cover image Blown


Mark Haskell Smith. Black Cat, $16 ISBN 978-0-8021-2814-0

An embezzlement scheme goes horribly off the rails in this darkly amusing tale of white-collar crime and its inexpert perpetrators. Bryan LeBlanc is a foreign exchange trader on Wall Street who, disillusioned with his career prospects and his colleagues’ sense of entitlement, decides to skim $17 million from his accounts and set off for a permanent vacation. Bryan is no sooner bound for the Cayman Islands than the financial irregularities are spotted by his boss, setting in motion a pursuit by the firm’s security agent Neal Nathanson and managing director Seo-Yun Kim (both of whom are grappling with personal emotional crises not unlike Bryan’s), a private detective, and a crooked bank manager, not all of whom are committed to the return of Bryan’s haul. Smith (Raw: A Love Story) relates details of Bryan’s financial legerdemain with the authority of an insider and masterfully laces the novel’s serious scenes with veins of humor, as when Bryan recounts the exhausting number of currencies he has laundered his ill-gotten gains through and thinks, “Who knew being a criminal was so stressful?” He has a fine-tuned ear for witty repartee and a skill for embroiling even his most comically conceived characters in dramas that steer his plot through unpredictable twists and into unforeseeable outcomes. This is a surprising, memorable novel. [em]Agent: Mary Evans, Mary Evans Inc. (June) [/em]