In an ambitious satire of post-9/11 America, the author of two previous legal thrillers (The Betrayal, 1998, etc.) manages to skewer our financial, political and social institutions with vicious glee while offering a nuanced portrait of his tragicomic hero (and supporting heroines).
Everything comes easily to handsome, laid-back Fritz Brubaker: beautiful wife, kids in private school, big house in fancy Boston suburb. Fritz cares more about skiing and sailing than about his job as Assistant Comptroller to the corporate conglomerate Playtime. But complaisance goeth before a fall. Playtime has been fudging its profit numbers and is headed for an Enron-style disaster for which no one in the company is willing to take responsibility. Fritz’s wife Linda, a high-powered, hardworking lawyer for whom nothing comes easily, has begun an affair with a fellow law partner out of exasperation with happy-go-lucky Fritz. Fritz’s spoiled son is having “issues” at his progressive private school. When a struggling stockbroker traces a short placed on Playtime to one Phineas Brubaker and sets off a selling frenzy, Fritz is arrested for insider trading. An aging Falstaffian senator, smarting over being snubbed by the President, who used to be his drinking buddy, gets wind of Playtime’s corporate shenanigans and calls for an investigation. Fritz’s testimony speeds both the senator’s and Playtime’s demise. Fritz’s own downfall and redemption (no reader will believe for a second that he committed the crime for which he serves his country-club-prison term) is set within the context of periodic flashbacks to his Econ. 101 class, where his professor devotes the semester to answering the question “What is value?” Full of moral outrage, Willett takes jabs at everything and everyone. Lawyers—Willett himself is one—and corporate CEOs get it the worst. Yet most of the human targets here are more foolish than evil. The one thoroughly unsympathetic villain is the e-mail device, the Blackberry. It gets its just reward.
Remarkable: hilariously nasty, morally driven, sweetly romantic. Poor Linda: Fritz is irresistible.