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THE PALACE by Christopher Reich


by Christopher Reich

Pub Date: Aug. 4th, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-31645-601-2
Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Simon Riske returns for another high-octane ride.

Something of a modern Renaissance man, reformed thief and Marseilles gangster Riske blends a criminal youth with more socially acceptable adult activities and, in addition to his day job as a restorer of world-class sports cars, markets himself as a high-end fixer. When the novel opens, he is engaged in stealing back a Monet first stolen from the Rijksmuseum. Predictable complications arise, allowing Riske to show off his admirable driving skills, and the stage is set. In this somewhat murky installment, Riske is asked to mediate the release of Rafael de Bourbon, an old friend who is being held by Thai officials on questionable charges, but before he can secure the man's freedom, de Bourbon and several others are killed in a shootout. It turns out Rafa was privy to a large-scale swindle involving the sovereign wealth funds of several nations, and he was killed to preserve the secrets of the swindle. Riske naturally decides to pursue justice for Rafa and to uncover the swindle, partly to benefit Rafa's wife, who once had a thing with Riske. If all this seems a little contrived, fear not, there's more. Part of the loot amassed in the swindle has gone to a secret account, and in a parallel subplot it's revealed that this money is being used to subvert European efforts to accommodate and resettle refugees: Rich nationalistic racists are bankrolling a suicide-bomb mission that will once and for all destroy any humanitarian impulses European governments might have. As Riske uncovers the details of the wealth-fund thefts he also begins to unravel the connections to the rich nationalists, and eventually the two investigations become one. Riske is a likable character, a nice blending of quick wit, a misspent youth, and better impulses; he's not above picking a pocket or stealing a Ferrari, but he's on the side of the angels. In this adventure, however, he seems inappropriately pitted against social and economic forces of grave and genuine magnitude. Fascist forces are loose in the world, refugees perish horribly trying to secure a future, and there's Riske, tootling along in a borrowed (legitimately, this time) Ferrari, headed to Cannes to make it right. Riske can steal your Monet back, Riske can save your boy and secure your inheritance, but save the world? Simon Riske?

Some thrills, but in the end this asks too much of the hero, and of the reader.