The Brethren, written by John Grisham, takes places at Trumble, a minimum-security federal prison in Florida. The Brethren is a group of three judges in the prison that started meeting together to settle disputes among the other inmates. Meeting in the library at Trumble, their section of the prison, the three plan a scam to earn a little money while serving time. Their plan for earning the money is the Angola scam. The Angola scam works by putting an advertisement in a gay magazine saying they are searching for a pen-pal.
Writing as a young gay male named Ricky living in a rehab facility; the Brethren try to pick out rich closeted gay males, who have a lot to lose if this information were to be revealed. In order for the closeted male’s homosexuality not to be revealed to the public, the group demands large sums of money to be wired into their bank account. The Brethren’s lawyer, Trevor, also plays a crucial part in the scam. He is the one who brings the mail in and out of Trumble, and he also runs the offshore bank accounts in the Bahamas where the scam money is wired into.
Helping with the scam, Trevor receives thirty-three percent of all the earnings. While the Brethren are running their scam in Trumble, Presidential campaigns begin to kick in high gear as the Presidential election nears. Teddy Maynard, the director of the CIA, believes that future Russian attacks are inevitable and maybe even a third world war. With military cuts continuing to happen, he believes that the United States need to increase the size and strength of their military. His goal is to get a presidential candidate into the White House that will increase the military budget.
Teddy finds his answer with Aaron Lake, a Congressman from Arizona. Seeming to have a clean background, Teddy proposes what he believes will happen in the future and promises to get Lake into the White House as long as he increases the military’s budget once president. Lake agrees to the terms and jumps into the election as an independent. Though Lake is now in the presidential race, he is at an extreme disadvantage from the rest of the field as no one in the country knows who he is.
Luckily though he has an incredible supporting cast surrounding him and what seems to be an endless supply of money. Aaron Lake looks as if he has an excellent shot at winning the presidency as long as nothing comes to jeopardize him as a candidate. Repeatedly checking the background of Aaron Lake many times before backing him with his presidential campaign, Teddy Maynard and the CIA thought they had not missed anything. Aaron Lake had been a man living the later part of his life in mostly solitary.
His wife had died a few years before and he did not have the motive for much of social life anymore. Aside from his job he would occasionally attend socials and parties but this was only to keep his face familiar with people. Though he did not go out on a limb much, Lake did write two letters to Ricky, both of which the CIA did not know about. Not knowing that Aaron Lake was Teddy’s presidential candidate, the Brethren try to hook and obtain money from Lake with their Angola scam.
Trying to stop what the Brethren had managed to do, the CIA works hard trying to cease the damage. Unfortunately it is to late though, as a leak of the situation has gotten out. In order for Aaron Lake not to be exposed to the public, Teddy uses all of his experience in illegal maneuvering to save Lake, his candidate. Sensing as they cannot trust Trevor anymore, the Brethren decides to fire him. Through a series of unfortunate events, Trevor ends up being killed by people from the CIA while he was in the Caribbean.
Eager to find out the masterminds behind the scam, the CIA traces the scam to Trumble where they place man inside of the federal prison. The Brethren is finally caught for their running of the Angola scam. After working out a deal, the group is pardoned by Lake and only lose their money in the process. Once the Brethren gets off the hook for their scam they decide to leave the country. They begin to travel in Europe until ultimately re-starting their work with the Angola scam.