Mysterious Book Report No. 83

by John Dwaine McKenna

Back in the nineteenth century, Mark Twain wrote, “There is no distinctly American criminal class . . . except Congress.”  If he was still living today, he might amend that to say, “. . . except Congress and Wall Street Operators,” because as anyone who pays the least bit of attention to the news knows, hardly a month goes by without a new scandal or criminal malfeasance of some kind on Wall Street erupting into public awareness.  There are a couple of reasons for this: One, financial services are heavily regulated and often litigated and two Wall Street is chock full of fear and greed.  Combined, they’re a volatile mixture that’s bound to generate scams, scammers, losses and lawsuits, heartbreak and hijinks aplenty.  I know.  In one of my previous working lives, I worked in the securities business as both a stockbroker and a compliance officer, think highway patrolman for brokerage services, and I served as an arbitrator for the NASD, the National Association, of Securities Dealers . . . during which time I’ve seen malfeasance and moral turpitude in many guises.  Because white-collared crime is a hot-butter issue around our house, I was eager to read and review this week’s MBR number 83, which is about Wall Street run amok.  Written by an ex-Wall Streeter with twenty-plus years experience running a trading desk and who later became a managing director of a major bond-trading department, it’s a seat-of-the-pants thriller that should be required reading in all collegiate ethics classes . . . and it’s a damn good yarn for all crime fiction aficionados.

Black Fridays, (Putnam, $25.99, 341 pages, ISBN 978-0-399-15866-7) by Michael Sears is a first novel that’s been drawing plenty of extraordinary praise from the likes of John Sanford, Meg Gardiner and Joseph Finder . . . all best-selling authors in their own right.  The novel opens with protagonist, Jason Stafford a disgraced and convicted Wall Street Trader, getting out of prison after serving two years for theft by embezzlement.  He emerges as a changed man . . . barred for life from the securities industry and flat broke . . . trying to pick up the pieces of his life.  He’s divorced, on parole and trying to reconnect with his autistic young son who’s 1,800 miles away in Louisiana.  Salvation comes in the form of a two week consulting job at $5,000 per day.  He’s to audit all trades made by one employee of a large multi-national Wall Street firm that’s about to merge with a giant bank, creating a mega-monolithic, “too big to fail” company.  The trader in question being not only uncharacteristically profitable, but who was also tragically killed in a boating accident.  It seems like the perfect case of the “takes a crook to catch a crook” variety . . . until more corpses start piling up.  The action, suspense and danger are enough to make Black Fridays a great read, but what makes it a compelling one is the back story of Stafford’s autistic young son, and his efforts to protect the boy.  It makes what would otherwise be a good crime drama into a wonderful human interest story and a great read for anyone.  Do yourself a favor and check out this exciting new author.  I’m adding him to my list of favorite writers.  Rest assured, he’s that good.

Why not start the New Year right by becoming a regular user of your local library and getting to know the librarians?  It’s a resolution you’ll be happy to keep.

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Read The Neversink Chronicles yet?  Signed copies are available at Cannie D’s, the Time and Valleys Museum Store and Peter’s Market in Napanoch.  It and the new murder mystery and coming of age story The Whim-Wham Man are available at bookstores everywhere as well as Amazon and the above websites, Kindle, Nook and iTunes.  We’re also busily loading individual stories onto all eBooks and mobile devices where they’ll be available for less than a dollar.  Check ‘em out!  I’ll see you next week with a brand-new, really good MBR.