Mike Ford is being held at gunpoint as he faces down his mentors/partners at the prestigious Davies Group, the Washington, DC strategic consulting firm where he works as an associate his first year out of law school. His father is dead, killed by the very same men who would force him back into their practice of blackmail, governmental tampering and myriad other misdeeds. This is the last chance for Mike to save himself. His leverage is the envelope in his hands, ostensibly containing the goods he has on Henry Davies, the man who recruited him to the Group. Unfortunately for Mike Ford, the envelope is empty.
After beginning at a crucial point of the story, Matthew Quirk’s debut novel, The 500, backtracks – leaving the reader wondering how the novel will conclude, and, knowing right up front that Mike has made some egregiously bad employment choices. The novel settles into the exploration of Mike’s character and what made him so susceptible to falling into the clutches of these high-powered bad guys. Mike is a great character. He’s complex. He has a criminal past (a juvenile offender) that he had been able to put behind him. He’s worked hard to have a shot at a good life – first in the Navy and then in law school. Though not what he had been expecting, Davies Group offers him the life of his dreams, and as a bonus he meets Annie, a woman he grows to love deeply.
Quirk has written a smart and suspenseful mystery, with a winning lead who thinks on his feet. Despite promises to himself, he isn’t always successful at refraining from a con job here and there. He quickly realizes that his most valuable asset in keeping his job and then saving his life are behaviors that he learned back in the bad old days. Readers will be able to relate to his efforts to walk the straight and narrow in ambiguous business situations, and appreciate a fictional peek into the workings of the 500 influential folks running the US (and by extension international foreign policy, a key element of the plot).
Mike Ford might be confident in his abilities to take all comers, but I was distinctly uncomfortable with some of his exploits in this technology laden world. I expected something to happen to him more times than I can count. Quirk also delves into Ford’s troubled relationship with his dad (an ex-convict whose parole was incidentally arranged by Davies Group), adding depth to both characters and another layer to this fast-paced, intense and well-written drama. Recommended.
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