Release date: 01/01/2002
This giddy fourth thriller by Meltzer (The First Counsel) mixes up banking, cyber-theft and Disney World in a fast-paced, fresh-scrubbed tale of financial adventure. Oliver Caruso is sweating out some scut work for Henry Lapidus, bigwig at Greene & Greene, a private bank so exclusive clients require $2 million just to open an account. When Oliver and his younger brother, Charlie, find proof that Lapidus has been sabotaging Oliver's career plans, the brothers conspire to rip off the lingering balance from a deceased client's account. Silly boys! Not only is the local security goon Shep (formerly Secret Service) already chiseling in on their scam, the real Secret Service thugs are on the case almost immediately. The $3 million the Carusos swiped has somehow cybernetically blossomed overnight to over $300 million. Desperate to clear their names, the boys escape to Florida, following the money to the daughter of the deceased millionaire, a former tech wizard for Disney with a secret invention everyone in this book would happily kill for. The ins and outs of how to steal money that isn't really there makes for an interesting premise if you don't think about it too much, but two flaws detract from the action. First, the narrative POV jumps too often from one character to the next and from present tense to past, making for a choppy read. Second, the novel's juvenile flavor—from the PI who bluffs her way into a building by claiming to be searching for her mother's favorite sock to the hapless schoolboy dialogue ("You touched her cookies, didn't you?")—loudly proclaims its Hardy Boys heritage. (Jan. 8)
Forecast:Meltzer's legion of fans will jump-start sales of his latest, prompted by massive television, print, radio and transit advertising campaigns and a 12-city author tour.