Book Review: The Fixer by John Daniell
The Fixer by John Daniell
This thrilling novel centres on Mark Stevens, a former All Black, who is now playing professional rugby in France. In his 30s, and with an ankle injury that just refuses to heal, Mark is aware that his playing days might be numbered. But he’s not ready to give up the game he loves just yet, or the lifestyle he is used to, and when he begins dating Rachel, a beautiful journalist from Brazil, she presents him with some other options. Through a contact of hers, he arranges to bet on a few matches. No harm is done, and it is easy money. But then they want him to match-fix a game, something that is clearly illegal, and he is undecided on what he should do. If it is just one game, it won’t hold back the team too much, and could provide him with some funding for the next stage of his life…
The author is a former professional rugby player himself, and the authenticity of the rugby world is evident – the friendships and competition between the men, the way they put their bodies on the line, the perks and the drawbacks. But you don’t need to be a fan of rugby to enjoy this book. It is a story of a man at a crossroads in his life, who has to make some difficult decisions – decisions that he doesn’t realise may eventually harm his family back in New Zealand. In another strand of The Fixer, Mark is sent some audio tapes of his grandfather who fought during the First World War, and Mark is greatly influenced by his stories of the battlefield.
This is a page-turning, fast-paced read. Yes, it is a blokey read, but Mark is a nuanced, sympathetic character – one the reader really cares about, even as he seems drawn into the underbelly of an illegal world of match-fixing. This is first-rate writing from a very talented author.