“How do you go honest in a city run by crooks?”
This is the question recent Harvard Law School graduate Mike Ford poses to himself in Matthew Quirk’s highly anticipated debut thriller, THE 500. Mike knows something about crooks. He comes from a family of them and is himself a recovering crook with a former juvenile record.
Now, cleaned up and near the top of his class at Harvard, Mike catches the eye of one of his professors, Henry Davies, who runs the Davies Group in Washington, D.C. Labeled as a “consulting firm,” it actually is the driving force behind the elite group nicknamed the 500. That number represents the men and women who really run Washington, D.C. --- and the world. This group also has done some nefarious things to earn their distinction, involving secrets that need burying.
"Quirk does an admirable job of keeping the plot moving, and readers will definitely connect with Mike in his seemingly impossible plight."
That is where the Davies Group comes in. They not only act as high-profile spin doctors for the who’s who of D.C.’s political set, they also go out of their way to influence certain personal agendas that impact many of the policies set forth in the Capitol. Mike was an ideal choice for the Davies Group. As a former con man with a penchant for cutting through red tape to see the big picture in most situations, he stood out in Henry’s classroom as a bright young mind capable of manipulative skills that could be put to immediate use by his firm.
Mike seems to have it all: a great job with the promise of advancement to partner, all of his personal and school loan obligations paid in full, and an attractive new girlfriend whose father is a powerful British politician and businessman. Annie also works for the Davies Group, but Mike does not fear the potential conflict of interest and actually likes the competitive spin this puts on their relationship.
However, it is not long until Mike starts peeking behind the curtain at the Davies Group to uncover some secrets and questionable business practices that spark much concern. For one, Mike’s boss is an ex-military man, a potential psychopath. The firm also utilizes the assistance of a Serbian killer who has a reputation for doing particularly nasty things to people he doesn't like. When Mike starts digging too deeply after taking the fall in a case he was working on for Davies, he becomes a target and ends up on the wrong side of Henry and Marcus --- two men who should not be messed with.
THE 500 begins in interesting fashion with a prologue that introduces the finale of the book first. Using this “Columbo”-style of revealing the murder first and then piecing together how it was solved is an interesting plot choice, and one that Matthew Quirk banks on to hold the readers in check as they read on to see how things devolved to the messy situation that introduces the novel.
The book has received a number of positive reviews, with comparisons to classic novels like THE FIRM and PRESUMED INNOCENT. This is high praise indeed and a difficult bar to surpass. Quirk does an admirable job of keeping the plot moving, and readers will definitely connect with Mike in his seemingly impossible plight. Mike puts his situation best when he surmises, “Certain things were priceless. Certain men couldn’t be bargained with.” These are profound words from a protagonist who is smarter than everyone thinks and a survivor. It is this tenaciousness that represents the heart of THE 500 and hopefully will spell out a long and successful career for the author.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on July 20, 2012