Quick Fix by J.Gregory Smith is a fast paced adventure set in Fishtown, a small town in Philadelphia. It’s an exciting yarn with an effective combination of humour, action and tension.
The story is told in 1st person narrative from the perspective of military contractor, Kyle Logan. Kyle has lived his whole life in Fishtown and most of the characters are known to him and played a part in his past which helps to make the plot and its denouement believable. The novel begins as Kyle is recovering from injuries he sustained whilst in Iraq, which have left him struggling both physically and mentally. On top of this he is trying to come to terms with his estranged wife’s new relationship with an antagonistic lawyer.
However, it is Kyle’s relationship with his childhood friend, Ryan ‘Anything for a Buck’ Buckley that leads to him becoming embroiled in a criminal endeavour that threatens to destroy not only him but everyone he cares about. Gregory Smith goes to great pains to show Ryan’s good qualities in that he helped Kyle’s mother when she was terminally ill and his own parents died in tragic circumstances but I found it difficult to warm to him. He is morally corrupt and untrustworthy but Kyle is easily led and seems incapable of seeing his friend as he really is.
The plot centres on the theft of some priceless Aztec statues which Ryan plans to sell to the local bad boy, Danny ‘Iceballs’ Sheehan who is a part of the Irish mob. Typically Ryan tries to double cross Sheehan and he and Kyle end up fighting for their lives as they in turn are double crossed and then robbed. It’s a complicated plot but to Gregory Smith’s credit he asserts full control over the narrative and engaged my interest throughout.
My favourite character is Kyle’s landlord, Rollie, a former marine and lonely widower, advancing in years but keen to get involved in the melee that develops when Sheehan kidnaps Kyle’s estranged wife, Beth. It is through Rollie’s memories of Sheehan’s father that we are shown how dangerous these men are and the violence and cruelty runs parallel to the warm camaraderie that Kyle and Rollie enjoy. There is no attempt to dress up the fact that these gangsters are vicious thugs with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
The tone of the novel, however, is not overly dark due to the conversational style of narrative and the fact that Kyle is not particularly tough or adept at fighting and is basically just trying to keep his head above water. There is something of the everyman in Kyle as his life implodes and he finds himself with little control over the proceedings. Despite this is he loyal to both Ryan and Beth and comes across as a decent person.
The setting of the novel creates a claustrophobic feel which racks up the tension. The area seems familiar to the author as he describes the landscape and small town affiliations with a convincing ease. From the onset where Kyle has an altercation in a local bar, the novel has a filmic, visual quality which I found enjoyable.
I really like the way Gregory Smith chooses to end his novel in a realistic ambiguous way. It is not all tied up in a happy ending but rather people just accepting each other’s flaws and doing the best they can.
Quick Fix is an engaging, exciting novel. The characters are all believable and on the whole likeable and I felt very much invested in them. If you are looking for a bit of escapism and you like action and adventure then I think you would enjoy this one very much.