Bay of Thieves by Megan Davis

3 Mins read
Bay of Thieves by Megan Davies front cover

Megan Davis’s debut The Messenger in 2023 was a powerful blend of conspiracy thriller and psychological drama. Building on some themes in that novel, the abuse of power and wealth are to the front again in Bay of Thieves – a financial thriller right on the edge.

There’s wealth and then there’s the Cote d’Azur – playground of the super rich, grand villas that come with staff and helicopters and even yachts. Where does the money come from to pay for the Rollers and the diamonds and the opulent lifestyle? It’s not hard, honest toil, it’s bleeding the system through corruption and playing fast and loose with the law. The people behind this avaricious class are the consultants, lawyers and grifters who don’t care about the rules. One of them is Rob, whose firm Meritus is a misnomer if ever there was one, and who specialises in creative ways of looking after that kind of money, primarily laundering ill gotten gains for eastern European oligarchs. 

Years of scheming have been very successful but when a woman is brutally killed and her body left on the beach in front of Meritus’s top client Amir Federovich’s villa we are left to ask how we got here.

Six weeks earlier, on a Friday night local agent, Vanessa, gets a late call from her boss, Rob. He needs a quick fix on a big money transfer. The key thing is the client wants the transaction completed by Monday and there’s no legal way of getting money through to London that quickly without cutting corners. The sum is huge, Vanessa knows it’s illegal to transfer the money as Rob wants it done and she has to cover her tracks. It’s one more step in the gradual corruption of her moral core but she does it anyway. That’s what you do to look after the clients.

Kate also works for Rob. She’s new to the Cote d’Azur and her job is to sort out compensation for workers of Amir’s F1 team following claims for deafness. Amir doesn’t want to pay so Rob tells Kate to fix it, even if that means fixing documents to make it look like the workers agreed a waiver on their claims for compensation. Kate goes to Vanessa, troubled by this development, a rubicon in her hitherto honest career. Vanessa is cold about it, she tells Kate to get on with it.

Then Rob gets wind of a new scheme in Africa, a new crypto tool that could produce huge returns. It means setting up a network of agents, people trusted within their communities, to encourage punters to part with their money. Rob tells Vanessa in no uncertain terms to organise it because she needs the money for her son’s schooling. She’ll run this scheme but it’s as devious and depraved as anything and it’s criminal, but she’s in too far. This is the time both Vanessa and Kate have to consider their future, one drawn deeper in, one trying to pull back from the abyss. Neither Rob nor the dangerous clients will stand for opposition.

Bay of Thieves asks questions about how far people are prepared to go for money and how a person can wind up getting involved in this kind of corruption, not necessarily with bad intentions. Underpinning it is how the rich becoming richer by the minute no matter what else happens in the world. Governments act weakly and privilege and entitlement feed off corruption. Taking over from any moral values or commitments in society.

Davis’s portrait of the world of corrupt finance is plausible but crucially this is about the two women, Vanessa and Kate, and how they face the moral issues that go with that. These are believable characters and the psychological aspect of their dilemma is really intriguing. There is a lot of suspense in the story as we know about the body, but not who it is or what will happen to the women as we follow them in danger over these six weeks. It’s fast and yet thought-provoking and we can feel for both women.

This is a gripping thriller, in the zeitgeist, wealth is unchecked, London still harbours a lot of illegal money. Davis demonstrates most is the gears of fine storyteller the second novel suggests some longevity and I’d be happy to look forward to more in the future.

For another take on financial corruption watch the Irish/Belgium co-production, Hidden Assets.


CFL Rating: 5 Stars

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