cover image King of the Mississippi

King of the Mississippi

Mike Freedman. Hogarth, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-0-525-57378-4

A towering monument to arrogance faces off against a wily underminer in Freedman’s precise and pungent satire of the business world (after School Board). Brock Wharton is a successful Houston business consultant and, at least according to him, the smartest guy in the room. He’s on partner track at his consultancy when he’s assigned to train a new hire, Mike Fink, an earthy ex–Special Forces operative who sees Brock as less a mentor than a target. As Fink endlessly capitalizes on his veteran status to win the trust of clients and engages in various forms of professional sabotage, Brock develops his own counterinsurgency (as he dubs it) to get rid of Fink, whose very existence is an affront to Brock’s Harvard-burnished values. It’s not ruining anything to say that the two end up conspiring together on a far-flung assignment, but the road to their detente is never a forced one. Freedman laces the narrative with acid observations (“Like Islamists, Houstonians shared a fanaticism for knocking down landmark buildings”) and fills it with jargon, though the business doublespeak conceit wears thin. Freedman deserves credit for sticking with such a hubristic antihero; his darkly comic skewering of capitalism is all the more potent for it. This is sly, sharp fun. (July)