Marc Grossberg’s, The Best People tells a compelling story about what it means to seek success in Houston–for better or worse.

The Best People centers around Paddy Moran, a hardworking, Brooklyn-born ex-cop who is looking to establish a law career in Houston’s dicey meritocracy. Notwithstanding a few mishaps, Moran quickly begins to see success as a divorce lawyer. However, as his reputation grows, so too does the number of harrowing choices he must make–choices that will determine his character. Eventually, he crosses paths with Pilar Galt, a comparably savvy single mother whose story is told alongside his own. Pilar is a survivor of abuse who also seeks to turn her life around for the better. Each with their own set of flaws and virtues, both characters grapple with what it means to be successful in a place where everyone else will do whatever it takes to get ahead.

In his debut novel, Grossberg depicts a fast-paced world with fast-talking characters that keep the reader engaged and wanting more. The Best People’s standout quality is its deeply textured sense of place. At its core, the book tells a mesmerizing story about Houston. Whether by littering the story with local culture or by focalizing the meritocracy which shapes the book’s events, Grossberg connects with those who know Houston and captures the intrigue of those who don’t. Furthermore, Grossberg’s characters do not suffer the limitations of allegory; to say they stand on their own is an understatement. Rather, The Best People tells truly human stories about flawed characters who must wrestle with their sense of right and wrong; they make mistakes and they must face the consequences of their actions. In fact, the power of choice recurs as the book’s dominating theme and is woven throughout the characters’ arcs in such a way that emphasizes the interconnected nature of our decisions and how they affect both our own futures and those of the people around us. Grossberg crafts a compelling story for a target audience that isn’t concerned with million-dollar-words or overly bombastic prose. His focus is firmly planted on exploring the moral ambiguities of pursuing one’s goals and whether the ends justify the means. Grossberg’s writing is just clever enough for what is beneath the text to do the heavy lifting.

The Best People is an exciting exploration of flawed characters looking to make it big. Grossberg refuses to make excuses for his characters. Rather, he engages his readers and leaves them to ponder the challenging questions of morality for themselves–and we’re all the better for it.