You hold the Desire Card in your hand. Can it really deliver the one thing that you desperately desire? The one thing that has eluded you for so long?
You have the money, but do you have the courage to go through with it?
There is only one way to find out. Taking a deep breath you press the button on the card.
“What is your desire?”
The voice on the end of the line is distorted and crackles with static.
“What is your desire?” it repeats in the same monotone drone.
You hesitate, not sure anymore that you want the one thing that you truly desire.
“What is you desire?”
Your mouth goes dry as you try to form the words, “I…. I desire… “
The person on the other end sighs, the sound coming out as a static hiss.
“What do you desire?”
You close you eyes and summon the courage to speak: “I… I desire… a blurb!”
‘Any wish fulfilled for the right price. That’s the promise the organization behind The Desire Card gives to its elite clients – but sometimes the price may be more menacing than anyone could ever imagine.
Harrison Stockton has lived an adult life of privilege and excess: a high-powered job on Wall Street fuels his fondness for alcohol and pills at the expense of a family he has no time for. Quite suddenly all of this comes crashing to a halt when he loses his job and at the same time discovers he almost certainly has only months left to live.
Desperate, and with seemingly nowhere else left to turn, Harrison activates his Desire Card. What follows is a gritty and gripping quest that takes him from New York City to the slums of Mumbai and forces him to take chances, and make decisions, he never thought he’d ever have to face. When his moral descent threatens his wife and children, Harrison must decide whether to save himself at any cost, or do what’s right and break his bargain with the mysterious group behind The Desire Card.‘
If you could desire anything what would it be?
Would it be, for instance, say, Katheryn Winnick, wearing a cowboy hat looking at you seductively as if to say, ‘come to me!”?
Or, maybe, Alistair Appleton, covered in suntan lotion lying on the grass laughing in a ‘who me?’ kind of way whilst making ‘come over here’ eyes at you?
No, no, me neither. What was I thinking. Hey, has my blog been hacked? Who is writing weird, ha ha, things on my blog there? This has definitely been hacked, no? If I ever find them, why I’ll…
Sorry Beardy Blog Fans, please bear with me whilst I try to sort this embarrassing situation out:
*Where is that undo button… oh why won’t it undo? Come on WordPress you arse… I’m not paying premium rates just to……*
Oh, er, you’re still here? You didn’t read all that just then did you? Read what now did you just say? Haha, ahh, I see that we shall get on just swimmingly 😉 *wipes brow emoji*
So, where were we? Oh yes, if you could desire anything what would it be? Clearly I would desire world peace, an end to all poverty and debt, to sickness and hunger. Yes, that’s the first thing that would pop into my head, absolutely no question at all there!
But unlike my good self, many people only think of themselves; they only want what they cannot be bothered to work hard for for themselves. (fyi: is that too many fors? for for? Two fors is better than four fors, no? What am I rambling on about? No idea. It’s all that thought of a greased up Alis… er… world peace that must be addling my blogging brain. Yes.)
If you knew of a shadowy, secretive organisation that, for a price, could grant you any desire you wished, and if you had access to that very organisation, would you use it?
This is the predicament that Harrison Stockton finds himself in, in The Desire Card.
A Desire Card is a small, slim card-like device that reads thus:
Any wish fulfilled for the right price
PRESS below to inquire
The card has a little button on it and a small speaker. Once pressed you are instantly connected to a disembodied and distorted voice at the other end who asks you what you desire.
How simple is that, huh?
With one press you could have Alist… er, something, the very thing that you desire delivered to you, or meted out to whomever or whatever you wanted. It sounds like a cracking idea to me. I’m surprised that there aren’t more companies doing this sort of thing, to be honest.
But this company aren’t doing this out of some altruistic desire to satisfy the needs of others. No, this company are doing it for the money. When it says ‘… for the right price”, they mean for the right very high price, not only financially but also morally. They offer their services to the ultra rich; the kind of people who prize money over everything else and will use it to get whatever they want.
Harrison is in a bit of a pickle. He is a very sick man; years of alcohol abuse and physical neglect have taken their toll and he is in the advanced stages of liver disease. His skin and eyes are yellowed, his complexion not unlike that of the colour and possible texture of a diseased bowl of custard. He’s grossly overweight, not just because of his engorged liver, but through his continuing unhealthy lifestyle. He has chronic halitosis and coughs up bile and blood. The dude is screwed. He is married to Helene, his college sweetheart and the daughter of a wealthy businessman and family who have always believed that their daughter married beneath herself, and their relationship has reached breaking point. Not just because of Harrison’s physical state, but also due to the fact that at his current job as VP of a successful Mergers and Acquisitions firm, he spends very little time at home with his wife and their two kids, Brenton and Gracie.
However, all of that is about to change when Harrison is let go from his job at Sanford & Co and is forced to face up to the reality of his condition. There can be no more denial.
