THE RACKETEER. By John Grisham. Doubleday. 352 pages. $28.95.

Given the importance of what they do, and the controversies that often surround them, and the violent people they sometimes confront, it is remarkable that in the history of this country only four active federal judges have been murdered.

Judge Raymond Fawcett has just become number five. ...

It’s a long story.

And what an entertaining and riveting story it is.

It is difficult to be disappointed with John Grisham’s novels. And in his latest, “The Racketeer,” he delivers again.

“The Racketeer” uses the basic Grisham “man against the system” formula, and it is delightful to watch the main character execute an end-run around the authorities. The plot is somewhat unrealistic and reminiscent of “heist” movies such as “Inside Man,” “The Town” and “Ocean’s Eleven” to name a few, but as Grisham notes at the end of the novel, “The Racketeer is indeed a work of fiction. Accuracy was not deemed crucial. Long paragraphs of fiction were used to avoid looking up facts.”

He masterfully presents his own take on the heist concept and spins a gripping tale that captures and holds the reader’s interest.

Malcolm Bannister is a lawyer and former Marine serving time for money laundering in a minimum security prison camp in Frostburg, Md. When we meet Bannister, he is halfway through his 10-year sentence. He swears he is innocent of the crime for which he was sentenced — he just picked the wrong client — and he is determined to reduce his remaining time to zero.

He gets his chance at freedom when a federal judge is killed and the FBI is at a loss. Bannister knows who killed the judge and why.

Grisham holds back plenty of secrets as Bannister’s story unfolds.

We know Bannister wants his freedom, but Grisham is not in a hurry to reveal his hero’s goal. Grisham gives us only enough to keep us turning the pages.

In a first-person account of his every move, Bannister goes from city to city, country to country, playing out a carefully choreographed plan designed not only to ensure his complete freedom but also leave him wealthy.

Though unrealistic, the story is fast-paced, well-conceived and executed, and it leaves the reader guessing until the very end. There is thrill, intrigue, deceit and revenge. Nothing is as it seems and everything is fair game.

Reviewer Jacqueline Maduneme is a tax lawyer and author who lives in Charleston.