The money or the message John Grisham's new blockbuster, The Brethren (abridged, $27.95, 0553526847), is a disquieting tale for this election year. The three men, who have commandeered the exalted epithet (usually reserved for U.S. Supreme Court justices), that also titles the novel, are three not very exalted inmates of a minimum-security federal prison. Former judges now among the fallen, they've come up with an entertaining, for them at least, and lucrative scam to spice up the tedium. As their scenario picks up sleazy momentum, we meet the crafty, crippled, aging director of the CIA who will do anything to make sure that our next elected President is irrevocably committed to a mega-military build-up. What do these disparate characters have to do with each other? Just wait, the fun begins as Grisham cleverly knots the plots together. This is good Grisham, and Michael Beck's well-paced reading makes it even better. Sukey Howard reports on spoken word audio each month.

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