cover image The Bank of Fear

The Bank of Fear

David Ignatius. William Morrow & Company, $20 (351pp) ISBN 978-0-688-13136-4

Cynical intelligence agencies, international financiers and evil Iraqis make global mischief in this clumsy, unconvincing thriller set primarily in contemporary Europe. American Sam Hoffman works as a private financial investigator in London, providing a freelance intelligence service to wealthy businessmen and corporations. When a Filipino cook begs Sam to investigate his employer--Nasir Hammoud, a shady and powerful Iraqi businessman--who, he says, has murdered his wife, Sam discovers a tangled web of financial deception. Setting out to bring Hammoud to justice, Sam enlists the aid of several wealthy Arab friends, cronies of his father (an abusive, alcoholic ex-CIA operative) and Iraqi computer specialist Lina Alwan, the accounting systems' supervisor at Hammoud's London headquarters. The ensuing action lacks believability: trite dialogue is mouthed by cartoon characters whose only motivation consists of advancing the novel's creaky plot. Sam, prized for his expertise, comes off as a dim ingenue, while Lina is unconvincing in her metamorphosis from timid accountant to wily spy. In a denouement that seems almost a non-sequitur, Ignatius ( Agents of Innocence ) brings his Middle-Eastern trilogy to a close on an amateurish note. (June)