Saturday, October 28, 2023

Need Blind Ambition by Kevin Meyers -- BOOK REVIEW


Need Blind Ambition by Kevin Meyers (2023, Beaufort Books)

Need Blind Ambition is the second novel from Kevin Meyers, a former journalist turned college administrator. I love the play on words in the title, the moody cover, and the whole college noir atmosphere of the book.

As with his first novel, Hidden Falls, this story deftly balances action, ideas, tension, and humor. The protagonist Peter Cook, having landed a public relations job at a prestigious private college, finds himself torn between protecting the college and exposing its illegal activity. Peter is a sympathetic hero who also wrestles with his own past trauma. Woven into the story are reflections on the state of college education, its cost, admission policies, and the fallout from the pressure created by our higher education system.

I love campus novels and I love mysteries, so a novel of suspense set on a college campus is my cup of tea on any day. That this one is set in my town of Portland, Oregon, made it even more tantalizing. With a complex plot, realistic characters, and exploration of relevant issues, Need Blind Ambition is an excellent read.

The desire for relevance—and to save his marriage—is ultimately what pushed Peter Cook to leave his beloved Alaska for the prestigious Parker College. Lured by the chance to work with his childhood political idol turned college president, Peter moves his family to Portland, Oregon to help promote his hero’s fundraising initiative that would eliminate financial status from the college’s admissions process.

Peter arrives on campus as the Great Recession looms, the stock market is trending toward disaster, and the opioid crisis has breached the walls of the privileged college. He quickly learns the reality of Parker College strays far from its professed idealistic mission after discovering a plot to cover-up felonious drug activity in return for a seven-figure payday to the Need Blind Campaign.

While plumbing the depths of his conscience for the conviction to do the right thing, Peter’s untreated childhood trauma resurfaces, threatening to cloud his perception when it needs to be at its sharpest. Peter must stabilize his mental health while also trying to parse competing versions of “the truth” as law enforcement investigates the criminal conspiracy.

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