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"Every Man Has A Price"
on June 29, 2012
"Every man has a price". That seems to be the motivating factor in the debut novel, "The 500", by Matthew Quirk. In the book, Quirk depicts the inner workings of Washington D.C.'s five-hundred most influential people, through an imaginative and engaging thriller.
Mike Ford is an outsider. As a student at the prestigious Harvard Law, Mike works hard to live up to the societal standards of his affluent classmates. Unlike his peers, Mike, the son of a convicted felon, has grown up in a world of crime. After his disease stricken mother passed away, he was left with a jailed father, his mother's medical bills, and the choice to either make a better life for himself or meet the same fate as his father.
A standout at Harvard, Mike is given the opportunity to be an associate at The Davies Group, a powerful consulting firm in Washington. The group is paid by individuals, corporations, and special interest groups to influence the movers and shakers of Washington, the 500. Henry Davis, who formed the company, sees a spark of himself in Mike and quickly appoints him to a high profile deal that could lead to his partnership.
Essentially, The Davies Group uses the knowledge that "every man has a price" to find ways to "influence" the heavy players in the D.C. scene. Mikes street knowledge helps him to climb the ladder, providing more fortune, connections, and prestige than he could ever have dreamed of. When Davies pulls Mike off of his major deal, Mike immediately suspects foul play. He enters a conspiracy that threatens everything he has worked for and even his life.
Matthew Quirk has been compared to veteran legal thriller author John Grisham. While I definitely see similarities between Quirk's fast pace, legal jargon, and characters with those in Grisham's earlier novels, Quirk writes with an urgency and contemporary structure that is uniquely his own. The novel begins with a tease from the climatic ending and then goes back the the chronological beginning, grabbing the reader from the start and providing immediate anticipation. I was reminded of the 2007 film "Michael Clayton" in which a corporate "fixer" gets involved in a similar web of corrupt power. Overall, "The 500" is a fast and contemporary legal thriller that is a fantastic debut.