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FREE TO TRADE by Michael Ridpath


by Michael Ridpath

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-06-017630-X
Publisher: HarperCollins

An absolute flop as a thriller, this first novel astounds as an exercise in slowly unfolding boredom. Paul Murray is a novice bond trader at a modest London firm who, apart from carrying fleeting memories of Olympic glory (a runner, he claimed a bronze in the 800 meters), inhabits the stereotypical world of an aspiring financial shark, albeit a shark with pretty tame appetites: In a book populated with severe ethical slackers and cash predators of every stripe, Paul comes off as the whitest of white knights. However, after Paul's colleague and potential inamorata, Debbie Chater, is fished—very dead—from the Thames, the model citizen's globe begins to spin a bit faster. On the trail of a baroque financial swindle that stretched from a phony company in the Dutch Antilles to a sumptuous Vegas casino, Debbie was obviously killed for what she knew. Paul decides that it's his duty to catch her murderer, and from scuzzy New York salesmen to deranged former boyfriends, he suffers from no lack of suspects. Unfortunately, Paul is at base a wuss. His clandestine investigation, when not in pursuit of big, bright red herrings, is just plain silly; sex scenes with this or that leggy business babe are particularly ridiculous. Once the evildoers start threatening to lop off fingers, Paul realizes that he might be out of his depth, but he presses on anyway, determined to solve the mystery and recover the money his firm has lost to the schemers. Ridpath has designs here on pirating some of Tom Wolfe's and John Grisham's corporate spoils, but he simply doesn't possess the talent. He knows the bond markets inside and out, but no amount of pedantry can compensate for slight characterization, clunky dialogue, and a total absence of suspense. Plunging a Boy Scout into an abyss of greed, deceit, and violence is nothing new, but it's rarely this embarrassing. (First printing of 100,000; $150,000 ad/promo; author tour)