Let's start with the basic plot: Rich Mauro, in his mid-twenties, finally catches a break when he gets a job in the printing room at a Manhattan law firm. Rich's goal is to move up to an office, becoming an actual attorney at the firm. But first he needs to get through undergrad, then law school. Even with the firm's tuition help, Rich is looking at a mountain of bills.
Enter seedy and unsavory Jason Spade (a good last name, by the way, because this guy is nothing if not an ardent digger into the underbelly of life), who presents Rich with an offer he can't refuse. Jason proposes that Rich, along with three of his fellow "Printers", take the info they glean from the documents that pass through the printing room and use it to their financial advantage.
It will not go well.
We know it won't go well because - and this is my one complaint - Santora tells us REPEATEDLY that it will not go well. At the end of nearly every one of the first dozen or so chapters, we are told that Bad Things will happen. For example, very early on:
After it all went down, to the ill informed, it appeared that it happened because of money. But to those who were involved in it, to the guys who were so deep in the mess that it covered their mouths and pushed up into their nostrils, they understood that it all happened for love - love that was pure and real or love that had never been there to begin with, but love nonetheless.It drives me nuts. I'm all for foreshadowing, but this is a bit heavy handed, non? But I'm willing to forgive this because the book is so entertaining and otherwise well written.
Santora grabs you with his characters. For instance, Vicellous Green became a quick favorite.
Vice was a legend in East New York for not once but twice getting the cops to let him go just by being funny. No guns, no running, no weapon but his humor. The first time it happened, a couple of badges from the Seventy-Fifth Precinct had nailed Vice as he was climbing over the back fence of an electronics store he had just robbed. Earlier that day, Mr. Singhal, the owner of the business, told Vice in a heavy Indian accent and in no uncertain terms to get "his stick fingers and poor black country ass" out of his store, that his store was for "paying customers, not welfare babies." The ironic thing was, Vice actually had money that day and wasn't planning on lifting anything - granted, he had lifted the money from the handbag of a woman sitting next to him on the bus, but he had money nonetheless, and Vice was pissed because there was no reason for Mr. Singhal to embarrass him in front of the fine young ladies who were there shopping for iPods. So Vice struck back he only way he knew how - he robbed the bastard.That's good stuff! It makes you want to read more, doesn't it? You will get so close to these characters. Boy, did I want Rich to succeed, even if success meant committing crimes. I wanted him and his girlfriend Elyse to make it work and to be together. I wanted Vice to continue to take care of his family and for Dylan to take care of his. I wanted Eddie to find love. Now, I admit to wanting Jason to get his ass kicked. Some of those wishes came true, others not so much. There were parts of this roller coaster that kind of made me sad.
Fifteen Digits is entertaining, and it is a page-turner. Do not start this unless you are ready to commit time to it, because you won't want to put it down.
Published by Little, Brown & Company and available on Amazon.com.
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview.