cover image THE DAY TRADER


Stephen Frey, . . Ballantine, $24.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-345-44324-3

The title and cover may suggest an intriguing look at the financial world's quick-hit specialists, but the latest from the bestselling Frey (Trust Fund; The Insider; etc.) is little more than a clumsily executed murder mystery with day trading merely a backdrop. Augustus McKnight is a man with many troubles: he's broke; his supervisor is blackmailing him; his beautiful wife, Melanie, tells him she wants a divorce. But worse is to come. Melanie is found murdered, her throat slit and her body dumped in an alley near their home in Washington, D.C. Buoyed by a couple of lucky investments as well as Melanie's million-dollar life insurance policy, Augustus launches a new career as a day trader. From this point on, the plot clanks along in implausible fashion. During the day, Augustus spends time with his new group of wacko friends at work (their nicknames include "Freak-Show" and "Slammer"). In the off-hours, he follows the police investigation of Melanie's death and does some sleuthing of his own. When Augustus discovers that Melanie held a secret job as an erotic dancer at a local strip club controlled by the mob, it dawns on him that he may be getting in over his head. As in his other financial thrillers, Frey keeps the action lively by setting up confrontations in almost every scene, then quickly moving on. The dialogue tends to be laughable: "Sometimes I think you care about the Wall Street Journal more than you do about me." Credit Frey, however, with coming up with a zinger of an ending, one that's so preposterous that even the shrewdest of day traders won't see it coming. 5-city author tour. (Jan. 15)