‘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
    6.5/10
6.5/10

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