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OCTOPUS

SAM ISRAEL, THE SECRET MARKET, AND WALL STREET'S WILDEST CON

An eye-opening window onto Wall Street’s destructive culture of unchecked hubris and a harrowing thrill ride into the...

The sordid saga of debauched Wall Street hedge fund manager Sam Israel and how he lost more than $100 million—and most of his sanity.

At one time, Israel could do no wrong. He had the magic touch on Wall Street, seemingly able to turn anything he touched into gold. Never mind that his financial prowess as a trader stemmed from a steady font of insider trading information provided by some of the most conniving players in the stock market. When Israel’s fraud was discovered and his fund inevitably collapsed, he fell prey to even more pernicious con men than himself. Blinded by the promise of billions of dollars and an escape hatch from his sinking firm, Israel decided to roll the dice and bet on the wild schemes of Robert Booth Nichols, an eccentric figure claiming to be an ex-CIA asset. Nichols promised Israel entrance into the dangerous world of international high finance known as the “Shadow Market,” a secretive world where the strapped financier could recoup his losses and even amass a new fortune. However, the Shadow Market didn’t really exist. Or did it? The line between fact and fantasy becomes elusive in the second half of this mind-bending yarn, but Lawson (co-author: Brotherhoods: The True Story of Two Cops Who Murdered for the Mafia, 2006) somehow manages to make sense of it all. He provides a penetratingly comprehensive profile of a crooked trader run amok, and he nimbly traverses the labyrinthine depths of a worldwide banking con that managed to involve looted Federal Reserve notes and the JFK assassination. The author is sympathetic to Israel—at least he, unlike Bernie Madoff, tried to pay back those he swindled—but he doesn't sugarcoat his crimes.

An eye-opening window onto Wall Street’s destructive culture of unchecked hubris and a harrowing thrill ride into the unraveling mind of a desperate operator.

Pub Date: July 10, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-71607-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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UNDER THE BRIDGE

A tour-de-force of true crime reportage.

Godfrey reconstructs a horrific murder with a vividness found in the finest fiction, without ever sacrificing journalistic integrity.

The novel The Torn Skirt (2002) showed how well the author could capture the roiling inner life of a teenager. She brings that sensibility to bear in this account of the 1997 murder of a 14-year-old girl in British Columbia, a crime for which seven teenage girls and one boy were charged. While there’s no more over-tilled literary soil than that of the shocking murder in a small town, Godfrey manages to portray working-class View Royal in a fresh manner. The victim, Reena Virk, was a problematic kid. Rebelling against her Indian parents’ strict religiosity, she desperately mimicked the wannabe gangsta mannerisms of her female schoolmates, who repaid her idolization by ignoring her. The circumstances leading up to the murder seem completely trivial: a stolen address book, a crush on the wrong guy. But popular girls like Josephine and Kelly had created a vast, imaginary world (mostly stolen from mafia movies and hip-hop) in which they were wildly desired and feared. In this overheated milieu, reality was only a distant memory, and everything was allowed. The murder and cover-up are chilling. Godfrey parcels out details piecemeal in the words of the teens who took part or simply watched. None of them seemed to quite comprehend what was going on, why it happened or even—in a few cases—what the big deal was. The tone veers close to melodrama, but in this context it works, since the author is telling the story from the inside out, trying to approximate the relentlessly self-dramatizing world these kids inhabited. Given most readers’ preference for easily explained and neatly concluded crime narratives, Godfrey’s resolute refusal to impose false order on the chaos of a murder spawned by rumors and lies is commendable.

A tour-de-force of true crime reportage.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-1091-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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