By Geoff Hyatt
Rich Mauro, a tough kid from Astoria, finds his way into a position in the literal bottom level of a top New York law firm. He and three other blue-collar outsiders labor in the basement as “Printers,” processing and compiling documents for the major players upstairs.
Rich hopes to become a lawyer himself someday, thinking this will give him the jump in capital and social class needed to marry his upwardly mobile girlfriend Elyse. When a young ad man begins jockeying to take his place by Elyse’s side, Rich senses the odds are stacked against him.
Soon after, a Machiavellian young lawyer offers Rich a role in an investment scheme fueled by information lifted from the Printers’ basement. He accepts, with one condition: His three co-workers must all become partners in the deal. It has been said that two men can keep a secret if one of them is dead. It is no surprise when things do not work out well for the five conspirators.
Nick Santora’s Fifteen Digits falls short in the execution of its promising premise. The novel cleverly mixes legal maneuvering and street-level grit, but brazen foreshadowing diminishes much of the tension. The prologue lets us know, “People would be maimed, tortured and killed. Millions of dollars would be stolen, then stolen away from the thieves themselves.” Doom-laden prophesies such as this echo throughout the ensuing chapters, turning much of the suspense into a mere waiting game.
The vibrant and diverse ensemble of Printers often drains the story of immediacy with biographical exposition and inessential subplots. The book has hard fists but a soft belly. Although the final act is brutal and explosive, one wishes it were the product of leaner, tighter storytelling. A different take on the legal thriller, Fifteen Digits provides a satisfying payoff for those willing to accept a troublesome investment.