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135 of 158 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2012
I admit I didn't get past the first 50 pages because the author's style was not to my liking -- pedestrian thriller stuff and not very believable. But that's not why I'm writing. I looked over the Amazon reviews and I was struck by the similarity of the five star reviews, all gushing gee whiz-this-book-is-so-exciting-I-couldn't-put-it-down, with little else to say except for maybe a brief plot summary straight out of the press release. All of which makes these "reviews" seem suspicious, don't you think? I'm sure a few are from real readers who enjoyed the book, but most of them seem fake. Heck, even some of the three star reviews are glowing recommendations, as if they were planted on purpose so as not to make them appear like obvious put up jobs. I usually find Amazon reader reviews informative and entertaining, but what I smell is a disingenuous marketing campaign in a forum where it does not belong. Boo.
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75 of 88 people found the following review helpful
on January 31, 2013
It takes a bad book for me not to finish reading it but in this case it was a relief. If Grisham wasn't so wealthy he could sue for copyright infringement because this book is an blatant ripoff of The Firm. Instead of Mitch having a brother in jail in the 500 it's the father. Too many similarities to overlook and poor writing, characters, plot, etc.
I did not read any reviews before taking this book out of the library so had no preconceptions.

I can understand why some people would like this book if they hadn't read any Grisham but once you've read good writing you will not be able to put up with a poor copy job. (I will stipulate that not all of Grisham novels are top notch, just the majority).
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28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
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.
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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Matthew Quirk's debut novel, The 500, has arrived just in time to please those summer readers who love a heart-pounding fast-paced plot. Protagonist Mike Ford has been recruited out of Harvard to work for the Davies Group, the most powerful consulting firm in D.C. Much of the action in the novel is so implausible that every reader's willing suspension of disbelief is severely tested. I can almost imagine Quirk's strain in deciding how to place Ford into a particular sticky situation, and then struggling to get him out. I kept reading because I found the excitement to become fun as the novel progressed, and once I gave in, it was easy to reach the end. I'm always willing to overlook a few clunky elements in a debut novel, and I was entertained by this one. Readers willing to give a first-time novelist a try should consider reading this novel.

Rating: Three-star (Recommended)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I have often heard it said that if you place a frog in boiling water, he'll hop right out. But if you place him in cold water and turn up the heat slowly enough, he'll cook to death. The "frog" in Matthew Quirk's debut novel would be grad student Mike Ford. Coming from the wrong side of the tracks, this kid has pulled himself up by his bootstraps. Despite losing his mom to cancer while in his teens and his dad still in prison, Mike's about to graduate Harvard Law--up to his ears in debt--but having turned his back on his youthful criminal past. When a visiting professor offers Mike a lucrative job at his DC firm, it seems like a dream come true.

The Davies Group is a "high-end strategic consulting group." After four months on the job, Mike elaborates, "The firm was a strange place, opaque by design. If you asked, they told you they did government affairs and strategic consulting. Usually, that's a euphemism for lobbying." It's a little more euphemistic than usual in this case. In addition to being hired for his smarts and business savvy, Mike was hired for some of the skills he acquired on the street. He knows a few tricks that average Harvard Law grad doesn't have up his sleeve. He acknowledges, "It never seems obvious when you cross the line." But cross the line he does, in order to succeed and prove himself. And by the time he realizes that things at The Davies Group are not as they seem, he's deep in the boiling water.

That's all you really need to know. This book has been compared to novels like John Grisham's The Firm and Joseph Finder's Paranoia for fairly obvious reasons. The comparisons are apt, but while this debut is strong and enjoyable reading, I don't think it's quite up to par with those two excellent thrillers. Mike is a very believable and well-fleshed protagonist, but not always all that sympathetic. A lot of his actions in the novel are supposedly motivated by his love for a colleague, but Quirk never really brought this relationship to life. For me, that was the novel's greatest weakness, and the cause of the loss of a star. Balancing that are an exciting and compelling storyline, a fast pace, good plotting, and a truly superlative use of the DC setting. One gets the feeling that author Quirk knows of what he writes.

