Visualize Charlie Sheen in the original Wall Street, this time portraying Jimmy Cusack instead of impressionable Bud Fox. Only Cusack is already at the top of his league, gazing "out the window of his office in the Empire State Building." The modern-day Gordon Gecko is his father-in-law who withdraws $120 million from Cusack's hedge fund during the 2008 financial meltdown. "Cusack had feigned success and acted the part of a god from Greenwich, never betrayed the tension growing louder and louder like bagpipers approaching." Vonnegut's metaphors are mixed with a blender and often don't quite work.
Since the release of 2010's Wall Street sequel, a flood of finance-related novels has been published. Given that the original film aired shortly after the Crash of '87, does Vonnegut's latest prognosticate a similar event, another decade of "irrational exuberance?"
Cusack is an anomaly, an honest hedge fund manager who cares more for his pregnant wife, Emily, than he does when "[h]is hedge fund was toast." With austerity being the politically correct buzzword, Cusack at age 34 downsizes, dumps his $3 million condo in a less-than-enthused housing market. Gone is the day of $1,200 bottles of Cabernet. Cusack --- against his better judgment --- cobbles a deal with Cy Leeser of LeeWell Capital in Greenwich, Connecticut, commonly known as "Hedgistan." Bernie Madoff could have been an apprentice of Leeser, an investor who never lost money --- until now.
Vonnegut gets Wall Street lingo down pat. Fund managers start short-selling stock in Iceland's Hafnarbanki. "Betting against companies creates the opportunity for finite gains --- and unlimited losses." But "Hafnarbanki's stock price [was] dropping like anvils." Sounds like some politician who wants to "punish Wall Street" and then buys stock when he's through "punishing."
Thrown into the mix is Rachel Whittier, "a beauty in bloom" who "bail[s] out the world's problems one septuagenarian at a time," offing the elderly for no apparent reason. A frightening feeling for a certain reviewer rapidly approaches that league. And a mysterious character appears. "As long as mankind exists, there will be only one Daryle Lamonica, known as ‘the Mad Bomber.'"
Somewhat overwritten with information overload at times, THE GODS OF GREENWICH contains a wealth of details about the lifestyles of the rich and infamous. Judge Judy has a 24,000-square-foot mega-mansion dubbed "Judyville." Gods are keeping up with the Joneses. These "gods" plucked a fourth from my Star Jar for the international finance plot and fast-paced action. I'd spoil it like month-old milk, if I revealed the finale at the Bronx Zoo.
Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy (www.DeanMurphy.net) on May 16, 2011