What an intelligent, taut thriller this is.
Set in Northern California’s Silicon Valley, the “club” of the title is made up of four geeks who failed when they had the chance to profit from their high-flying (for awhile) software startup, Defiance.
Jacob Miller, the engineering genius behind Defiance, never sold a single share of stock, so when the bubble burst and Defiance’s market cap fell from $15 billion to zero, he earned the title King of Fools.
Not part of the club, living large and planning a run for the U.S. Senate, is Jacob’s stepbrother and former Defiance front man Colin Schaeffer. Why is Colin rich and Jacob broke? The feds have been asking the same question but have failed to come up with evidence to indict Colin for any kind of wrongdoing.
The night the U.S. Attorney announces an end to the investigation, clearing the way for Colin’s entry into politics, the Fools gather to literally cry in their beer and bemoan the unfairness of life. After sufficient pitchers are consumed, they come up with the un-Mensa-like idea of egging Colin’s beautiful gated mansion. This childish prank sets in motion events that will reveal the source of Colin’s wealth, threaten his family and career and lock the stepbrothers into a violent dance with a Melissa Etheridge-obsessed lesbian assassin.
Though Jacob is bitter about Colin’s good fortune in the face of his own failure – not the least of that good fortune being his marriage to Jacob’s classy former girlfriend – when he has the opportunity to wreck Colin’s life, he cannot do it. The bonds of childhood and the gratitude for the golden boy who protected him from bullies and tried to teach him about sports are too strong.
Colin suffers no such pangs of loyalty, to Jacob or anyone else. When his campaign manager offers to put him in touch with the one person who can make any lingering concerns about law enforcement go away, he scarcely hesitates before reaching out to the anonymous email@example.com.
A soulless phony who somehow sees himself as a cross between Bobby Kennedy and Teddy Roosevelt, Colin is quickly out of his depth in dealing with the woman who calls herself “Mel” and whose only ambitions are to work as a bodyguard for Etheridge and to become a single mother.
In the end, of course, at least one of the three must go down, and it becomes a question of whose bad judgment will turn out to be the most catastrophic.
We don’t find any bio information on Craig Mallery. Based on his easy descriptions of the Silicon Valley, he apparently is or was part of that world of dot.coms, venture capitalists, fast fortunes and equally fast collapses.
The writing in Fools Club is crisp and clean. The plot moves quickly but not at the expense of the players’ depth. Each character is believable and recognizable except perhaps Patrini, the beautiful female Fool who secretly has the hots for Jacob. The techie/geeky stuff serves the story well and doesn’t compete with it.
Like the other books we recommend, if it were published under the name of a well-known writer and you paid $25 for it, you would not be disappointed. If you compare Fools Club to a David Baldacci novel – a fair comparison for the genre – you’d find the writing much better, the plot more interesting and the characters more believable.
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(review of free book)