The goings-on in this book left this reader with a very bad taste in her mouth. I would really like to hope that the world does NOT work this way. It is to Matthew Quirk's credit that he has me fearing it does. It may not be perfect, but this is a debut well worth reading, and Mr. Quirk is a writer to watch.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
"The 500" deserves to be a hot summer read of 2012. The Firm by John Grisham feels like the most apt comparison to me, but not Presumed Innocent the book's media releases suggest.

"The 500" is an engaging, engrossing, action novel that features some fine writing. It is not however the ultimate summer thriller. The plot strained credulity many times with the hero Mike Ford's incredible luck as he escaped time after time. I was also annoyed that Ford's girlfriend Annie, who had worked at the consulting firm longer than Ford had, was so naive and ignorant of the depth of the firm's shady dealings. Ford was taking his life into his hands by getting involved with this woman, because there was a high possibility it was a setup by his boss. Annie should have had more substance and relevance as a character, but she came off as the girlfriend, the prize.

The finale left me unsatisfied in a way that is hard to articulate without spoiling the whole plot. Overall, "The 500" was a fun summer read--quick if you are looking for a diversion at the beach or on a long flight. Very cinematic and it will make a good movie, which is already in the works.

3.5 stars If you want to know my idea of a 4-star summer read I recommend Await Your Reply or Tana French's mysteries such as In the Woods.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2013
Fast paced and one you just can't put down. I was worried before I started reading that I would be inundated with political names and events that would remind me of how much I don't know, but that wasn't the case at all. Great characters that keep you wondering who will turn on who. Hope they don't screw up the movie.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2012
Mike Ford's dad is in prison, his mom has died, his brother is in and out of jail, and he is ready to graduate from Harvard Law School but with a ton of debt from his mother's illness and for his Harvard tuition. He can't believe it when Davies Group hires him - giving him a large salary, a great apartment, and a secretary who takes care of everything for him. He has also fallen for Annie Clark, an associate at Davies. He has everything until he learns the degree to which the Davies Group will go in order to control The 500, the most influential, elite people in D.C. Using the criminal skills that he acquired from watching his dad, he attempts to discover ...and then escape political, murderous intrigue.
As Ford is drawn into the "barely legal" practices at Davies, I cringed. You know that he should get out now. Another associate with great political ties in Washington warns him, but Ford is too tempted by his success to leave. Pulled in two directions - because he does seem to have a functioning moral compass, I hated to see him get much too curious about the project that could get him, his dad, and his girlfriend killed. The money and tactics of the Davies Group made me wince. How much of this actually goes on? It's depressing. The "honor among thieves" creed of his dad made me feel better about the world. Difficult to put down, the book would probably hook the guys in our house too.

Four Stars

*Complimentary copy received for this review, does not affect my opinion in any way*
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2012
Riding the D.C. Metro train about a week back and I look across from me and see a sign for The 500 with a big "Coming Soon" logo across the face of the book. So being the curious cookie that I am I pull out the trusty iPad and launch my Kindle app to discover that they have a preview sample of the book up for download. From that moment on The 500 became my obsession. The days leading up to the full release felt like Christmas as a kid. The novel is well written and just plain 'ole, down-right riveting from start to finish. Doing a bit of research I found that they are producing a movie from this awesome read. I just hope they do it justice with a great script and a cast that can absorb themselves in these deep characters. If you haven't bought it or are on the fence, stop reading this and buy it ASAP!!!!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
The use of the name The Firm is used a lot in the promotiom for this book and I guess that is an okay thing. However don't think this is as good as The Firm. The 500 relies on the basic idea from The Firm, but differs in its hero. The hero[hmmm not sure if he is really the hero type] is a self made student and a con man. This last part is very convient for this story. He can pick locks and does B.E. with the greatest of ease. He comes from a con man family and has his father's old contacts to fall back on when needed.

One of the reviewers stated that this would make a better movie than a book. You can bet that it is already being optioned as we speak. The ending action is not bad and will look good on the screen.

Now the reason for the 3 stars. The characters are what is called in literature as flat characters. There is no rounding or attempt to really flesh out the characters. The girlfriend is is not very developed and The villians are given just enough to make them really bad and that is all.

I remember reading The Firm and for some reason the openning of the book I found so ominous that I was hooked from the begining. There are no such passages that stand out in this book.

I enjoyed the book the but I have already begun to forget parts of this book.
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