Christopher Reich, . . Delacorte, $26.95 (448pp) ISBN 978-0-385-33367-2

Reich continues to struggle, trying to recapture his early success. After a rather intriguing setup, this third novel gradually evolves into something more like an unintentional parody than a real thriller. Following the altogether lackluster Allan Folsom–esque Nazi war crimes plot of The Runner, the Swiss banker–turned–thriller writer returns to the more familiar arena of international finance, which provided the intriguing backdrop of his 1998 bestselling debut, Numbered Account. But action and pacing are made to substitute for the authenticity and credibility that distinguished his promising first novel. Borrowing to the hilt in a go-for-broke move, Jett Gavallan, ex–Gulf War fighter pilot turned founding CEO of Frisco-based Black Jet Securities—an up-and-coming investment banking firm—puts all his chips on the line for the chance to take public Mercury Broadband (Russia's answer to AOL) with shares worth $2 billion. The pot of gold at the end of his rainbow is a cool $70 million, but all is not blue skies. An enigmatic online financial analyst, Private Eye-PO, starts warning investors that the deal is bad, leading Jett to send partner Grafton Byrnes undercover to Moscow to verify the legitimacy of Mercury Broadband. Graf calls in with a coded warning that all is not well, Jett's investigator locates the real Private Eye-PO in Delray Beach, Fla., and bodies begin piling up. Credibility wanes and action spins out of control as Jett and an old flame embark on an intercontinental plane and car chase. Comic-book dialogue ("Kind of you, Mr. Gavallan. It's not often a disloyal, disgraceful slut gets any TLC") makes this thriller read like an old Saturday Night Live skit, which may give it kitsch appeal but undermines its dramatic effect. Major ad/promo. (Aug. 20)