Matthew Quirk’s gripping first novel, The 500, opens in DC’s “most respected strategic consulting and government affairs firm,” where young-gun attorney Mike Ford is cutting a deal for his life with the most ruthless man in Washington. Meanwhile, a Serbian war criminal with a penchant for eating the hearts of those who cross him waits outside in a Range Rover stuffed with Brioni-clad goons. “Die in infamy, honor intact,” Mike thinks, “or live in glory, corrupted.” Not the best options anyone’s ever had in this town but probably not the worst, either.
The 500, already being made into a film, has the pace and texture of a good John Grisham thriller, and readers will see a lot of The Firm’s Mitch McDeere in Ford—Harvard Law, family member in prison. But Quirk gives his hero a fresh background: Mike, a thief in his youth, went into law so he could repay a loan shark who covered his cancer-stricken mother’s radiology bills.
Quirk, a Washingtonian and former Atlantic reporter, peppers the novel with burglary-tradecraft gems and sets it so firmly in DC that you’ll be looking for Mike to turn up next to you on the Metro. Places such as the Palm, the Prime Rib, and the Gibson get name-checked, as do neighborhoods from the Palisades to the Navy Yard. But what The 500 really nails is our workaholic ethos. “Welcome to the District,” Quirk writes, “where the fun never starts.”
This article appears in the June 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.