BLACK MAPS by Peter Spiegelman revolves around extortion, money
laundering, insider banking businesses, drugs, arms dealing and
"Merchant's Worldwide Bank was the largest of several dozens of
institutions owned by a Luxembourg company ... it was the largest
criminally controlled financial services firm that anyone's ever
heard of. Money laundering was their leading service [with]
entities [so] structured [and] twisted you'd need an army of
accountants just to draw the org charts. It was unique in scale and
scope ... but it started coming apart ... when the number two guy
at a regional bank ... tried to buy drugs from a DEA agent."
This is the story presented to John March P.I. by his friend,
attorney Mike Metz, in front of Rick Pierro, the lawyer's client,
who has received a threatening missive that has him terrified. The
memo implies that twenty years ago Pierro was involved with Gerard
Nassouli, the mastermind behind the illegal set-up: "In the letter
[addressed to] Emilio Dias, who had apparently been the treasurer
and CFO of Textiles Pan-Europa ... Nassouli reports that he has
been dealing with a 'sympathetic' and 'flexible' banker ... who
will help to establish a credit facility for Textiles' U.S. [an
MWB] subsidiary." The name of the cooperative banker is Rick Pierro
and the memo implies that he "was party to fraud."
March listens to Pierro's story before he decides to takes the
case. His mission, should he accept it, is to find the person who
sent the "blackmail" note and to determine exactly what s/he wants.
The investigator is convinced that he has not been told the entire
truth, but he needs the case. He wants to help his old friend,
Metz, and is intrigued by a client willing to pay blackmail to keep
the slightest impression of his involvement in illegal activities
quiet. Pierro appears to be on the up-and-up on the surface and he
is definitely quaking in his shoes over the memo: "My career ...
has always been at risk ... it's been an uphill battle for
me ... [but] now I'm where the air is thin, John: the executive
committee." With a large family to support and major financial
obligations, Pierro can't afford to be under the shadow of anything
that would besmirch his reputation.
Since the executive committee doesn't meet for five weeks to
determine who their new members will be, March takes the files and
the notes with a promise to read them thoroughly. Then, he will let
the men know if he will help this frightened man whose life is
suddenly at the mercy of an unknown thug.
After reading the case files, Mike has more information than he
expected to muster about MWB, but has no clues as to who might be
trying to squeeze Pierro. This is where his investigating skills
come in. He needs the names of everyone who had access to the
bank's documents twenty years ago and all of the people currently
associated with anything that Pierro put work into.
White-collar crime is usually subtle and insidious. The
perpetrators do their deeds over many years. With each year that
passes they become more and more arrogant. They have intricate ways
of insulating themselves and create paper trails that lead to
others rather than themselves. BLACK MAPS is strongest when
Spiegelman sends his detective into the back rooms and under the
radar of the "money industry."
Spiegelman is a new author who has been able to fulfill his
reader's expectations for a fast-paced read the first time out. He
has chosen a timely and interesting issue with a very attractive
and likeable hero in John March. The plot is fast-paced and has
enough suspense to satisfy the most ardent fan of the thriller. He
is sure to attract readers who will be eager to see his next
offering, hopefully starring John March, P.I.
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on January 21, 2011