Friday, February 5, 2016

The Finger's TwistThe Finger's Twist by Lee Lamothe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"[...] watching [police chief and mayor] and the rest of them, or guys like them, operate. The operators. Watching them fuck up everything they touch, everything they couldn't steal for themselves."

Here's my own attempt at an aphorism that might fit here: "Money soils everything and everybody it touches. " Lee Lamothe's The Finger's Twist (2009) would just be a simple thriller, a plain entertainment read, if not for the author's skill in conveying his passion about the particular kind of human scum: politicians and public officials for whom government service is the way of enriching themselves without the slightest concern about anyone or anything else. They are convinced that it is their sacred right to take public money because they are in positions of power. The best of them believe they will stop stealing some day, when they will have amassed enough; most of them never stop taking, though.

Charlie Tate and Elodie Gray are a rather unlikely couple. Charlie, a writer and journalist, hails from humble roots: his father was a "rag-and-bones man", who lived off collecting and selling stuff other people had discarded. Elodie, who comes from a rich and powerful family, is a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair. Although I do not quite "buy" them as a couple, the story of their first meeting is wonderfully memorable. They live in Toronto during the early 2000s massive anti-globalization protests and work as unlicensed investigators, doing research for lawyers, due diligence for mergers and acquisitions, and the like. They occasionally do some "dark side jobs", where Charlie's muscle - he also is an experienced bodyguard - counts more than the brain. I love the description of one of their business activities: "A perimeter sweep is a fancy name for stealing garbage." They look for proofs of illicit activity in the garbage thrown away by their targets; the insufficiently shredded documents are put back together by "jigsaw people". Cool!

The first part of this literary, well-written thriller serves as a setup: it tells the story of Charlie and Elodie helping defend a young woman, Corolla, who belongs to Elodie's rich family circles and who has been accused of attempting to detonate a bomb in the provincial legislature building during the anti-globalization riots. In the much better second part, which happens some time later, Elodie and Charlie need to demonstrate the innocence of his 23-year-old twin daughters, who are accused of planning terrorist actions.

I do not remember any popular book that would present the horrors of corruption in a big city government and the police force with such force and skill. All honest public officials and police officers are either eliminated or marginalized to allow the top human pigs - the mayor, the police chief, their lawyers - gorge at the trough of public money. (Apologies to pigs for the comparison.) Although fictional, the story of Pia Filipina is heartbreaking.

I do not like everything in the novel. The saintly honesty of Charlie and Elodie, their ability to avoid being soiled by money, is not totally plausible. The ending of the Cornelius Fox thread is a "huh?? moment". Yet, I have no doubt that The Finger's Twist is an outstanding novel in the thriller genre.

Four stars.

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