August 7, 2013

Book review: The 500 by Matthew Quirk

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Mike Ford is a former con artist who's been plucked from his Harvard Law School classroom to be an associate at The Davies Group, Washington's most high-powered and well-respected strategic consulting firm. Their specialty: pulling strings and peddling influence for the five hundred most powerful people inside the Beltway, the men and women who really run Washington—and by extension the country, and the world.

The namesake of the firm, Henry Davies, knows everyone who matters; more importantly, he knows their secrets. Davies' experience goes back 40 years—he worked for Lyndon Johnson, jumped shipped to Nixon, then put out his own shingle as the Hill's most cut-throat and expensive fixer. Now he's looking for a protégé to tackle his most high-stakes deal yet, and Mike fits the bill.

Quickly pulled into a seductive, dangerous web of power and corruption, Mike struggles to find his way out. But how do you save your soul when you've made a deal with the devil?

Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)

When I started the Authors A to Z reading challenge, I knew there were two letters with slim pickings: Q and X. I couldn't think of any authors with last names starting with Q, so I went to my local public library in search of one. Their selection spanned less than twenty books, and The 500 was the one that sounded the most interesting.

When I started reading it, The 500 reminded me of a John Grisham legal thriller, like The Firm or The Associate. As a fan of Grisham, I thought I had stumbled upon a gem. However, as I continued reading the novel, I found that Matthew Quirk is no John Grisham.

There were two main problems with this book. First, I didn't feel anything toward the main character, who narrates the story from the first person point of view. If I can't relate to someone who is directly telling me the story, then something's wrong. The second problem I had was that the first half of the book didn't read like a coherent story. It felt like we were getting vignettes from Mike's life, jumping back and forth in time and space at random. The author would end one chapter on a cliffhanger situation and then start the next chapter with a flashback to another point in Mike's life. It resulted in a jarring and annoying reading experience.

The only thing that kept my interest throughout the novel was my affinity for books in this genre. If you're a Grisham fan who's read everything he's written and are looking for other similar books, then you might want to give The 500 a try. Otherwise, if you're just looking for a good legal thriller, I recommend reading Grisham instead.

I read this book as part of the Authors A to Z reading challenge. Next up: Across the Universe by Beth Revis.

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