Once underway, a gripping thriller about online investing and trading, by a master of financial skullduggery (Trust Fund, 2000, etc.).
Augustus McKnight has no future as an assistant sales rep for retail paper products. When his boss finds him using his computer for personal day trading and demands a cut of Augustus’s big win on a stock lottery, he quits his job and heads for a rented desk at Bedford and Associates, a day-trading firm near the Capitol. Meanwhile, his wife Melanie, disgruntled by his unlikely prospects as a sales rep, asks for a divorce. But before he can tell her that he’s made a killing, she’s found murdered in a D.C. alley. Augustus stands to come into a million bucks, since only a few months earlier she had him sign mutual life insurance policies. But the policies’ slayer statute says that if the beneficiary has contributed to the death, he can’t collect. From Augustus’s cubicle at Bedford the reader learns the real deal about day trading and the great likelihood that Augustus will eventually lose everything, including the million, when and if the insurance company pays off. We meet his fellow coworkers in nearby cubicles who also stand to crash and burn as they make thousands of transactions, buying and selling on the big gamble. Bedford and Associates alone will be the real winners through its cut on each transaction. Then a D.C. cop, a big black 30-year man, begins looking into Augustus’s background and checking up on the late Melanie, who unbeknownst to her husband earned big bucks as an exotic dancer at an after-hours club three nights weekly while Augustus thought she was working late.
Frey toys with a satisfyingly downbeat wrap-up based on fate and character à la James M. Cain, but then, alas, opts for a melodramatic unraveling. Someday yet he’ll take the plunge.