The Price of Liberty by Keir Graff (2010-03-31) Hardcover – January 1, 1758
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- Publisher : Severn House Publishers Ltd (January 1, 1758)
- ASIN : B01K91KNWY
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The mystery/thriller portion of the story takes awhile to start, and that is where I had some troubles. Kyla, Jack’s ex-wife, discovers the billing fraud--and this discovery and attempted cover-up is the impetus for the entire action plot--happens in a rather unrealistic way: (minor spoiler) she accidentally opens a spreadsheet on a shared computer. I find it unlikely that someone engaged in fraudulent billing practices on a multi-million dollar project would leave all the evidence in a non-password-protected file on a non-password protected computer that could be accessed by multiple parties.
The biggest problem, however, with this book was the cardboard villains and stereotyped (negatively) politicians and contractors. Jack, Kyla, and other “good guys” were all presented as real people, with layers to their personalities. The only “bad guy” who was given even a semblance of real character was Dave Fetters, the owner of the local construction company. The primary villain, Shane Fetters, rampages through the story in an unbelievably over-the-top Snidely-Whiplash-esque manner (except that Mr. Whiplash had more depth). Politicians and the contractor rep are presented as arrogant ignorant idiots and/or thugs, to the point where I’d bet $500 that I can guess the author’s political persuasion and at that point I feel more like I am being preached to than reading a story. I found it distracting and insulting.
That said, I thought Jack’s reaction to and handling of the situation refreshingly realistic and level-headed. That aspect of the book was well-done.
First, Graff is a master at characterization. I found myself picturing the main characters very clearly, although there was no point where he described them at length. Also, the characters are multi-dimensional. The good guys (and women) have some serious flaws, and with an exception or two, the bad guys have some redeeming qualities. I plan to reread the book at some point simply to trace how Graff developed his characters so subtly, yet so effectively.
Secondly, the story is an accurate reflection of the contemporary American West, where I have spent most of my adult life. Graff's book touches on several of the themes that affect life here, particularly the desperation of rural areas to attract industries and projects that will provide jobs in a land where natural resource extraction no longer supports the economy,and the social tensions and envies that arise when wealthy newcomers establish a lifestyle that long-time residents cannot afford. Graff also employs humor that shows he knows he way around the West. I laughed aloud when an impatient out-of-towner waiting for her luggage in a small airport comments that the ticket seller must also be the person who unloads baggage; anyone who flies around this part of the country knows that is often true.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and now I intend to read Graff's earlier works.
Graff is a first-rate wordsmith, with tight, highly observant prose that lends itself to easy management of an ensemble cast of characters. Although the book's protagonist is the sympathetic Jack McEnroe, an employee of a Halliburton-like government contracting firm, Graff has created an excellent character in Dave Fetters, a classic big fish in a small pond with so much to hide. As the book's stakes get increasingly higher, it's fun to watch Fetters squirm by virtue of his own misdeeds. To say more would be to spoil some nice surprises, but suffice to say that The Price of Liberty is smart political fiction with enough fireworks to light up the entire West Coast.