Thursday, February 8, 2024

Book Review: Kingpin by Mike Lawson

 What happens when two dominant men play their power games? Several powerless innocents become cannon fodder. When business tycoon Carson Newman gets to know that an intern working under politician John Mahoney has found something dirty on him, he decides to silence him. This starts off a chain of events that spirals into a cat-and-mouse game between several interested parties. Right in the middle stands Joe DeMarco, a lawyer who works as a fixer for Mahoney, taking care of all dirty jobs in which the former Speaker cannot directly interfere. DeMarco decides to deliver justice to the dead young man at all costs.

Kingpin is a political thriller written by Mike Lawson, featuring his "troubleshooter" lawyer, Joe DeMarco. The novel deals with power politics and how corruption has been normalised in the topmost echelons of the political spectrum. Businessmen and politicians form duplicitous arrangements in the shadows, helped by middlemen like agents and lobbyists. To aid them, they use petty criminals and assassins. Even if they are exposed, they always manage to find easy ways to escape the hands of the law through lawyers who are experts in subverting justice. I received a review copy of the novel from the publisher, Grove Atlantic, through Netgalley in exchange for my honest feedback.

The novel is literally an edge-of-the-seat, quick-paced thriller with many twists and turns in its plot. The writer is successful in constructing an engrossing tale where several characters do what is needed to keep themselves safe, even at the cost of another's life. At the same time, he has never let the narrative become too serious by preserving a thin strand of humour running right below the main plot. The novel starts as a high-level rivalry between two giants but soon becomes a fight between many minions on each side who are desperate to keep their turf and livelihood safe.

DeMarco, our protagonist, is one of my favourite kinds of characters in this genre of thriller. He is a reckless, resourceful, and quick-thinking person who never cares for appearances—literally, a loose cannon. Though he is a shrewd lawyer who is willing to go to any lengths to protect his boss's interest, he is also ready to give a tough fight when he really feels obligated towards some cause, ensuring justice for an innocent young man in this book. The other characters are also as colourful and eccentric as DeMarco. But even then, they are relatable to the reader because their basic intention is to somehow keep themselves floating in a dog-eat-dog world.

Kingpin by Mike Lawson is a crime thriller with a background of power politics and the criminal activities that happen in its back alleys. The novel is a reminder of a situation where bribing and influencing a lawmaker is normal and no longer considered a crime. It is a tightly plotted entertainer that made me want more of it.

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