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By Lee Matthew Goldberg

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THE DESIRE CARD is a compulsively addicting thriller, despite a less-than-appealing main character.

Harrison Stockton is a mess. He drank and worked himself to the point that his own children don’t respect him, and his wife is as cold to him as an ice sculpture. He’s about to be canned from his lucrative job in mergers and acquisitions and he’s about to find out that he desperately needs a new liver, as if his jaundiced complexion and coughing up bile weren’t enough indicators that he would. His life, lately, has been one of going through the motions, missing a “spark of excitement, adventure, meaning.” That’s all about to change.

Because in addition to getting his walking papers from his previous employer, he’s given a small card-like phone. This is the titular “Desire Card” and the voice on the other end of the line promises to give Harrison Stockton whatever he desires. It seems this might just be the answer to all his problems. Of course, the Card is more monkey’s paw than lifeline, and as soon as Harrison calls it, his problems really begin to start. Soon, he’s up to his neck in shady hookers (and one with a heart of gold), illicit organ dealers, Indian slums, and guns in his face. He’ll lose hundreds of thousands of dollars—nobody said the Desire Card was free—and maybe his life.

THE DESIRE CARD combines all these element into a taut timeline. With each plot point, you’re with Harrison all the way, as he stumbles and fights his way to a new life and a new liver. But that liver, like everything with the Desire Card, is fraught with hidden fees and dangerous consequences, and not just for Harrison, but for those Harrison holds dear. The real question with THE DESIRE CARD is: Do you really want to be with Harrison as he goes through his ordeal?  Because Harrison’s a thoroughly unlikable character. He’s unattractive, both physically and figuratively, with his paunch and his yellowed eyes and his sweaty exterior. He’s selfish, self-absorbed, self-pitying, and, well, just plain pitiful. It’s a testament to author Lee Matthew Goldberg’s writing that you want to spend this much time with such a sadsack of a character. But with each bizarre call to the Desire Card, readers will find themselves flipping pages as fast as they can to find out what fresh hell will come Harrison’s way—and who’s going to have to pay for it.

THE DESIRE CARD is a compulsively addicting thriller, despite a less-than-appealing main character.

~Steven Foster for IndieReader

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