Friday, 25 July 2014

Diary of a Small Fish by Pete Morin

ReviewerJJ Marsh

What We Thought: What exactly IS this book? Yes, it’s a political mystery. It’s also a love story. It explores corruption, honour and integrity. And it’s funny. But how to define it?

Paul Forte is the small fish; general counsel for the Boston Transport System, unhappily divorced, recently bereaved and possessor of a smart mouth. Oh, and he loves golf. A true sportsman, he respects the code of conduct. It’s how he was raised. Paul’s skills on the green have made him some powerful friends, a fact about to bite him in the ass.

As a governmental employee, accepting gifts such as a round of golf, followed by a fine meal, can amount to a federal crime. If you want to be petty about it. And Bernard Kilroy, FBI prosecutor, takes petty to new lows. He wants to run for Attorney General and has a score to settle. And worst of all, Paul calls him Bernie.

There is an upside to being subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury, however. A dark-haired juror with a wicked smile called Shannon.

The book follows Paul’s attempts to understand the net closing around him and who’s pulling the strings, while trying to start a relationship with the most elusive woman in Massachusetts.

Despite having no real interest in legal machinations, and even less in golf, this book hooked me from the start. The fast-paced twists and turns, the huge cast of vivid characters, the intriguing world of politics and corruption, the rich detail of the Boston setting and the whipsmart dialogue all collude to reel you in. I found myself thinking about this world and these characters for days after I finished the novel.

So far, so good. Morin’s background in law and government provide an expert’s safe hands and his storytelling abilities make the novel fly.

Yet in my view, where Diary of a Small Fish reaches another level is in its emotional honesty. The character of Paul Forte shows a touching openness to people and a vulnerability to grief which had me in hiccupping sobs by chapter 25. And by the time I’d finished the epilogue, I was grinning with satisfaction and wishing I could start all over again.

So how to define it? As a damn good read.

You'll enjoy this if you like: Legal manoevuring, wisecracks, Boston, great storytelling

Avoid if you dislike: Politics, law, complexity

Ideal accompaniments: Drink Johnny Walker Blue, eat a Club Sandwich and listen to Two Against One

Genre: Crime, literary fiction

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