|Matthew Quirk's debut novel tells the story of the 500 most powerful political figures, who are influenced by a small group of even more powerful consultants, who are in turn challenged by a twenty-nine year old fledgling Harvard Law graduate with a checkered past. Billed as a rival to The Firm, the book starts painfully slowly, setting the characters and the plot, and only becomes Grisham-like towards the end with an excellent denouement.
Mike Ford meets Henry Davies during a seminar at Harvard and is offered a job. Davies, an ex-CIA Director, and William Marcus are the lead partners in The Davies Group who are THE high end lobbyists in all of Washington, D.C, evidenced by a minimum commission of $15 million. Their success is predicated upon "grass-topping," which is influencing people around the "mark" in order to get the desired decision and outcome.
Ford, whose mother died of cancer and whose father is in prison, was a former thief himself but has been "clean" for ten years. He spent time in the Navy rather than go to jail. This job as a junior associate will help him pay off both his law school debts as well as those accrued from his mother's chemotherapy. Mike is initially assigned an international tax case worth $47 million. In order to complete the case, he must use all of his prior illegal and his newly acquired legal skills, resulting in a promotion. Mike's love interest is Annie Clark one of the senior associates.
It is only when Mike is asked to befriend Representative Walker, the youngest member of the House of Representatives that The 500 moves into second gear and really holds your attention. The 500 is well-written but the plot is often strained with incredulities and more than an occasional fortunate coincidence. If you make it through the slow start, The 500 is an okay summer read.