Poisonfeather by Matthew FitzSimmons

poisonfeather.jpgWhen jailed billionaire Charles Merrick hints publicly that he has stashed a fortune in an offshore cache, a school of sharks converges upon his release from federal prison.

Among his swindled victims is Judge Hammond Birk, the man who saved Gibson Vaughn’s life when he was a troubled teenager. Now Gibson intends to repay that debt by recovering Merrick’s victims’ money.

But Gibson isn’t the only one on the trail of the hidden fortune.

The promise of billions has drawn a horde of ruthless treasure hunters, including an edgy ex-con, a female bartender with a mysterious history, a Chinese spy with a passion for fly-fishing, and a veritable army of hardened mercenaries. To stay ahead of the sharks and win justice for his mentor, Gibson will need all his formidable skills. But at the end of the road, he’ll still have to face “Poisonfeather”—a geopolitical secret that just might get Gibson killed…or worse.*

POISONFEATHER is book two in the Gibson Vaughn series (the first book being THE SHORT DROP) and I was lucky enough to have gotten my hands on a copy before its October 4 pub date! I was hooked on Matthew FitzSimmons’s writing all over again right from the first paragraph. He has a talent for putting the reader directly in the same place as the character–I began to feel a little claustrophobic and unclean, as though I were in the prison with Charles Merrick.

More than that, I felt as though I were in the mind of Merrick, and all the other characters introduced along the way. Each chapter is told through the eyes of a different person while still remaining somewhat objective through the limited third-person narrator. It really makes it possible to empathize with everyone’s troubles, to understand the extent of what they’re going through. Men, women, prisoners, billionaires, poor farming families–they’re all represented.

One thing that always gets me about Matt’s writing is the humor he manages to infuse into what would otherwise be the most banal sentences. Consider this exchange between two characters:

“How has he been this week?”
“Full of himself. Imagine James Cameron winning the Oscar for Titanic,” Parker said. “Then multiply it by cocaine.”

These little embellishments, subtle twists on what would otherwise be tired cliches, always make me chuckle when I come across them.

The book is obviously very well researched. I always worry, when reading books even remotely about hackers or any other tech-y topic, that some of the jargon and much of the action will fly right by me, but everything in this novel is so well explained that you actually come away with new knowledge rather than feeling like an idiot. All the talk about the Stingray cell phone tracker reminded me just how much I don’t know about how federal agencies go about tracking and catching criminals, and all of the crazy technology they have at their fingertips.

This book moves really quickly, right from the start. Balancing pleasure reading with the overwhelming amounts of schoolwork I have has been working out relatively well this semester, but once I started reading POISONFEATHER I couldn’t put it down–I just had to find out what happened next, homework be damned for the moment. There was never a dull moment, no break in the action or intrigue, not even at the end. The cliffhanger left me floored and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next installment in the Gibson Vaughn series!!

Considering recent political events and men who want to bring back the social values of the 1950s, it was really refreshing to read a strong female character like the one Matt created in Lea. While she has help in the beginning from Swonger and Gibson, toward the end she proves just how capable she is on her own and how unwilling she is to give up the fight she began two years ago.

This book is the perfect Fall read–grab a cup of tea, curl up under a pile of blankets, and be swept into the intrigue and adventure of a Gibson Vaughn novel!

P.S. I was curious about the town of Niobe and whether it actually exists or not. It doesn’t seem to, which is incredibly surprising, given the amount of feeling Matt puts into it–you’d think he had actually been in this place that he’s describing and that he had actually met people like Old Charlie. However, Niobe is apparently a figure in Greek mythology who was punished for her hubris. It’s worth checking out the Wikipedia page on her after you finish the novel–there are some interesting connections to be made.

*The synopsis and cover photo are from Amazon.com. I received a free advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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