Esther Larsen, a leading risk analyst at one of the country’s largest banking institutions, is becoming more and more convinced that she has uncovered a ticking bomb with the potential to overshadow 2008’s market crash. And as her own employer pursues “investment” strategies with ever-increasing levels of risk, she becomes convinced she must do something. Yet what can one person really do?
The markets are edging closer to a tipping point–like the teetering first domino in a standing row that circles the globe. And when Esther does sound the alarm, she wonders if anyone will take her seriously. But as public support grows for her ideas, so does the desperation of those whose conspiracy of greed she seeks to expose. With global markets on the brink, and her own life in danger, Esther is locked in a race with the clock to avert a worldwide financial meltdown.
This fast-paced suspense novel will make you wonder where the fiction ends and reality begins. . . .
Esther watched the summary of currency and interest-rate swap positions sweep around the walls. Finally the target moment arrived. The portal shut. Only a slight uptick to the currency markets signified the completion of that trade, meaning the bank had survived. She did a swift calculation. Jason’s gamble had netted the bank one hundred and eighteen million dollars. In seventeen hours and forty-three minutes. She knew that was all the board of directors would care about. The potential downside would be overlooked.
Doing business was all about taking measured risks. Jason and his team had been proven right. So the money would stay on his books, and he would go hunting for the next gamble.
Three minutes later, Jason’s secretary opened the door and smiled her apology. “It looks like he won’t be able to see you today after all.”
Esther slipped past her and re-entered the trading floor. The atmosphere was jubilant now. The traders cavorted like a high school team that had just won the state championship. Esther slipped down the back aisle, completely unnoticed. She glanced up to the narrow balcony that ran along the western floor. Occasionally the board or other senior executives would slip in to observe the animals in their feeding frenzy. Today the balcony was empty.
The truth was there on full display. What they all refused to see was how close Jason had brought the bank to utter ruin.
And now they had a green light to do it all over again. The only thing they could see was the future commissions this represented.
But only if they stayed lucky.
As Esther left the trading floor, she felt as though she were being trailed by cinders and smoke from a fire not yet lit.
It was only a matter of time.
One year of economics in senior high school was more than enough to prove the world of high finance was not for me, but that didn’t stop me from becoming completely engrossed in this financial thriller from Davis Bunn. It’s a plot that engages the intellect, with its inclusion of stock market concepts like derivatives and hedging – although Bunn did a masterful job of making the necessary exposition organic to the story, as economical as possible (no pun intended!), and clear enough to understand what was at stake and why. But it’s also a plot that engages the emotions, sharing a very personal side to Esther’s story alongside her professional one.
The novel is loosely based on the book of Esther in the Bible, or more precisely, the role Esther accepted as spokesperson for her people: Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? But instead of the annihilation of a group of people, Esther Larson foresees a financial crisis the likes of which the world has never seen before – because the national economies have never been so interlinked before.
Since the Wall Street crash of 2008, Esther has been collating information on the certifiable factors that lead to the crash, as well as other activities – many either illegal or unverifiable – that she is fairly certain played a major role in the crash. Most importantly, she has identified a list of sixteen US, and forty-seven global financial institutions currently engaging in those same activities.
But these high risk investment strategies are only part of the problem. Since the crash of 2008 there has been a huge upswing in computer-driven stock trades – automatic transactions that take place in direct response to certain pre-determined market conditions. Given the size and speed of these transactions (which would occur too quickly for a human to counteract) the potential for one market movement to trigger a domino effect is frighteningly real. Especially if someone has plans to exploit that very weakness…
How can one woman hope to make a difference? And is it worth losing her job, and possibly her life, to try?
The personal side to this story for Esther concerns her older brother, Nathan. Having lost their parents when Esther was still in grade school, Nathan is the only family she has left, but seven months ago, he was involved in an accident that killed his pregnant wife and left him seriously injured. He has been in a rehab facility ever since, but instead of improving, he is regressing. For the last nine weeks he has refused to participate in his daily treatments. In fact, he refuses to interact at all, spending his time sleeping or staring out of his hospital window, and the rehab centre’s director is pressuring Esther to have him transferred to a mental facility. There is only so much modern medicine can do when a patient has given up the will to live.
At a time when both her personal and her professional situations weigh heavily on her, the highly introverted Esther is encouraged to take the daunting step of opening up to a small group of friends, including a former accountant turned divinity student named Craig Wessex, and his two daughters. With their support, she begins speaking out about her concerns, and also finds the strength she needs to make the decisions that must be made in relation to her brother. Watching this woman who has always felt like an alien in the company of others begin to connect with them and understand that she is not alone brought a wonderfully human and, at times, poignant dimension to the story.
Another engrossing read from this very versatile author.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher. This has not influenced the content of my review.
Release date: 6 September 2016
Publisher: Bethany House
Author’s website: http://sites.kensingtonbooks.com/DAVISBUNNBOOKS/index.html