cover image The Bezzle

The Bezzle

Cory Doctorow. Tor, $27.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-250-86587-8

Doctorow’s second financial thriller featuring forensic accountant Martin Hench (after 2023’s Red Team Blues) prioritizes satire over realism, marring a plot centered on very real concerns about the privatization of prisons and the lead-up to the 2008 financial crash. In an alternate 2006, Hench vacations with his friend Scott Warms on Catalina Island, where he learns an island-wide ban on fast food has created a black market for In-N-Out burgers that turns out to be a pyramid scheme. His efforts to expose those at the top of the pyramid cause trouble for Warms, who ends up (unbelievably) pleading guilty to two felonies, risking life imprisonment under California’s draconian Three Strikes Law. Warms is incarcerated in a facility run by SCAR, “a private-equity-funded ‘roll-up’ of a dozen smaller prison companies,” and Hench sets out to expose SCAR’s fraudulent practices, hoping to help Warms on the inside. Doctorow paints in broad strokes here and though his points are well taken, they are not always well made. This disappoints. (Feb.)