“In his experience, it was usually the least assuming guy in the room who turned out to be the most interesting”
Paul Ross lost his job with Wall Street’s favourite law firm when US banks started going under, and when his hedge fund founding father-in-law Carter Darling offered him a job, he was grateful for the opportunity. As the banking crisis deepens and litigators’ knives sharpen, Paul finds himself in a terrible situation – to save himself or his wife’s family?
This impressive debut reminded me of a number of books I’ve read in the past year: Wendy Burden’s autobiography telling the life of the rich and famous, as well as Jennifer Egan’s (irritating) pastiche of interconnected lives, and to a lesser extent John Grisham’s tale of a lawyer who gets in far too deep. However, Alger does what I thought was impossible – she makes the banking crisis interesting and relevant to the average professional. The environment might be foreign to most of us, but the fear of firms going under, of emails being dredged, of lawyers stomping around is one that has simmered in most firms since 2008, and
I didn’t enjoy the way in which the tale was told – from constantly varying perspectives, but apart from a few characters who could have been painlessly excised, the device worked well, keeping suspense up. A few times I felt the suspense was overdone; a chapter would end with some minor revelation but obviously anonymous pronouns, an affair was revealed but the identity of the woman involved was hidden. Nevertheless, this is an impressive debut and I’m sure Alger’s writing will lose some of its overeagerness in time.
Alger conjures the opulent lives of New York’s richest without overdoing it – we have no doubt that these are unhappy people. Paul is overworked but happily married to a remarkably normal woman, annoyed with who he has become without really any way to change it. Carter is simultaneously hopeless and ebullient, lost in the web constructed by those he trusts.
A riveting and impressive debut, with a bit of room for improvement.
Copy provided by the publisher in return for an honest review.
Publisher: Penguin Group USA, 352 pages (hardcover)
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