The Florida Bar

Florida Bar Journal


Book Reviews

MarshlandAuthor Alystair West, a retired lawyer and pastor, utilizes both experiences in telling an entertaining and thought-provoking story about a group of Texas corporate lawyers and businessmen as they try to survive and profit from the complexities of the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s.

Marshland is centered around a prestigious, well-connected law firm in Houston and its work on a multiparty merger for Marshland Savings Association that becomes known as the “transaction.”  ​Problems with the transaction rapidly escalate when two officers of the savings and loan die in a plane crash.

As part of the story, West expertly explains the economic and legal aspects of the 1980’s savings and loan meltdown — making Marshland especially engaging for those with an interest in banking, finance, and law. But the book is, at its essence, a murder mystery and romance work of fiction that explores the ethical and value-laden choices of its varied characters.

Arthur Stone, a senior associate on the transaction, is the main character. He is struggling with becoming a partner, his relationship with his girlfriend, and how to manage the client who may be hiding material information about the transaction. Another primary character known as the “Watcher” is a former U.S. Special Forces officer on a covert mission in Mexico. Unknown to him, the mission has implications for the transaction. The Watcher discovers that he is compromised and must reassess his current situation and future. Similarly, Stone’s love interest and fellow associate, Gynn Murray, has her own hard choices and not much time to make them. These characters and others face thorny professional, personal, and family decisions that will be life-changing, all caused by or enhanced by the transaction.

Marshland’s considerable detail regarding the transaction, its numerous parties, and applicable regulations provide the story weight and credibility in addition to a beginning framework for the murder mystery element. While some readers may be slowed down by unfamiliar legal and financial aspects of the book, the pace consistently picks up as the story progresses, the plotline untangles, and characters’ paths forward emerge. At its core, Marshland is about personal growth exhibited through relatable characters who grapple with decisions fundamentally similar to those we all encounter.

Purposely, the story evolves from the technical complexities of a savings and loan transaction to broader, more soul-searching questions of ethics, family, faith, and spirituality. Marshland accomplishes this long journey through an action-packed and entertaining murder mystery and love story.

Hank Jackson is a member of The Florida Bar.