'Camino Winds'

With not a courtroom in site, John Grisham presents a fitting return to Camino Island with the force of a hurricane in 'Camino Winds' (Doubleday).

Just as the seasonal throngs escaped for sun and fun to John Grisham’s fictional “Camino Island,” fans will similarly welcome a bit of personal escape in the author’s second installment in the series, “Camino Winds” (Doubleday).

The idealized Florida town Grisham said he dreamt up with his wife during a long car ride to the Sunshine State is again the center of intrigue and investigation. Like its predecessor, the usual cast of suspects is on hand, best-selling author Mercer Mann and independent bookstore owner Bruce Cable chief among them, and as in “Camino Island,” both are central to a plot that appears to be a perfect crime.

Unlike that 2017 novel, the stakes here are higher than the theft of rare manuscripts. In the appropriately named “Camino Winds,” the idyllic island becomes bullseye for a devastating hurricane during which the death of Cable’s friend, thriller author Nelson Kerr, takes place. With the ensuing devastation of a monster storm — and Grisham spends a lot of time detailing the hurricane and its aftermath — the question arises: Were Kerr’s fatal head wounds sustained by accident, or was he killed for more sinister reasons?

Because at this point Grisham still has two-thirds of the novel to unravel, the latter is rapidly confirmed by a brilliant budding author-cum-bookstore jockey working with Cable and other compadres who ignored the governor’s warning to evacuate the island before the storm.

When local law enforcement proves inept at investigating the maybe-murder, Cable and crew take the job upon themselves, vowing justice for their fallen comrade and erstwhile drinking buddy, Kerr.

With a plot as high on fun as it is low on plausibility — “Camino Winds” really is the literary equivalent of a Florida spring break adventure — Grisham enjoys toying with the “lost manuscript” motif. Once it is discovered that Kerr’s final unpublished book might be the key to solving his murder, the storyline is elevated with the lofty goal of making the world a better place for us all — or at least those of us who have blind, comatose relatives in a certain nursing home cartel.

Without providing spoilers, that plot really sounds more complicated than it is. But what it really is, is a fitting diversion from today’s perfect storm of pandemic and isolation, providing recourse from one more day of binge watching 15 years worth of “Grey’s Anatomy.”

“Camino Winds” is Grisham at his unlawyerly best, presenting a fitting sequel that fans will find comes just in time for a virtual detour south.

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