cover image SHADOW ACCOUNT


Stephen Frey, . . Ballantine, $24.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-345-45758-5

Frey's latest pecuniary adventure follows his formula of extremely complicated plots spun around illegal, high-level financial shenanigans. He's used it with variations before (The Takeover ; The Legacy ; The Insider ; etc.), and despite clunky writing, implausible situations, lucky coincidences and untied threads, it proves perfectly serviceable once again. Investment banker Conner Ashby is checking his e-mail while beautiful girlfriend Liz Shaw lounges nude on his bed when he accidentally intercepts an interoffice memo that refers to improprieties in an entity named Project Delphi. The wayward communication states that this company is engaged in rampant corporate fraud: "Big expense accounts, undocumented loans, and tons of in-the-money option grants. Plus, the senior guys are hiring executive assistants who look like centerfolds but can't spell their own names." Shortly after Conner receives the message, an intruder breaks into his apartment and starts shooting. Conner is out the window and on the run; Liz is dead. The plot encompasses a mysterious presidential chief of staff who is out to either save his boss or do him in, a secretary of the treasury who has cashed in big time on ill-gotten corporate shares, and quite a few women who either want to be Conner's girlfriend or want him dead. It's all very tangled, but Frey has the undeniable ability to explain complex financial transactions while at the same time providing plenty of action and nuggets of insider money lore. Those readers who like their financial fiction fast and furious will be perfectly happy as long as they don't pay too much attention to the details. (Mar.)

Forecast : Advertising in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and USA Today will alert Frey's fans to his latest. They'll do the rest. Look for it on bestseller lists.