Last week, Poisonfeather by Matthew FitzSimmons launched and I got one of the first copies — I’d preordered the book because his debut novel, The Short Drop was so fabulous. Please note, I didn’t get a free review copy, but paid my own money for the book, hence I owe no one anything.
First, a little background:
The Short Drop
Here’s a little synopsis from the Washington Post, and you can read the rest of their review here,:
Matthew FitzSimmons’s far more complicated and appealingly flawed hero is Gibson Vaughn, a childhood friend of Lombard’s daughter, Suzanne, who vanished 10 years earlier at the age of 14. The son of Lombard’s former chief of staff, Gibson was never a suspect in the disappearance because he was in jail at the time. He had hacked into Lombard’s computer and planted false evidence that the then-senator was guilty of campaign-finance fraud.
In this novel, the second in the Gibson Vaughn series — Cold Harbor, the 3rd book is due out in Sept, 2017.
In this book, we catch up with our protagonist, Vaughn, a short time after his show-down with his long-time nemesis, Benjamin Lombard. He’s still looking for a job and not having much success as someone sabotages his efforts (although, in this book, it’s not clear who as Lombard is no longer in the picture). This creates discord with this ex-wife and causes him concern over his daughter. His dreams of keeping the house they live in and moving to a better place himself are dashed.
But, Vaughn faces a new challenge. The judge who gave him back his life after his hacking conviction is now suffering severe dementia and living in squalor because he lost all his money investing with a man later convicted of fraud, Charles Merrick. The judge, in a rare lucid moment, shows Vaughn an interview with Merrick where he implies that the justice department didn’t recover all his assets. This sets Vaughn on a quest to recover whatever funds Merrick still has so the judge can live the remainder of his life in comfort.
But, it’s not so easy. He must first find out where Merrick has the money stashed. Only then can he hack into the bank then send the funds to an offshore account for the judge.
But, as you might imagine, others want that money. In fact, Vaughn finds a number of unsavory characters ensconced in the one hotel located in the dying town surrounding the prison — a country club prison where Merrick in nearing the end of his 8 year sentence. Everyone is waiting to get their hands on Merrick as soon as he’s released, including Merrick’s daughter, who worked in the town for 2 years under an assumed identity so she could get revenge on her father.
As the story unfolds, we discover why the Justice Department didn’t take all the assets and why they gave Merrick such a light sentence. He gave them Poisonfeather, a Chinese with insider knowledge of government plans. And, the Chinese aren’t happy about that. They want to know who Poisonfeather is, so they have their own interests in Merrick.
It’s really hard to follow the unbelievable success of The Short Drop, something Fitzsimmons himself states in the acknowledgements. I think he’s made an heroic effort, but I think Poisonfeather fails to achieve the success of the first novel.
The writing is still fantastic, with great imagery and characters, but the plot plods along without enough cohesiveness for me. Plus, many of the situations don’t ring true or seem contrived. There’s also a lot of gratuitous violence that doesn’t really add to the plot.
For instance, Vaughn is set to start a new job, but fails to complete the last hurdle, a polygraph, when someone mysteriously intercedes and cancels it in the middle. Why? Who? Mystery is good, but it seems unlikely that someone would wait so late in the hiring process to sabotage his career. And, we never find out who or why this happened. But, and maybe FitzSimmons will close that loop in his next book, that leaves the reader of this book unsatisfied.
So, overall, I give this about 4 out of 5 stars. I think it’s well worth the time to read, but it’s not one of my top 10 books of all time.
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