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Financial Doom and the Death of Culture¿The Lighter Side

by Jeffrey J. Trester

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 1-4116-1872-6

A Wall Street insider searches for the soul lurking within the cutthroat world of high finance in this efficient, entertaining novel.

Though his previous publications appeared primarily in physics and economics journals, Trester knows intimately the milieu in which his novel is set. Drawing on first-hand experience, he captures the frenetic scene of the trading floor in vivid detail, as well as the colorful personalities and outrageous egos his protagonist encounters. Thirty-three-year-old Jack Kline is a former physicist who trades the penury of academia for the more lucrative pursuit of high-stakes global finance at a small investment firm, hoping to apply his chaos theory-based mathematical models to the finance game. He remains ambivalent about his decision, however, haunted by the shelves of physics books that line the walls of his Upper East Side one-bedroom apartment. As he continues to prove his worth at the firm, a miscommunication about a trade throws him into the center of an intoxicating maelstrom that causes the total collapse of a small country's currency–but also proves a healthy windfall for the company. Though he's bewildered by the sudden attention and suffers pangs of conscience for having inadvertently cast millions of people into poverty, it's not terribly easy to sympathize with him when he comforts himself by purchasing a multimillion-dollar co-op on Central Park West. The rather superficial inner conflict starts to wear as it begins to encompass the depth of his character and the dramatic impulse behind the narrative. Other characters, like the wealthy, cultured mystery woman he becomes romantically involved with, also suffer the angst of compromise, having sullied their intellects and talents by submitting them to the base–but in their cases wildly lucrative–service of the marketplace. Rather than embodying a critique or satire of such pretentious arrogance, these figures round out the novel's entertaining peek into this elite realm of movers and shakers, making Jack look better in comparison. Ultimately, he's let off the hook and ushered toward the sadly predictable have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too ending.

Still, a financial thriller that tries to do the right thing–and make a killing in the process. Trester achieves at least partial success on both accounts.