Reviews for Camino Ghosts

by John Grisham

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A descendant of enslaved people fights a Florida developer over the future of a small island. In 1760, the slave ship Venus breaks apart in a storm on its way to Savannah, and only a few survivors, all Africans, find their way safely to a tiny barrier island between Florida and Georgia. For two centuries, only formerly enslaved people and their descendants live there. A curse on white people hangs over the island, and none who ever set foot on it survive. Its last resident was Lovely Jackson, who departed as a teen in 1955. Today—well, in 2020—a developer called Tidal Breeze wants Florida’s permission to “develop” Dark Isle, which sits within bridge-building distance from the well-established Camino Island. The plot is an easy setup for Grisham, big people vs. little people. Lovely’s revered ancestors are buried on Dark Isle, which Hurricane Leo devastated from end to end. Lovely claims the islet’s ownership despite not having formal title, and she wants white folks to leave the place alone. But apparently Florida doesn’t have enough casinos and golf courses to suit some people. Surely developers can buy off that little old Black lady with a half million bucks. No? How about a million? “I wish they’d stop offering money,” Lovely complains. “I ain’t for sale.” Thus a non-jury court trial begins to establish ownership. The story has no legal fireworks, just ordinary maneuvering. The real fun is in the backstory, in the portrayal of the aptly named Lovely, and the skittishness of white people to step on the island as long as the ancient curse remains. Lovely has self-published a history of the island, and a sympathetic white woman named Mercer Mann decides to write a nonfiction account as well. When that book ultimately comes out, reviewers for Kirkus (and others) “raved on and on.” Don’t expect stunning twists, though early on Dark Isle gives four white guys a stark message. The tension ends with the judge’s verdict, but the remaining 30 pages bring the story to a satisfying conclusion. Fine Grisham storytelling that his fans will enjoy. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.