Title: Public Opinion
Author: Nathan Pettijohn
Public Opinion explores the glitzy, but not so glamorous, lifestyle of the rich and famous. By no accident, Herb has brushed shoulders with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, all in the name of blackmail. Herb is a tech nerd, but he isn’t like the others in L.A.—he’s also a scammer. Fooling desperate celebrities and the seemingly untouchable with his abilities to crack any code and reverse any technological trouble they have, all the while he’s got a scheme up his sleeve. It’s a perfect plan to make easy money, but will he have to pay for it in the end?
The book is told from Herb’s point of view. Herb’s voice is direct, curt, and painfully honest. We quickly understand, he even tells us directly, that Herb is an unreliable narrator. His lies, deceits, and thefts prove to be reflective of his moral compass across all areas of his life. Herb’s secret hustle and his recognition of his own deviancies from the start set the tone for a seedy, tense atmosphere.
The first fifty pages of the book will suck readers into the story, while still keeping them on the edge of their seats to find out what happens next. This first chunk of the book skillfully builds the plot’s foundation as well as our understanding of each character’s background and personality. The characters in this book steal the show with their larger-than-life personalities and promiscuous lifestyles. Pettijohn isn’t afraid to “go there” and explore a character’s darker thoughts and perversions, making for a unique perspective and cast of characters.
The narrative shifts when Herb begins a relationship with a porn star, Ruby. While readers are set up to believe this trip will be the focal point of the book, Herb and Ruby’s relationship takes over. Ultimately, it distracts from the larger plot line, and because both characters—and the relationship itself—are toxic, it’s difficult to invest in the stakes of them losing each other.
As the only female character in the book, Ruby’s portrayal is worth exploring. She is portrayed as unhinged and abusive, while Herb, who is also portrayed with his share of faults, swings from cold and unmoving to bitter and unhinged, himself. It’s also worth noting that all women in this book are sex workers or actors playing sex workers.
One of the book’s best achievements is its allure and intrigue. Readers will continue to question each character’s motives, desires, and true identity. Much of the suspense in the book surrounds the characters’ layers of lies and secrets and their lives behind closed doors. Everyone has them, and we’re eager to see their true colors, if they have any.
Who is a “good” person? Public Opinion centers on one man who earnestly believes he’s doing right by the world, despite his own shady business. With deviance and debauchery abound, a Hollywood movie production as its backdrop, and morally bankrupt characters, Public Opinion is not for the faint of heart. Full of sex, scandals, and a hint of crime, Public Opinion has all the elements to be an intense thriller.
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