Book Review: Foul Matter

Author: Martha Grimes

Genre: Fiction/Satire

Published: 2004

Series: Standalone

Description: Author Paul Giverney is between publishers. Despite stratospheric sales of his books and frenzied competition to sign him up, he lives modestly in New York’s East Village and nurses a secret ambition of a very different sort. In fact, he has a byzantine plan for accomplishing it: the number-one condition of his proposed contract with the literary giant Mackenzie-Haack. They must drop a brilliant but far less successful author and assign his equally gifted editor to Paul. In the hornets’ next of preening egos and cutthroat career moves this stirs up, ambitious editor Clive Esterhaus covets the glossy megastar Paul for himself. Is the book contract unbreakable? Clive never dreams how a very different kind of contract will force him – and his ambition – into a very foul matter, indeed.

Overall thoughts: I went into Foul Matter thinking it was going to be about murder. (Note: I have no idea how I got this impression. It certainly wasn’t from the description I found online, and the back of my book didn’t have a description. I guess my imagination just went a bit wild?) While the book does involve something to this degree (no spoilers, I swear) the book is mostly about how wild the publishing industry is.

Grimes provides a satirical, crazy, look into the inner workings of publishing and just how far some will go to come out ahead, or how far others will go just to see  how much power they wield. I didn’t know much about publishing before going into this book, so it was an amazing read for me. I couldn’t help but think does this really happen? could this happen? all throughout the book. It’s amazing to see just how much one person can influence the “best seller” list among so many others that Grimes highlights.

However, don’t think you need to be intrigued by publishing to enjoy this book. Grimes has a lot of interesting characters here with hidden motivations that will keep you turning the page. While the book does focus on publishing, it’s about a lot more. Think: human motivation in general. What drives us. What motivates us. What we can control.

The book switches POV, a lot. Like a lot, a lot. Sometimes it switches by chapter and sometimes it switches several times within the chapter. It’s written in third, but who the book focuses on changes. I found this necessary for the book to be successful; however, sometimes I found the switching to be a bit much. Especially when I wanted more from a certain character, but knew I wouldn’t be going back to them for quite some time.

I’ve read other reviews on this book and most of them seem to think this book is “laugh out loud” funny. While, I definitely think this book on the whole was funny, it wasn’t laugh out loud funny, at least to me. It was more humorous or dry humor (for me). I definitely still think you’ll get a laugh out of it, but it wasn’t your expected, traditional humor. Just something to keep in mind.

I felt the pacing was overall good in the novel. It was quicker in the beginning and the end and slower through the middle. While sometimes I thought the middle was a little slow, it overall felt ok for me.

Overall, I would definitely recommend Foul Matter. There was some incredible writing throughout, and great characters. The insight look into the publishing industry was great and incredulous. While there were some things I wasn’t completely crazy about (the middle was a little slow and the POV changes a little too frequent) I would definitely recommend you check out Foul Matter.

Rating: 3/5

Links: Find it on Amazon | Author Website

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