Written by AS Clarke — Stopping for a simple cup of takeaway coffee on his way to the morning train is something that Teddy West does regularly, without incident, until one day he becomes the target of identity theft.
When the barista at the coffee concession takes two quick snaps of his credit card, she sets in train a series of events which are destined to change Teddy’s life for ever. In fact, it’s only a matter of hours before he has disappeared off the planet entirely, officially registered as deceased, thanks to the sophisticated machinations of a very well-connected team of identify thieves.
All this is news to Teddy, who already has more than enough on his plate, thank you very much. A maths wizard, he lost his job at Goldman Sachs after one big gamble fell flat and left the bank with a huge deficit. One downside to this book is that it dwelt too much on the intricate details of what went wrong – it becomes confusing, complicated, and described in far too much detail.
Notwithstanding the intricacies of Teddy’s fall from grace, he’s now working for one of the little fish in the Wall Street pond and struggling to make ends meet as he and his family live from bonus to bonus. Now it’s bonus time again, and with the mortgage company threatening to foreclose on their swanky family home, Teddy has high hopes of a big earner. Such hopes that are dashed when the CEO breaks the news that bonuses have to be cut this year. Are the West family about to become homeless?
It’s understandable that Teddy’s not in celebratory mood when he arrives at the restaurant where the family are marking his daughter’s 13th birthday with a special meal. And when his card is refused as payment, he puts it down as another downer in a day that has been packed with them. How wrong can one guy be?
We readers can only look on in horror as Teddy is declared dead, a non-person, with no social security number, no money, and no means of getting any. He loses his wife (pregnant to another man), his children and his home – and it goes without saying that his job is down the pan too. But this mild-mannered maths geek is made of sterner stuff, and I loved the lengths he would go to, just to keep the wolf from the door.
Teddy is an unlikely hero but a brilliant character. He starts off as a bit of a wimp, hiding from reality in a designer suit – but the circumstances in which he finds himself seem to flick a switch in his number-filled brain and we gradually see another side to him. I just wanted to hug him and slip him a few quid to help him along.
Identity theft is big business, and the neat structure of Bad Credit allows us to see it from every angle as we follow Teddy; Vlad, the man behind the elaborate scam; Andrei, his boss; and myriad supporting cast members who fill the pages with light and life. The story itself is enough to send you running to check your latest bank statement, and you find yourself cheering Teddy on though every faltering step he take on the road to redemption. The killer twist at the end left me gasping – I even shouted, ‘Oh no!’ – much to the consternation of my husband, who was sitting nearby. Once I’d got over all the high financial stuff I loved this highly original self-published book.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars