Would you do anything to fulfill your desires?
New York City, 1978. Disco and mobsters, gritty streets, needle parks and graffiti on the subways. Jake Barnum lives in Hell’s Kitchen, a petty thief selling hot coats with his buddy Maggs to make ends to meet and help his sick kid brother Emile. At a Halloween party downtown, he meets a woman with a Marilyn Monroe mask that works for an organization called The Desire Card, an underground operation promising its exclusive clients “Any Wish Fulfilled for the Right Price.” Its members all wear lifelike masks of old movie stars to remain incognito, and Jake is instantly taken with its leader, Clark Gable, who becomes a pseudo father but is a sociopath at heart. Jake has always thought of himself as Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to give to the poor (i.e. himself), so he becomes Errol Flynn. As he falls in with the Card and in love with Marilyn, the money rolls in but the wishes become more and more suspect, even leading to murder.
The first book in the Desire Card series, Immoral Origins is a pulse-pounding thriller that asks how far we will shed our morals to help the ones we love and an origin story that will pick up in the present time with its sequel Prey No More, once Gable has taken his deceptive organization to an elite, international status. The books all following those indebted to this sinister organization, where the actual price is the cost of one’s soul.
Thank you to Black Tide Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book! I voluntarily leave this review!
Unable to hold down a job, Jake Barnum steals what he can to provide for his ill brother. But the bills keep racking up. When he meets a woman posing as Marilyn Monroe an interesting offer is put on the table. The chance to join an organization called The Desire Card. A place where no matter what a client desires, they make sure it comes true. But what happens when those desires cross the moral line? How far will Jake go to make sure his own desires come true?
Down on his luck, Jake Barnum sees his golden opportunity with The Desire Card. At first, it seems like an easy enough job. But as his ambition grows, and his relationships become entangled within the Card, the complexities surrounding him grow. Jake’s path becomes darker and darker, as he compromises his morals. Each new crime he convinces himself is justified, burying it all under careful lies he tells himself. Not to mention the payout is higher the dirtier the job. Readers will witness Jake slowly transform from a misguided man into a hardened criminal, willing to do just about anything for money.
Within The Desire Card, members earn their way into a celebrity mask. And once they don the mask, it becomes their identity. The duality shown by each character is frightening to behold. People down on their luck embrace their new persona with a near obsession. And while readers witness it firsthand with Jake, they also have the chance to see what is happening to others from Jake’s point of view. It is chilling to see Marilyn Monroe’s darkness and her unwillingness to embrace her past. She does all she can to leave it behind and at times seems unhinged. And as she crawls deeper into the darkness, she drags Jake along for the ride.
The characterization done in Immoral Origins was astounding. Lee Matthew Goldberg paints such a vivid picture of Hell’s Kitchen in the late 70s. From the settings to the culture and all the walks of life within Hell’s Kitchen. There are also songs incorporated into the narrative. Listening to them as the scenes unfold adds another level of entertainment to the story. Combine this with a well-written narrative and engaging characters, and readers will be sure to enjoy this dark thriller.
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About the Author
Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of eight novels including THE ANCESTOR and THE MENTOR and the YA series RUNAWAY TRAIN from Wise Wolf Books. His books are in various stages of development for film and TV off of his original scripts. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the Prix du Polar. STALKER STALKED will be out in Fall ’21. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared as a contributor in Pipeline Artists, LitHub, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Millions, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, LitReactor, The Big Idea, Monkeybicycle, Fiction Writers Review, Cagibi, Necessary Fiction, Hypertext, If My Book, Past Ten, the anthology Dirty Boulevard, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, The New Plains Review, Maudlin House, Underwood Press and others. His pilots and screenplays have been finalists in Script Pipeline, Book Pipeline, Stage 32, We Screenplay, the New York Screenplay, Screencraft, and the Hollywood Screenplay contests. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series and lives in New York City.
Follow him at LeeMatthewGoldberg.com