John Grisham Synopsis
Before he was sent to federal prison for treason (among other things), Joel Backman was an extremely powerful man. Known as "the broker," Backman was a high roller--a lawyer making $10 million a year who could "open any door in Washington." That is, until he tried to broker a deal selling access to the world's most powerful satellite surveillance system to the highest bidder. When caught, Backman accepted prison as the one option that would keep him safe and alive, since the interested parties (the Israelis, the Saudis, the Russians, and the Chinese) were all itching to get their hands on his secrets at any cost. Little does he know that his own government has designs on accessing that information--or at least letting it die with him. Now, six years after his incarceration, the director of the CIA convinces a lame duck president to pardon Backman, and the broker becomes a free man--and an open target.


A group of Pakistani students discover a spy satellite and write a program that can manipulate it and render it useless to its original owners. They get together with Joel Backman, the hottest lawyer in DC and try to broker a deal with various governments to sell their software, hopefully for a billion dollars.

They are caught and Backman is sent to prison for 20 years for treason. Everyone else involved is murdered.

Six years later, the CIA director convinces the outgoing President to pardon Backman so they can keep an eye on him and watch to see which country tries to kill him. Then they'll know who the spy satellite belongs to.

Backman is released on the condition that he stays out of the country with a new identity. Knowing many people want him dead he agrees and is sent to Italy with the name of Marco.

In Italy, he is under the care of Luigi who also works for the CIA. Luigi watches him at all time and hires tutors to teach Joel Italian. In fact, most of the book is spent on Joel learning the language and the culture of Italy.

While in Bologna, he is tutored by Francesca. Her husband is dying and she and Joel have a friendly relationship.

Joel figures out a way to communicate with his son back in the states and the son sends him a cell phone with internet and email capabilities.

After a 200 page travelogue about Italy and it's language it finally turns into a Grisham novel. He has a few close calls at being caught, his phone is stolen and the chase is on.

Joel sends his son a few instructions from an internet cafe about money and bankers and using Francesca's husband's passport, makes his way first to Zurich to get the billion dollar software that he kept in a high security safety deposit box. He also transfers money to an account in DC.

While being hunted, he makes his way to Washington DC, where he meets with his old business partner who wants him dead but eventually sets up a meeting with a Senator who has the proper connections.

Joel explains that he wants to turn the software over, but not to the CIA who have been trying to kill him.

They meet with someone at the Defense department and Joel spills his guts. He explains all about how the Pakistani students discovered the CHINESE satellite and hands over the software. In return for all this, he wants two passports and new identities and demands the CIA to call off the chase as well as the other countries that have been after him.

They agree and the next day the passports are delivered, one from Australia and one from Canada.

He sets up a meeting with the biggest reporter in the city and talks about how "The Broker" is back in business. He lies about where he's been and what the future holds for him. He wants everyone to believe that he is in such high demand that he'll never have free time again. It will buy him some time and confuse anyone still looking for him.

He finally meets his son's 2 year old daughter, his granddaughter.

He explains to his son that he's heading to California to see his mother in a nursing home. He wants his son to bring her back to the east coast so she can be with them. He tells his son where the money is and that his name is on the account so money should no longer be a problem.

He then explains that the two passports were just to throw off the CIA and that he'll actually be using Francesca's husbands passport and will return to Bologna to be with her.