You see, Harrison is a man very much in denial about a lot of things. He’s a man who is blinkered to events around him that don’t immediately concern him or his job. For too long he has neglected not only his health but his family too. He longs for the days when Helene would look at him in the way she used to back in their college days when they first met; to kiss her the same way; to hold her the same way. But times have changed, he has changed, only he won’t face up to that fact.
After losing his job he is given a very generous severance package, but he is also given something else; he is given the Desire Card. This is not something that is handed out to everyone and it can be seen as a pill-sweetner really; something maybe to help assuage the company’s guilt at letting him go in the first place.
So, what is the first thing that Harrison does with this gift? That’s right, he calls for an escort. The Desire Card people oblige, setting him up in a hotel room with Candy. Lucky Harrison. Only luck isn’t something Harrison has got very much of. In fact the pocket in his trousers where he may have once kept his luck has most definitely got a hole in it and his luck fell through it a long time ago.
And this is Harrison; a man who makes bad decisions, rotten choices and throws away the good things in his life. But for all his many faults, he’s not an unlikeable man really. He is a man driven by desire, sure, but he is also a man hanging over the precipice of desperation by the nub of his extremely bitten down fingernails, and that desperation can drive people to do questionable things.
After discovering that he needs a new liver and that there won’t be one forthcoming in the near future, Harrison makes another one of his bad decisions; he turns to the black market to get the new liver he so desperately desires. He doesn’t use the Desire Card for this though, but turns to an old friend for help, taking him to the slums of Mumbai in India, and, well, I think I’ll leave it there for you to discover how that all shakes down.
The Desire Card is a truly superb book. It’s a gripping international thriller that tells a very powerful story of the effects that greed and desperation can do to a person. The Desire Card itself, and the organisation behind it, are a kind of MacGuffin really; even without the card I feel that Harrison would still have made the same choices, had the same desires, and this is the beauty of this book. Lee Matthew Goldberg has created a truly character driven plot, one that compels you to read to the very end and then has you asking questions long after. But that’s not to say that the Desire Card itself has no effect; although Harrison may well have made the same choices without it, I feel the eventual outcome for him would have been quite different, and you never really know who has been pulling the strings along the way.
Harrison isn’t a truly incorrigible person though, and throughout The Desire Card he shows that underneath his sickly and often selfish exterior there lies a smart and compassionate man. In this way Harrison is a truly layered and complex character, one that you find yourself rooting for despite also calling him a dick under your breath over and again.
The people you really feel sorry for are his family; neglected and ignored for much of their lives, his kids barely know their father, and his wife turns a blind eye to his indiscretions and absences. His other friends at the company, Whit and Thom reveal their true colours after he is let go, and you start to feel sorry for Harrison and his family as their world starts to collapse around them.
The Desire Card has a real cinematic feel to it. To me there are whiffs of films such as Hostel and The Purge: Anarchy about the people behind the Desire Card. In those films the super rich pay a secretive organisation to ‘enjoy’ the suffering of others for their own pleasure. They can pay to get whatever they want whatever the cost. I feel that this may be something that could be explored in further Desire Card novels.
We learn very little at first about the organisation behind the Desire Card except for the fact that they like to wear celebrity face masks to hide their true identities, going by the names of their masks (James Dean, Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant), and refuse to call themselves, and behave as, mercenaries, unless ‘they absolutely have to’. There is almost no desire that they cannot, or will not, fulfil, but the price can be very high indeed, both financially and personally. However, Lee slowly pulls back the veil of this group as the novel progresses, but not so much so that they are completely exposed, maintaining an air of mystery and sinisterness about them up until the end. To be honest, the big reveal at the end isn’t a huge surprise, but then again, to me that isn’t really the interesting point. It’s the reach and influence of the Desire Card that is the really scary part. Once you’re in its grip you’re never really free again.
And the The Desire Card has me firmly in its clutches.
The Desire Card is a brilliantly compelling, complex and terrifying book. I devoured it in pretty much a single sitting (with a break for sleep and a little poo). The writing in The Desire Card has a genuine cinematic feel to it, reading in full blown cinemascope and in glorious technicolor. It tackles some very heavy moral and ethical issues, including illegal organ harvesting and trafficking, extreme poverty and in taking those that you love for granted. It takes you into the darkest parts of the human soul, to the extremes that some people can be driven to under the most difficult of circumstances. The characters are complex and well written and may challenge what you believe is right and wrong, and what you think you would you do if you were in their shoes.
What would you do if you had access to the Desire Card and the financial means to use it?
You’ll be thrilled to know that this is just the first part in a series featuring the shadowy Desire Card organisation, with the second part “Prey No More‘ (you can read Matt’s early ARC review here), coming out from Fahrenheit in the very near future. Lee has written a very good post over on my #Fahrenbruary co-conspirator Matt Keyes‘ blog (It’s An Indie Book Blog), and I strongly encourage you to head on over there and take a gander:
You can also buy The Desire Card direct from Fahrenheit Press at this link here in eBook and paperback formats: