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PAPER MONEY by Ken Follett


by Ken Follett

Pub Date: Oct. 6th, 1987
ISBN: 0451167309
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Like The Modigliani Scandal (US, 1985), this ironic caper-thriller, written under the Zachary Stone pseudonym in 1976, is appearing for the first time in US hardcover. And, though short on emotional involvement, it's a clever, leanly vivid pinwheel of criss-crossing London subplots, involving one heist, one high-finance scare, and newspapermen covering the fallout from the two crimes. Shady tycoon Felix Laski is about to pay a nasty bargain price for the conglomerate owned by blueblood Derek Hamilton--thanks to insider info gained by blackmailing a sexually indiscreet Cabinet minister. Meanwhile, with a bit of help from Laski, sleazy crook Tony Cox and his motley mob are about to hijack a van containing millions in UK currency. But things go slightly wrong with the two virtually simultaneous operations: the Cabinet minister attempts suicide (after blabbing to Fleet Street); the hapless heisters are sidetracked by an accidental shooting and a minor car. crash; Laski's takeover bid runs into major cash-flow problems. And so glimmers of the troth start surfacing at the Evening Post--where a veteran sub-editor (jaded, bitter) and an eager young reporter (semi-idealistic) argue about how the story should be covered. Follett does a solid, flavorsome job with vignettes and quick, sketch character portraits, as the focus keeps shifting from low-life to high-life, from boardrooms to the Post's very convincing newsroom. So, though the cat's-cradle plot is a bit too contrived, this is crisp, cynically amusing, small-scale entertainment--without the passionate heroics (or the frequent lapses and longueurs) of Follett's later bestseller-style.