For all the advance hype, investment banker Frey's first novel, an over-the-top Wall Street/Washington thriller that's less imaginative than paranoid, falls far short of blue-chip, let alone blockbuster, status. Andrew Falcon, who has had his wings clipped after a brilliant career as a mergers and acquisitions specialist, is working at a dâ€šclassâ€š job with National Southern Bank (NASO) in Manhattan. Promised a $5-million fee, he readily agrees to quarterback the hostile takeover of Penn-Mar, a giant chemicals enterprise. Predictably, the financial whiz is being manipulated by a wicked group of establishment power-brokers known as The Sevens; the cabal's elite members are conducting a covert campaign to deny the ultraliberal, tax-minded US president a second term. Once the leveraged buyout has closed, they go public with a potentially ruinous environmental suit against Penn-Mar and leak damaging information about NASO's solvency. Meanwhile, agents of The Sevens have murdered the Federal Reserve Board chairman and hamstrung the chief executive with false but credible allegations that he engaged in insider trading. With capital markets in free fall and the global village's financial system in jeopardy, as per plan, The Sevens step in to restore order. Their triumph is complete save for one problem: The otherwise brilliant Falcon has belatedly realized the $40-billion deal was too good to be true, and with assistance from a black, lesbian journalist has got the goods on his puppet masters. In quest of money, Falcon joins forces with The Sevens, waits patiently, and turns on them decisively when their hired gun comes calling at his Vermont hideaway. Michael Erdman and Michael Thomas do this sort of thing ever so much better, and they're more facile writers to boot. The bottom line: standard and poor.