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125 of 143 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fiction? You will wish it were so., September 5, 2000
This review is from: The Informant: A True Story (Hardcover)
I read hundreds of books in a year, and this work is one of the best I have read in 2000. Kurt Eichenwald deserves an award for getting it through the attorneys and then to publication.
Eichenwald, a finalist for the year 2000 Pulitzer and winner of other awards for his writing, has not only taken a riddle, wrapped in mystery, and shrouded by an enigma,(a nod to Winston Churchill) and made it readable, he has created a brilliant book. He created a book that could stand as a work of Fiction and be a novel of excellence, or be true to this bizarre story that strains credibility so many times, and yet he manages to give every bit of credence the reader needs to believe. Mike Wallace of 60 minutes couldn't have dissected this tale with greater skill.
And if you think I jest about the novel it would make, if 19th Century is your style, think Wilkie Collins, or if your taste is more contemporary, perhaps Charles Palliser of Quincunx fame. That is the type of labyrinthine thought that would be required to conjure this story from thin air.
At the center of the story is what at first seems to be an all-too-common tale. American consumers have gotten a great deal of exposure recently as to how a company can, in the opinion of The Justice Department, be detrimental to the public welfare. I would suggest there are issues that make bureaucratic careers, and issues that are literally participants in the lives of nearly all of us, and they are important.
Unless you treat eating as an extreme sport, you probably have not snacked on any software lately, be it Microsoft, or even Apple. However in the case that this book covers, this company is in your favorite restaurant, your house, your kitchen, and before you continue, they are all over what sits on the end of your fork, every meal, of every day. This book involves a company that many will not recognize it is about the people who have appointed their company "Supermarket To The World". Now that level of arrogance just begs the question of who are these people, and how do they operate?
Archer Daniels Midland is responsible for many of those ingredients you will find on the label of what you consume. Ingredients like, oilseed products, emulsifiers, etc. They also produce flour for your local pizzeria, and lysine for the folks who raise your food. In addition they can produce political pressure proportionate to a company 50 times their
size. And finally they have a Human Resource Department that hired and almost handed the company over to an individual so bizarre, that in his more lucid moments he fancies himself, Whitacre, Mark Whitacre. His delusions of grandeur as a secret agent would be absurd if not for the role he was playing as the critical person in the government's efforts to take down ADM, and some of their partners scattered across 5 continents. In addition to being the world's supermarket, ADM also developed those skills necessary to run illegal businesses on a global scale.
An individual chooses to help the FBI gather evidence against the corrupt company he works for, what could be simpler, how many novels have used the same premise? Unfortunately for the 2 agents that put their careers on the line, and spend years of their life working with this person, there was nothing simple, they would have been pleased with complex. These two agents got chaos in its human form, their "informant".
All starts well, and then an inconsistency appears, no problem. Later a reported fact was not quite so factual, but whose memory is perfect? But then reality is turned upside down. A lie is a lie, is a lie about a lie a double negative, making it a truth? Do you believe the person, his recorded voice, the memo he wrote, or what he has told his attorney, or surely what he tells the U.S. Government's lawyers, perhaps a judge? And how is it possible for an Author to even attempt to put this episode of The Twilight Zone in to book form?
Eichenwald has done so, by creating something that is not your typical read. He breaks with convention without breaking or even bending the truth. As the Author stated, "the reader is deceived into believing fiction through the true recitation of fact.''
Brilliant! Period.
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