For most of us, the excitement of money is experienced only with a bump in pay grade, a year-end bonus, or a telephone call consisting of a none-too-gentle reminder that a payment is past due. Over the course of several stand-alone and series titles, Christopher Reich has pulled the veil back to reveal the world of finance hinted at but rarely exposed. In lesser hands, such an exposé might be as exciting as watching paint dry. Reich, however, can take readers into a boardroom meeting and have them on the edge of their cushioned seats within a few pages. He demonstrates this ability yet again in THE PRINCE OF RISK, his most ambitious and arguably best stand-alone work to date.
"What sets THE PRINCE OF RISK above the pack is Reich’s ability to craft memorable characters to populate his complex plots."
Reich has that rare and uncanny ability to take the complex and explain it in a manner that renders the subject matter easy to understand and remember. This is particularly important in THE PRINCE OF RISK, where the gossamer threads of finance that connect the dots of the international commerce are being played by a master manipulator with the skills of a master of the Stradivarius. The main player here is Bobby Astor, the head of a New York hedge fund who is not satisfied with being the king of the street. Bobby is on the verge of eclipsing the world’s financial titans, and has all of his chips riding on events quietly taking place a world away in China, where a change in valuation of the yuan will make or break him.
Behind every successful business is a man who is angry with and estranged from his father, and Bobby is no exception. When Edward Astor is killed in an incident that also involves the deaths of the Secretary of the Treasury and the head of the Federal Reserve, it initially makes for no more than a blip in Bobby’s day. That quickly changes when he discovers that his father’s final act was to send him an enigmatic, one-word text. Bobby all too soon comes to realize that this message holds the clue as to why the elder Astor was killed and who was behind it.
Meanwhile, Bobby’s wife, a headstrong, impulsive and extremely competent FBI agent --- someone very much like Bobby himself --- is heavily involved in an investigation into the discovery of a cache of firearms and supplies indicating that a terrorist attack is about to be carried out with military precision against the United States. As her investigation and his potential windfall slowly begin to intersect, they find that they must move past their individual differences and bring their very different worlds together, or both of them --- not to mention the country --- may well be ruined.
What sets THE PRINCE OF RISK above the pack is Reich’s ability to craft memorable characters to populate his complex plots. Bobby Astor is a bit too cold-blooded to be entirely likable (throughout most of the book, anyway), yet one is compelled to cheer him on, particularly by story’s end. Reich also crafts some extremely interesting adversaries for Bobby, both on the stage and behind it, who owe as much to a pulp fiction of a certain era as they do to Gordon Gekko. The result is a perfectly paced, enthralling tale that, along the way, educates (if one is so inclined) without sacrificing the story’s entertainment value.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 6, 2013