Book Talk: The ugly side of a beautiful game

Book Talk: The ugly side of a beautiful game

By Darryl Greer

11 February 2021

The premise of a murder mystery in the world of football might at first glance seem far-fetched, but local author Graham Morse’s latest book, "Fatal Fix," is compelling reading from beginning to end.

Former English Premier League footballer turned investigative journalist, Matt Riley, is a completely plausible protagonist who, following the death of his friend and footballing mentor Tony Barker, becomes suspicious of the circumstances as the police declare it a suicide. Barker is also the high-profile manager of fictional London City Football Club and the plot deepens as Riley, suspecting foul play, uncovers layers of corruption within the sport. Links to police corruption, organised crime and international gambling syndicates take the story across the globe from London to Singapore.

Along the way, Morse reveals his knowledge and passion for the "beautiful game," drawing us a highly believable picture of modern-day football that is as much about money as it is a sport. The London City Football Club is a clever vehicle that allows Morse to highlight the many real questions asked about the role of money, questionable ownership and gambling in an ever-increasing commercialisation of football. He has everything in there: from the Russian oligarch owner and the genius-but-flawed star player, to the hedonistic antics of footballers on a night out.

The story rips along at a grand old pace, easily combining the traits of a traditional crime thriller (gritty and determined underdog up against an establishment determined to thwart his every move) with detailed insights and explanations of how the business of football works and the dangers of its growing association with gambling. Add reference to real-life events surrounding global scandals in European league football and FIFA itself not long in the past and "Fatal Fix" is not just plausible, it at times blurs the lines of fact and fiction.

It is, ultimately, the way in which Morse builds tension and intrigue throughout that makes this book grip the reader in the way that it does. Perhaps fellow author Gay Courter ("Code Ezra" and "Flowers in the Blood") says it best in her comment that "Fatal Fix" is “…quick-paced and exciting and very reminiscent of Le Carré.” That is heady praise indeed. Like Le Carré, Morse, too, manages to capture the bleakness of a British winter in every respect.
For this reader, however, there is a simpler analogy for the fear and anticipation of what comes next that Morse builds: that of the Manchester United fan who finds himself somehow in the notoriously rowdy Kop end at Anfield for a match with Liverpool in the FA Cup. That, however, may truly be too far-fetched.

"Fatal Fix" is available at Books & Books.

This article originally appeared in the February 2021 print edition of Camana Bay Times.

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