by George V. Higgins
From The Friends of Eddie Coyle to Trust, Higgins has shaped his fiction around the exploits of people low on options. Now, he throws former major-league relief pitcher Henry Briggs onto his pitiable pile of losers.
Briggs used to cut the corners with an arm full of nasty. Now he’s trying to stay a pitch ahead of boredom. His kids think he’s a failure, his wife would like to see him grow up. and Briggs himself wants more than a life as a Vermont fish-and-game warden.
Enter Speaker of the House Ed Cobb. He has a plan to unseat a popular congressman. The plan centers on Briggs making the run. Here, an innocent-sounding Cobb finalizes the offer over a cold beer: “I’m serious, Henry. This one’s worth your time. Take a leave of absence. If you lose you can go back, protecting trouts and trees, and taking care of deer. Try it out. I think you’ll love it. Furthermore, you’ll win.”
It is an offer Briggs cannot refuse, partly because years earlier Cobb bailed Briggs out of a Rhode Island motel jam.
Few writers enjoy chicanery as much as Higgins. Here he takes his usual back-room connivers, moves them out of overtly illegal scams and puts them in a political setting. While the result isn’t vintage Higgins (last seen in Penance for Jerry Kennedy in 1985), it’s close enough to satisfy. (Holt, $19.95)