Long Way Down, by Michael Sears ***-****

longwaydownMichael Sears’ Wall Street spy thriller is an interesting and enjoyable read; 3.5 stars. Thank you to Putnam Adult Books, Above the Treeline, and Edelweiss books for the ARC. This book will become available in early February.

Jason has gone to prison for insider trading, and now he’s out. In reading this first person narrative, I learned a few basics about the capitalist market system, including the definition of an insider trade. In years gone by, I always told my students that there was never going to be a time when they felt they had accidentally gained too many (legal) skills or learned too much, and so I took that advice, Marxist though I am, and looked on with interest.

That said, the protagonist was only mildly sympathetic to me. The development of the character via his child, a first grader with autism (specifically Asperger’s Syndrome) made him more real and more likable. The writer injected just enough of this aspect of his character’s life to help shape his character, without permitting it to become a diversion. I was also very grateful that he didn’t take the cheap-way-out many mystery and thriller writers take, in having a bad guy kidnap, scare, or hurt the child. When the time came that it could be a threat, our affluent business consultant took his son and the nanny and flew them to the tropics, out of harm’s way.

And yet this is where an obstacle presented itself. Because he went to jail with a tidy sum salted away in an off-shore bank, our protagonist has far more money than many of us will ever see, even over the course of our lifespans. I was distracted by the number of coats he destroyed and then threw away, gave away, or just left lying somewhere. Cars, wardrobes…one can understand how anyone would do such a thing if his life was on the line; there’s surely no coat I’d die for. But it came to a head for me when the narration whined about the flight to Washington D.C. being too long, even for those in first class. I weep for you, I wanted to respond. Try flying from the West Coast to DC on the red-eye flight. Fly coach. Stand in the sun for six hours waiting for your part of the human chain to start marching and chanting; then repeat the red-eye flight home, and then go to work. Don’t snivvle over the hardship faced by first class passengers. And for heaven’s sake, don’t tell me about how the first class passengers look down their noses at business class.

It was telling that on his many airline flights, our fancy man never even mentioned flying coach as an option.

The story line follows our protagonist as he seeks to defend the man he’s working for when the latter is suspected of murder. All sorts of chase scenes, internet hacking, ducking into doorways, hiding, chasing, and fighting abound. And I have to say it kept my attention. The writer’s environmental concern is well integrated into the character’s narrative most of the time, but there is a scene at the end where it feels as if a public service announcement has been interjected. You’ll know it when you hit it.

Would I read more of Sears’s work? I most likely would, if I could find it at the library or used bookstore. I think he falls into the category of second-tier writers on my wish list: I would prefer to read his work to that of an unknown writer’s, but I also wouldn’t pay full jacket price for his work, or put it on my Mother’s Day wish list.

For those who enjoy a fictional romp among those with money and privilege, though, this will be a surefire hit.

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