Audiobook Review: The 500 by Matthew Quirk

13 08 2012

The 500 by Matthew Quirk

Read by Jay Snyder

Hachette Audio

Length: 9 Hrs 23 Min

Genre: Legal/Political Thriller

Quick Thoughts:

The 500 is a complex political thriller that combines element of Grisham’s The Firm with a good old fashion confidence game. Quirk created a likable, yet complicated protagonist, who while frustrating at times,  was someone you wanted to see come out on top. The 500 is a fun summer thriller with just enough surprises to keep you glued to the very end.

Grade: B

It seems more and more each day our country is being embroiled in class struggle, yet, one of the more surprising of these struggles are with crooks and criminals. While petty crime is looked upon, and sentenced, very harshly today, white collar criminals may get blasted a bit in the media, but they also get bailed out, and under sentenced. When the big foot of justice is finally pressed upon them, they receive light sentences at low risk prisons. For years, literature has been filled with the idea of the gentleman criminal, the plucky Robin Hoodesque thief that steals from the privilege to redistribute to the needy. Now, instead of the Lord of the Estate, or privileged nobility, the modern day Robin Hood takes on the greedy corporate CEO, or the corrupt politician that lines the pockets of his rich donors, while screwing over average Joe America. It seems in many ways, while the ideas of a brotherhood of thieves, who look out for each other and never ever betray their comrades only really works in fiction, if they are sticking it to the man. Nobody wants heroes who rob little old ladies, unless those old ladies run a billion dollar company that outsources their work to sweatshops that pay 12 year olds pennies a day. One of the reasons I was interested in The 500 by Mathew Quirk, was this sort of class warfare between hoods in hoodies and crooks in suits. The main character Mike Ford, grew up learning the tricks of the trade from small time con men and thieves, but now as a Harvard Law graduate who just landed his dream job believes he has left that life far behind. Of course, as we often see in thrillers, everything has a price.

The 500 is a complicated legal thriller that takes place not in the courtroom, but in the smoke filled halls of Washington influence peddling. While Mike Ford is one of the top students in his prestigious Law School, he’s finding it hard to land a job with one of the big firms due to his shady past. With debt collectors literally banging at his doors, he jumps at the chance to join one of the most powerful Washington DC firms. Mike Ford is an extremely frustrating character, but in a realistic way. While he is full of a sort of blue collar worldliness, he has a naiveté that allows him to be easily manipulated and lead astray in the white collar world. Mike is so glamorized by his posh new life, beautiful new girlfriend, and advancement in his new job that the readers feel the noose closing much earlier than the character himself. Quirk’s plot is full of complicated conspiracies, and long held secretes. You want to see it as implausible but viewing the stagnation and seeming inability for anything to actually get done in our legislature you can’t help but feel it’s actually scarily possible, maybe even probable. Much of the first half of the novel has a bit of a ho-hum, we’ve seen this in The Firm before, type feel to it, but as Ford begins to draw on his past the novel gains much more complexity and heart, and began to really spark my interest. The denouement is a cat and mouse style confidence shuffle that keeps the reader guessing. My only concern with the novel was how it all wrapped up. While it wasn’t a bad ending per se, and had some really good moments, it felt almost too bloody yet too clean. That being said, it did provide plenty of thrills, and as a whole, ended up being a whole lot of fun. The 500 is a complex political thriller that combines element of Grisham’s The Firm with a good old fashion confidence game. Quirk created a likable, yet complicated protagonist, who while frustrating at times,  was someone you wanted to see come out on top. The 500 is a fun summer thriller with just enough surprises to keep you glued to the very end.

It was interesting to hear Jay Snyder narrate this thriller. I am quite familiar with Snyder’s work, but mostly have experienced it in Science Fiction and horror. Jay Snyder’s biggest asset, his professional quality voice, can sometimes also be his biggest weakness, especially when he reads first person tales. Yet, here, his impeccable voice fits well into the corporate world in which the novel takes place. His portrayal of Mike Ford may have been just a little too smooth, but for a lawyer it wasn’t much of a stretch to hear him as a crisply spoken professional. His female characters all have a similar feel to them, but since there wasn’t much interaction between female characters, it didn’t really hamper the production much. Where Snyder excels is in the cinematic quality he gives to the action. His pacing is always spot on, and his reading is always easy to follow and pleasant to the ears. He also handled the few international accents well. With the multilayer plot, it was good to have a professional narrator like Jay Snyder who can bring a tale to vivid life at the helm.

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