Written by Adam Mitzner — Wall Stree traders used to call themselves the masters of the universe. Maybe they still do. It’s what Jonathan Caine’s friends call him, perhaps with a touch of irony, and he does indeed deal in the arcane world of hedge funds. He has a million dollar wife, a luxury apartment, and even the watch on his wrist is worth more than Joe Average earns in a year.
Then, it all goes spectacularly wrong. One of his biggest investors serves a writ on Caine recalling his investment. To cover this, Caine takes a daring position based on the strength of the Russian rouble. His gamble looks as if it is paying off, but then the Russian president dies in mysterious circumstances and the Moscow MICEX index goes into freefall. Caine’s bosses at Harper Sawyer pull the plug on his activities, his accounts are frozen, and he is escorted from the building by the big guys in uniform who normally touch their caps in his direction every morning.
Mitzner divides his chapters into those set in the past, and those in the present. Despite headings to help you, it is not the easiest narrative to put into sequence. While Caine is under formal suspension from his firm, he visits his childhood home in East Carlisle, New Jersey, partly to be with his ailing father, and partly to attend a high school reunion. At the reunion he meets Jacqueline, the archetypal prom queen of his teenage years. Maintaining the facade that he is a man with the world at his feet, he begins a relationship with the woman who was once the unapproachable girl he was too shy to even talk to.
Jacqueline, like Caine, has married badly. Natasha, Caine’s wife, is a Russian gold-digger, but Jacqueline’s husband Rick Wilson is a lecherous brute who beats his wife. When Caine finally confesses to Natasha that he is ruined, and that their hedonistic lifestyle is over, she throws him out and begins divorce proceedings. This, as if he needed further prompting, drives Caine even further into the arms of Jacqueline.
As the lovers become more and more physically involved, Jacqueline uses every trick in the book to keep her nasty husband none the wiser, but inevitably she slips up. Her mistake brings retribution as he beats her once again, but the consequences for him are even more dramatic. What happens leaves Jacqueline and Caine in a whole world of trouble.
The author is himself a lawyer, and the final section of the book certainly luxuriates in the complex American system of plea bargaining. If you are not from America, then this procedure may well seem mildly questionable at best, if not downright dishonest. But it is what it is. The fate of Jacqueline and Caine hangs on just how clever their lawyers can be, rather than any real sense of culpability, and you will have to read the book to discover how it all plays out.
This is an entertaining read, but you probably won’t find Jonathan Caine is likeable enough as character to be too bothered about what happens to him. A key question upon which the plot hangs is whether or not a man like Caine would bother to go to a high school reunion in the first place. But he does, and everything from there is a consequence of that decision.
If you like to see things getting sticky for the high rolling financiers of this world, read our feature on The Panama Papers in crime fiction.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars