“We facilitate financial transactions for a fee. That…is what we call the Vig.” Everything has a price, as the three main protagonists of this story find out.
This fun, not too violent thriller, follows the fortunes and failings of stock broker Frank McGinley as he tries to come to terms with the attack of 9/11 and his family history, cope with his alcoholism, keep his job, negotiate with federal investigators, and, if that weren’t enough, avoid death at the hands of a drop-dead gorgeous psychopath.
Frank is Everyman at the American Stock Exchange. A throw back to the old days before computers ran things, his ability to “calculate complicated updates and P&Ls in his head” is of less value now. He has come to hate his job, but it’s the only thing he knows how to do, although the business is changing. “The trading floors were going the way of the Mid West factories. Only Springsteen wasn’t singing any songs” to lament their passing.
It is Frank’s skill that gets him into trouble. Stuck in a downward drinking spiral, he has been given some “lousy options” to trade, along with the words, “Make chicken salad out of this chicken shit and we’ll put you back in the game.” It’s Frank’s last chance to hold on to his livelihood, so he pays close attention. One day he realized that his “P&L was off by $4.86,” a tiny amount that most people wouldn’t even notice. But, with nothing better to do, and everything to lose, Frank sets out to figure out why and stumbles upon a lucrative fraud. In dealing with the criminals he makes one big mistake that allows him to be co-opted by an investigator with a dark past of his own.
Alone and fearful for his life, Frank realizes his time on Wall Street is over, he “was a thirty-five year old dinosaur…He always felt he had a fiduciary responsibility to do what was best for his clients.” Now his fellow traders seemed to have “lost all track of the idea that the money that they traded with came from some guy…it was all about speed of execution.”
Meanwhile out in Colorado, a mysterious beauty is preparing herself for her next job, for “the family.” Carla Pugliese owns a Western outfitters shop in Aspen, loves to hike, ski, and climb in the surrounding mountains, and is proud of her “athlete’s body with the tits and ass of a pinup.” She too has a troubled past. And she is something of a Black Widow who uses that body to lure her (male) victims to their death, playing out a sexual fantasy of her own in an effort to kill her demons.
There’s not much mystery here, beyond wondering how Frank will muddle through in the end. The story moves along at a nice pace. Information about the stock exchange–for readers not familiar with its arcana–is interesting to read and doesn’t slow the plot unnecessarily. The ending seems almost like the beginning of the next book in a series.
Reviewed by Brid Nowlan for IndieReader