Love financial fiction? So do I. And I review them for you!
In this post I’m reviewing…
Gods of Greenwich by Norb Vonnegut
Financial fiction with a twist of suspense, art arbitrage, insurance hedging, and a beautiful assassin.
OVERVIEW: This story is about Jimmy Cusack, who is forced to shut down his hedge fund and take a job as a salesperson at another hedge fund. Before long, he starts to question how the hedge fund works and as he investigates further, he doesn’t like what he sees. Meanwhile, Cusack’s boss is in a bitter marriage and a bitter battle with an Icelandic bank. Oh, and there’s a beautiful assassin who goes around killing people.
REVIEW: This is Norb Vonnegut’s second book and, having just finished his first book, you can see Vonnegut’s style as clearly as a fingerprint. Fortunately, I like his style overall and I hammered through this book pretty quickly — even faster than I hammered through his last book (Top Producer). The main storylines in the novel were engaging — I connected with almost all of the characters — and I wanted to see how each storyline finished. Characters had their own quirks and personality, which gave them a sense of being 3 dimensional. In that way, I think Vonnegut has developed as a writer. And the biggest thing I liked about the book is the financial fiction quotient (more on that in a moment). My biggest criticism about this book is how quickly Vonnegut finished the novel. In some ways, it felt like he wrapped up a few storylines almost too quickly (and maybe even forgot a few) and I was left with questions at the end. Plus, one of the major twists was never fully explained in my opinion. And my other criticism of Vonnegut is that he has a fascination with people being killed in bizarre ways, which tends to be tawdry instead of entertaining. But the pace was good and the balance between action and finance was better in this book than the last one.
FINANCIAL FICTION QUOTIENT: The financial fiction quotient is where this book really shines. If you read my criticism about Vonnegut’s last book (Top Producer), you’ll know that he had a good financial fiction quotient in that book but the main story had little to do with finance. It was a crime thriller. This book, on the other hand, was almost entirely a financial book. The main character owes a lot of money and his new employer only awards bonuses if the hedge fund achieves a certain benchmark. Since the story takes place during the dramatic market implosion of 2008, we know already that it doesn’t happen and we see first-hand the drama unfold in the office because of it. Meanwhile, another international financial battle is waged between a hedge fund and an Icelandic bank, which are trying to short each other’s stock to drive the price down. Those elements are pure entertainment for those of us who love financial fiction — there are hundreds of millions of dollars being thrown down the drain in this financial battle.
SUMMARY: I find Vonnegut’s work very engaging. So in spite of what I felt was an incomplete ending, I still enjoyed the book because of the financial fiction quotient. And there were a couple of twists that I was anticipating throughout the book that didn’t “twist” in the way I expected, and that makes me happy (because I like being surprised).