Written by Cristina Alger — The words ‘financial’ and ‘thriller’ are usually enough to send me running for the hills, and they’re there for all to see in the praise lavished upon this book. But something appealed, and I’m glad I trusted my instincts to peep further inside.
Switzerland – home of chocolate, cuckoo clocks and high-powered if rather secretive banking. It is also home to Annabel and Matthew Werner, who have been transplanted from New York to Geneva so that Matthew can pursue his career with Swiss United.
In the Big Apple, Annabel was something of a free spirit, ran an art gallery and had a life of her own. Now she has time on her hands. Most of the expat wives are of the ‘ladies who lunch’ variety and she doesn’t really fit in. Matthew is busy building a name for himself and she’s lonely and frustrated, longing for the day they can go back home to the US.
Then Matthew is killed in a plane crash over the Alps, on his way back from London. But Annabel thought he was in Zurich. And who was the woman, Fatima Amir, who owned the plane and died alongside him? Annabel is devastated, both by the death and by her husband’s possible betrayal. But something doesn’t ring true about the whole sorry affair and with the help of Julian White, Matthew’s friend and mentor at the bank, Annabel sets out to learn more.
Meanwhile, back in New York Marina Tourneau is living the dream. She is a journalist on the society magazine Press and it’s through her work that she met Grant Ellis, the love of her life and the man she’s is soon to marry. Grant’s father is a prominent businessman and about to reveal plans to run for president. Life is good and the pair are enjoying some down time in Paris when Marina gets a call from her old boss Duncan Sander, a man whose support and advice she has always valued.
These days Duncan is persona non grata, struggling with alcohol addiction and obsessed with the story that got away. And when he gets in touch with Marina on her holiday, it’s that story he wants to explore again. Eight years ago, hedge fund manager Marty Reiss committed suicide by jumping from the Tappen Zee Bridge in New York. His fund was exposed to be a massive Ponzi scheme – a fraudulent investing scam promising high rates of return with little risk to investors – and there were suspicions he’d faked his own death and escaped with the proceeds.
At last, Duncan thinks he has proof so he asks Marina to meet a contact and collect a USB device that contains vital evidence. She’s been all set to give up her reporter’s job, but the temptation of one last big story pulls Marina in. Then Duncan is dead – an apparent suicide – and Marina realises someone out there will stop at nothing to suppress the truth. Will she publish and be damned, or will her love for Grant put her on an altogether different path?
These two stories run in parallel throughout the book. Both have money at their heart and both offer surprises along the way. I kept wondering when Marina and Annabel would pool resources and sort out the baddies but Alger has other ideas, some of them quite shocking.
This is a fast-paced tale, with suspense by the bucketload and it would lend itself to a screen adaptation. The financial aspects are neatly explained for the number blind such as myself and the settings are lavish and lavishly portrayed. So why, at the end of it all, did I feel a little cheated? I’m not sure, but what I do know is that I’m adding Cristina Alger to my list of authors to watch.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars