A technically challenging and narratively undisciplined novel but a philosophically astute look at the foibles of modern...

Confessions of a Day Trader

A financial thriller that chronicles the exuberance of quick stock market success and the devastation of greed.

In 1992, Jay Jackson needed a respite from the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley, so he moved to Kauai, Hawaii, bought a bed-and-breakfast, and got a beautiful Hawaiian girlfriend. After eight years, he’s content with his decision, but he’s suffering some financial distress: his savings are depleted, and the slagging tourism industry is pinching his B&B profits. Stevy Stanford, an old friend known for his razor-sharp mind and dogged pursuit of financial windfalls, calls to let Jay in on his latest venture: a technology company, Galaxy, has concocted a way to revolutionize digital advertising and has acquired 14 patents to corner the market. Stevy has inside information that the company’s soon to go public, so he buys the rights to another investor’s future stock holdings, anticipating a massive score in the near future. Jay enthusiastically jumps onboard despite his lack of investment savvy, eager to ride Stevy’s wave to financial freedom. However, the market gets hit by a major correction, and then the tragedy of 9/11 brings it to a crashing halt. Galaxy’s initial public offering is continually postponed, and when it merges with another company, it significantly dilutes the value of Jay’s and Stevy’s holdings. Jay is so beleaguered that he starts playing craps at casinos to supplement his income, and Stevy seems poised for financial ruin. Debut author Free intelligently weaves a tale about the elusiveness of luck and the magnetic draw of greed. Jay, his narrator, frantically chases the ultimate win, sacrificing the contentment of his former, island-bound life: “I believed good fortune came in waves. I believed that there was an ever-present dialectic: winning, then losing, then flat lining.” The microscopic focus on the minutiae of financial deals will intimidate many readers; as a result, the book will primarily appeal to those with an interest in and some knowledge of investment. Also, the plot tends to digressively wander too far afield; for example, a subplot involving Jay’s tutelage of a 17-year-old girl seems out of place. However, the book offers a thoughtful take on the psychological stakes of gambling.

A technically challenging and narratively undisciplined novel but a philosophically astute look at the foibles of modern capitalism.

Pub Date: July 21, 2016


Page Count: 260

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 5, 2016

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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