characters. A twist late on will likely catch you completely off-guard, in a lovely cliffhanger that’ll have you scrambling to turn the page.

Unfortunately, The Boys from Biloxi falls into old habits during the final part of the book. Although everything is wrapped up nicely, the final confrontation lacks any “oomph” needed thanks to the problems mentioned early on with the abundance of characters, and a last minute “twist” that takes up precious time that doesn’t really go anywhere.

The real star of the show here though is Biloxi itself. The city is brought to life is such a compelling way that you can’t help but compare it to some of the more richly detailed locations in different fiction novels across the years. There are immediate parallels to Nolan’s Gotham City and how Harvey Dent crusades to clean up the streets through The Dark Knight.

Unfortunately, a stacked cast and a meandering pace can’t save the beautiful setting of Biloxi, which meanders through its plot and struggles to both begin and end in a compelling way.


Read More: The Boys From Biloxi Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 6.5/10

18 thoughts on “‘The Boys From Biloxi’ by John Grisham – Book Review”

  1. And the hero’s Dad fought his way through Poland to liberate Auchwitz? Huh? American troops never entered Poland. Russians liberated it from the East, we came from the West. Has Grisham ever heard of the Normandy invasion? Poor editing and proofing for sure.

  2. All true about the Fats Bowman (former corrupt Biloxi police chief) error in the story………commits suicide after being criminally convicted , then a page or 2 later he is in prison. It was one of those, “did I just read a mistake in a John Grisham novel” moments? My reading was in an early release hardback, went to Costco, saw the paperback version and the mistake was corrected.

    Moral of the story to me: This should give new writer’s hope, that even the big boys with their infrastructure of editors, things can still slip through the cracks.

  3. I decided to see if anyone else was having the same issues with reading this book as I was. I’m roughly 150 pages into it, and I have yet to see any point to the rambling, meandering “story line” (if there is one). I had the same thought as others – that this book wasn’t written by JG – it’s just not his style, and isn’t up to his usually tight plot development. Anyway, thanks to you other reviewers, I’ve decided to forgo reading the remainder of the book. At my advanced age, I can’t afford to waste time on something I’m not enjoying! Thank you.

  4. John Grisham… the confusing part where Fats Bowman blows his Brian’s out and then 4 years later is “ behind bars”, and a random sentence before that saying he was “ freezing in Maine” is senseless and has ruined the book for me. What happened with your editing process? So sorry that such a distinguished author could have this happen. I’ve been riveted up to now, but the book lacks credibility at this point and I don’t even feel like finishing it.

  5. Is this not partially a true story? For sure Bill Waller did exist and was governor ! But how much of this story is fiction and how much is not?

  6. Read the first 10 chapters and was bored to tears. Returned it to the library. Glad I didn’t waste my money by buying it.

  7. I am usually impressed by attention to detail but I am bothered by the contradiction that Fats Bowman shoots himself before his 20 year sentence and then 2 paragraphs later he is in prison????

  8. JG has many good books to his credit, but this his worst lawyer book ever–a real drudge to read. Could have been half as long. I never found any character I cared about at all.

  9. Yes Fats Bowman has risen from the dead!
    Very confusing ending that begs for an explanation from Grisham!

  10. I agree with everyone ‘s opinion of The Boys from Biolxi..I don’t think Grisham even wrote it..it’s long, boring makes no sense in some places.I usually love his books but this is not up to his standard..I want my money back.

  11. I think you guys are missing the point, the true dramatic denouement … will Keith at the end reprieve his old buddy and commute the death penalty. The Governor made it his choice. He went to the death chamber and they talked. And Hugh had a flashback to them boys swimming after a game out towards an island refuge. And it was really tense. And Keith made his decision. And if you can’t remember, then you did waste your time.

  12. Book was an enjoyable read. But Grisham should consider getting new editors, or he should read what he writes more thoroughly. On page 412. Sheriff Fats Bowman blows out his brains with his own .375 magnum pistol. But on the next page he’s freezing in Maine! And on the next page he’s in prison. Who really wrote this?

  13. I love JG books, but this one not so much. Too many people to keep up with I found that its all over the place. I really did not care about any of the characters. Just my opinion

  14. No real character development, no credible dialogue, cardboard cutouts for characters. Sheriff kills himself and then is described as being in prison-no editing!
    If he wants to write a hack B-movie screenplay, just do that. Don’t subject us to this pap!

  15. This is one step down from
    A Time to Kill ….!
    Held my attention to the very end….by then I was in tears!
    I,also,caught the mistake of the sherriff killing himself and then he is in jail???(editors)
    Never the less it was super writing and a super read!

  16. I have read & loved almost alll JG’s books – they never disappoint me. But when I finally got hold (library) of this latest one, I found myself bogged down with all the info & all the character’s names in the beginning of the book. Today, I even thought to myself that someone else had written this book! I hate to give up on reading a book, but I did look up a review which explains a lot of what I was finding. And it encouraged me to skip over most of the early part & pick up the REALLY JG’s meat of the story & I hope to enjoy it as I always do with a Grisham book. Maybe his editors fell down on this one.
    Mary Ann Russell

  17. I’m in agreement, this boom is my least favorite of all books by JG! I’m finding it harder and harder to read, just areal departure from all of his other books!

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