Reviewed by: BigAl
Approximate word count: 110-115,000 words
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Jeff Posey lives in North Texas where he writes historical, contemporary, and near-future novels. Many (although not this one) come from his interest in ancient Anasazi culture. For more, visit Posey’s website.
“Jackie Key inherits a full scholarship from a rich man murdered by his brother, and seeks justification by studying the economic ripple effects of the dissolution of the dead man’s assets. What he discovers and tries to publish makes him become public enemy number one among the country’s rich and powerful because Dr. Jackie Key can calculate a true economic price on their heads.”
All fiction requires a reader to be able to suspend disbelief. Some genres (much science fiction and fantasy) ask more of the reader in this regard than others (contemporary fiction, romance, and chick-lit, for example). Books in the thriller genre tend to fall toward the high end of this scale. Regular readers of a genre learn to buy into the less believable aspects of a story or abandon the genre. The reason I mention this is because when reflecting on this story after finishing, I found that some aspects of it seemed far-fetched. However, while reading it (which is where believing matters) I was immersed in the story and not questioning events at all.
The premise of the book is intriguing. The issue of income inequality is one that has been getting a lot of attention in certain US political circles the last several years. Jackie Key, the protagonist who is an economist, has spent years studying the effect the concentration of assets and income has on the function of the economy and has developed formulas that quantify these effects. Just as he’s ready to publish a paper outlining his findings, those in power find out, and all heck breaks loose.
I liked this story. As a thought experiment (what if an economist actually could and did show the detrimental effects of income inequality on the economy) it worked for me. I cared about what happened to Jackie and Maura, a reporter who becomes his sidekick and romantic interest. The thriller part of the story was good, and that’s what matters more than any underlying themes or points the reader might or might not care about.
However, there were a few places where I thought the author stumbled. One example is when Jackie meets Maura for the first time. Jackie’s feelings, just before Maura came into his office, were foreshadowing that she was going to be extremely important in some way. I felt the way the author did this was overdone and way too obvious. Another example was a spot that talked about monopolies that, while it didn’t detract from the story, I also believe was far from reality.
But what I thought was the best aspect about Price on their Heads was what it didn’t do. So many of the books I read that are premised around a hot button political issue feel like the author cared more about trying to make political points than telling a good story. I’m okay with attempting to make a political point, whether I agree with the point or not. But the hard sell approach many of these books take turns me off, whether I agree with them or not. Here, I didn’t feel that way. It felt like the author cared more about the story than the politics, which is as it should be.
Adult language and mild adult situations. The book description on Amazon has this caution:
Warning: This story contains impolite language, graphic violence, a little sex, and is very politically incorrect.
The version I received was a pre-release copy, so I’m unable to judge the final product in this area.
Rating: **** Four Stars